8 October 2016
At the start of National Hate Crime Awareness Week, WE renew our call to make misogyny a hate crime. Here, Cerian Jenkins who this month launched her #NotACompliment campaign, explains why it is so important to make change
“Hooked me around the neck really tightly”, “Following me slowly in his car”, “Rubbed his bits against my back”, “I felt trapped”, “are you legal yet?”, “he told me I was ‘ugly anyway” “a man has decided I’m fair game to touch or follow”.
Some people reading this won’t be surprised that these are just a handful of the statements made by women about the regular abuse they face. As a women’s rights campaigner I know that this is an almost daily experience. Recently friends told me their stories of sexual harassment; one said she was threatened with rape walking home, another that at 13 years old she got so scared by harassment on the school bus she refused to take it again.
Today marks the start of National Hate Crime Awareness Week (8-14 October). A time to draw attention to the ongoing, endemic problem of sexual harassment, assault and rape, among other hate crimes committed against women. Since its establishment, the Women’s Equality Party has prioritised gendered harassment, working across party lines and with many different women’s organisations to bring it to an end. It has also - as I have - called for a change in the law to recognise misogyny as a hate crime.
I started the #NotACompliment petition because I also want to bring an end to gendered harassment, and for abuse of this kind to be included as a hate crime by the police. At the time of writing it has over 20,000 signatures.
This move follows in the footsteps of Nottinghamshire Police Force, who last month led the way and announced they had extended hate crime legislation to cover misogyny. This means that any abuse or harassment experienced on account of being a woman can now be reported, tracked, and even investigated by the police - and reliable support for the victim put in place.
Since this great step, a few other Police Forces (Devon and Cornwall, Durham, Lincolnshire) have sent delegates to Nottingham because they want to try it out too.
Of course, such a move wasn't without criticism and concern. Many feared that it would lead to the 'criminalising of flirting' but, contrary to some rather reactionary early headlines, the decision has not led to a frenzy of men being jailed for a single wolf-whistle. As Laura Bates from Everyday Sexism wrote for The Guardian;
"In reality, the 30 misogynistic hate crimes recorded by police since the new category was introduced ranged from public order offences to physical assault, indecent assault and even kidnapping".
It's important to bear in mind when talking about this issue that recording misogyny as a crime doesn't actually change what is already a crime under UK law. In fact, what it does do is have a major impact on women's perceptions of what they can confidently report to the police - assured of the fact that they will be taken seriously, and given the necessary support.
With a recent poll run by the group End Violence Against Women finding that 85% of women aged 18-24 had experienced unwanted sexual attention and 45% had experienced unwanted sexual touching, the fact that this move might give some women the courage to come forward is no small feat. And it's not just adults bearing the brunt of this abuse - the anti-street harassment group Hollaback found that most experienced catcalling for the first time between the ages 11 and 17. We are letting our young girls down on a national scale, and it's time we did something about it.
That’s why we’re calling on the CPS and the Association of Chief Police Officers to take gendered harassment seriously and expand the country's definition of hate crime to include misogyny.
We must continue to work together. We must raise our voices in unison to say enough is enough. We want an end to misogyny, violence and abuse. It is time for us to act, together.
Will you join us?