I’ve been struggling to understand why hate crime against women is treated differently to hate crime against other groups. Two examples: the Sentencing Council proposed in their public consultation that gender-based hate was excluded as a culpability factor in sexual offences. And the UK Government’s plan to tackle hate crime – ‘challenge it, report it, stop it’ – specifically excludes hate crime against women. I asked the Home Office if they could explain the thinking here. They said:
“…the definition of hate crime (any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice) was considered and agreed by criminal justice agencies in 2007. It was deliberately left open to acknowledge hate crime as a victim perception based crime, whereby if an offence is committed against a person and the victim believes that they were the target of hostility because of a particular characteristic, then it should be recorded as such. It applies to any offence, so can include forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG). Where gender-based hostility is a particular priority in a local area, the police and their local partners are encouraged to include it in their local hate crime strategies. I understand that this already happens in some areas.
However, at the same time criminal justice agencies also agreed on specific hate crimes that would be monitored by criminal justice agencies, in an effort to gather data that was not nationally collected. Gender-based hostility was considered but not included, and this was due to a number of factors. In particular, there are already specific criminal offences for many types of VAWG, including rape, sexual assault and female genital mutilation, and legislation in place to cover domestic violence, harassment, including stalking, where data is already collected nationally.”
How many women are aware that if they perceive abuse as a gender-based hate-crime then the police have to record it as such? Consistently leaving gender-based hate crime out of government policy documents will not increase this awareness.
West Yorkshire Police don’t follow the Home Office guidelines. On their hate-crime page they say that hate crimes is defined as, “Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s disability or perceived disability, race or perceived race, religion or perceived religion, sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation, or against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.” So not “gender-based” despite the criminal justice agencies agreeing it could be in 2007.
If there any police forces following the Home Office guidelines then how seriously do they take gender-based hate crime as opposed to race-based hate crime for example? The posts on Ihollaback suggest that very few crimes (I think virtually every post I’ve seen on there is a hate crime; in many cases other crimes have been committed as well) are being reported to the police. It is a similar situation on the Every Day Sexism Project. If only 1 in 10 women who experience serious sexual assault are reporting it to the police then I guess not many. The police should have data.
I’ve gone back to the Home Office to ask how many police forces thought that stopping verbal and psychological abuse being committed against people because of their gender was a particular priority in their area and worthy of inclusion in their local hate crime strategy. Ihollaback shows the abuse is nationwide – lets see what the police think.
One thing that I interpret from the Government approach is that they are only really bothered about physical abuse of women. This approach fails to acknowledge the link between the cultural acceptance of verbal and psychological abuse against women and violence against women.
Footnote: The press release for ‘challenge it, report it, stop it’ states that Lynne Featherstone is the Equalities Minister for the Home Office. This is an error which the Home Office will fix.