Scottish Government urged to challenge “epidemic” of harassment and abuse.
Misogyny should be a standalone offence in Scotland, according to women’s charities.
A report from feminist policy organisation Engender urges the Scottish Government to class misogyny as a criminal offence in order to challenge an “epidemic” of harassment and abuse.
Laws around hate crimes are currently being reviewed, with MSPs deciding between introducing a “gender hostility” aggravation and the creation of a standalone offence.
Engender said that the “gender hostility” route – which would add gender or sex to the list of characteristics already covered by hate crime legislation – would not solve the problem of misogyny, and could even undermine existing policy.
As an example, the charity pointed out that a domestic abuse case would be treated more seriously if a gender aggravation was applied, despite analysis finding that such abuse is intrinsically linked to gender inequality.
Emma Ritch, Engender executive director, said: “Misogynistic harassment harms individual women and restricts all women and girls’ capacity to participate fully in public life. We know from international examples where this has been tried, that simply adding gender to a list of hate crime aggravations has only resulted in a handful of investigations and prosecutions of hate crimes targeted at women.
“This is not enough to tackle the egregious misogynistic abuse women and girls face in schools, workplaces, online, and in public space. We need a new approach.”
Ms Ritch also urged the government to seek more and better data about misogyny in Scotland.
She added: “While we all know, from personally experiencing or witnessing it, that misogyny is rife in Scotland – both in terms of women being targeted because they are women, and the pervasive misogyny restricts the opportunities of all women.
“We need better reporting practices to ensure that this misogyny is reflected in the data we gather, so that we can work towards a solution which will eradicate anti-woman hatred in Scotland.”
Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said the legal review was a chance of Scotland to lead the way in tackling violence against women.
“Misogynistic abuse surrounds and supports domestic abuse and the attitudes about women and girls that allow violence against women to flourish in Scotland,” she said.
“Fresh thinking is needed to tackle this violation of women’s human rights. We are ready, along with women’s sector experts in our sister organisations, to work with officials for a serious exploration of a new offence, what it could mean, and how it would work.”
Other charities supporting the call include Zero Tolerance, Rape Crisis Scotland and Close the Gap.
The Engender report has been released during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls.