Misogyny as a hate crime 'would get us nowhere'

Stevenage Borough Council offices and Councillor Philip Bibby

Stevenage Borough Council member Philip Bibby believes "there is enough legislation without creating more". - Credit: Archant / Stevenage Borough Council

A bid to recognise misogyny as a hate crime in law has been challenged by a male councillor concerned it "would get us nowhere, except perhaps into a real muddle", with a second male councillor keen to protect "humorous, traditional banter".

In light of the murders of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, Councillor Jackie Hollywell proposed a motion at a Stevenage Borough Council meeting last week to call on the government to legally recognise misogyny as a hate crime.

This would compel police forces to record when a crime is motivated by hatred or contempt of women, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there is already "abundant statute" to tackle violence against women.

Councillor Hollywell said: "Violence against women and girls can only be eradicated by a focus on the root causes, and requires a cultural shift in attitudes and behaviours underpinned by education and legal improvements."

Councillor Teresa Callaghan seconded Cllr Hollywell's motion, saying women have feared violence at the hands of men for generations and it is time the root cause of misogyny is tackled.

However, Councillor Philip Bibby took issue with the motion and abstained from voting on it. He said: "To call misogyny a hate crime would get us nowhere, except perhaps into a real muddle. I found a definition of this term, which is 'dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women'. This can't be a crime in itself, in the same way racism can't be a crime in itself.

"A hate crime is one that demonstrates hostility based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity, or is motivated by such hostility. All that would need to be added to this list is gender.

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"As Boris Johnson points out, there is enough legislation without creating more, so we should be spending our time urging the police to uphold the law as it stands, which is quite sufficient."

The council's leader, Councillor Sharon Taylor, retorted: "Men telling women it isn't a crime is part of the problem, not the answer."

While Councillor Stephen Booth supported the motion, he said: "This should not be seen as banning humorous, traditional banter that has gone on forever between men and women."

 The motion was carried.

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