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Proposed laws could see Scotland become world leader in tackling misogyny

This news post is 11 months old

The report, Misogyny – A Human Rights Issue, was published on International Women's Day.

Women’s rights campaigners and politicians have welcomed a new report which calls for “innovative, change-making and radical” legal reforms, including a new statute to combat misogyny. 

The research, carried out by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC for the Scottish Government, calls for the creation of a Misogyny and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, which would create new offences - including stirring up hatred against women and girls and public misogynistic harassment. 

Misogny - A Human Rights Issue calls for the legislation to create a new statutory aggravation of misogyny and a new offence of issuing threats of, or invoking, rape or sexual assault or disfigurement of women and girls, online and offline. 

If implemented by the Scottish Government, Scotland would be leading the world in tackling misogyny, Baroness Kennedy said, by recognising that the law alone cannot address misogyny. 

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC. (Credit: Roger Harris / UK Parliament).

The Scottish Government has also been urged to invest sufficient resources in training across the criminal justice system and frontline public agencies, including schools and colleges - as well as in improving technology and police capacity for recording and reporting and in helping men and boys understand misogyny.  

Women should be encouraged to see this law as designed for women to address their daily experiences of abusive conduct and to report conduct they experience or see, the authors said. 

The recommendations are the result of a year-long investigation by an eight-strong working group chaired by Baroness Kennedy.  

Following the report’s publication, groups such as Girlguiding Scotland backed the findings

The group responded by writing on social media: “We're pleased to see the launch of Baroness Kennedy's report and in particular her recommendations for a legislation tackling public harassment.

“We hope this is a step towards making Scotland a safer place for girls to grow up.” 

The Independent Misogyny and Criminal Justice Working Group was appointed in January 2021 to address misogyny in the criminal justice system.  

The group was asked to consider whether there were gaps in existing law and whether adding ‘sex’ to the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 would be an effective way of protecting women.

The report rules out the addition of ‘sex’ as a characteristic to existing hate crime legislation because misogyny is so deeply rooted in society that, according to the working group, a more fundamental set of responses is required.  

In examining the issue, the working group conducted a survey of lived experiences of misogyny in Scotland, collecting more than 930 responses, and also gathered existing evidence and research from a range of women’s groups, academics, legal and policy experts as well as Police Scotland. 

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, chair of the working group said: “The daily grind of sexual harassment and abuse degrades women’s lives, yet it seems to be accepted as part of what it means to be a woman.  

“The failure to acknowledge the ramifications of what is seen as low-level harassment is just one of the ways in which the criminal justice system fails women.  

“What is seen as low-level harassment is often the sub soil from which more grave crimes emerge.  

“The current system allows abhorrent behaviour to be missed, ignored, and normalised.  The women we spoke to through this investigation told us: enough is enough; something must be done.

“This malign conduct does not happen to men in any comparable way. That is why new law should be created exclusively for women, and those perceived to be women, reflecting the inherently gendered nature of the problem we have been asked to address.  

“Such law will establish new boundaries and will, importantly, shift the dial towards perpetrator behaviours and away from the current focus on women as victims.

“What we are recommending is innovative, change-making and radical. It will no doubt raise alarms about abandoning the default position that all law should be neutral and be available to men as well as women.  That assumes an equality that sadly does not yet exist.  

“We are advocating legal reform because the law sets boundaries and marks certain conduct as criminal, and therefore unacceptable. That power cannot be underestimated. Law that is failing half the population is seriously failing.”

Women’s rights campaigners who contributed to the work have said they are pleased by the work done to find “real solutions” to the daily threats facing women. 

Eilidh Dickson, policy and parliamentary manager at Engender, said: “Misogyny constrains women’s lives in Scotland in myriad ways – from overt threats of violence through to the choices we make throughout our education and work lives.  

“We’re pleased to see these recommendations call for a broad and holistic response to tackling misogyny in Scotland, and are particularly excited at the prospect of introducing legislation aimed at public harassment and inciting violence against women.

“Misogyny is deeply engrained in our society, and we’re pleased that the Misogyny Working Group has been able to give such time, attention and expertise to finding real solutions to making women safer and more free in Scotland.” 

The Scottish Government have now said they will consider the proposals and report, with Justice Secretary Keith Brown welcoming the publication by Baroness Kennedy. 

He said: “This is an extremely important piece of work to help inform policy to address the many forms of violence, transgression and abuse experienced by women which may emanate from misogyny and is a milestone in making our society safe, equal and fair. 

“It is clear to me that to achieve true equality we must continue to think about our messaging and how men's attitudes to women can be effectively challenged to make women feel safe when going about their everyday lives.

“We are absolutely clear that women and girls should not experience any form of harassment, abuse or violence which is why we set up this independent working group and it is fitting its findings were published on International Women’s Day.”



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Dominic Notarangelo
11 months ago

Any thoughts on Misandry?