The omission of gender-based violence and misogyny is a “fundamental flaw” in Scotland’s hate crime laws, Anas Sarwar has said.
The Scottish Labour leader expressed dismay that prejudice and hate is often fuelled by gender issues and called for more urgent action to tackle it.
The Scottish Government is considering whether to make misogynistic harassment a standalone offence, with a taskforce examining whether it should be incorporated into hate crime legislation.
Sarwar visited the BXNG boxing studio, which works with victims of domestic violence and bullying, speaking to women who had been affected as well as the head of the In Your Corner charity, which offers self-defence classes.
At the studio in Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, Sarwar said that gender-based hate is a “stain on our society” and added: “We should be working endlessly to try and correct that immediately.”
He said: “We know that the single greatest hate came is still one of misogyny; women are still the greatest victims of hate crime and we know that the perpetrators are more often than not men.
“That’s not a coincidence, there’s a real gendered nature to prejudice and hate.
“So how we call that out, how we support people is really important, and then how we put support services in place. That’s why supporting women’s refuge centres where that’s appropriate… it’s about having adequate powers in terms of policing when appropriate, but also making sure we’re upping the conviction rates.
“Because you see already that the conviction rates are really, really low around domestic violence and around misogyny.”
Asked about the work the Scottish Government is doing to consider making misogyny an offence, Sarwar said: “We supported the Hate Crime Bill in the end, but at every stage we tried to amend it to include sex as a key characteristic.
“I think it’s still a fundamental flaw in that legislation that misogyny and sexism is not included in the hate crime legislation and we should be working endlessly to try and correct that immediately, we shouldn’t waste any time.”
Paul Donnelly, who owns the gym and runs the domestic abuse charity In Your Corner, said the pandemic has had a “massive impact” on victims who have essentially been “locked in with their abusers for so long now”.
After talking to Mr Donnelly, who also works as an actor appearing in the Outlander television series, Sarwar said that his “entrepreneurship and social responsibility is at the heart of Labour’s vision for the type of society we should aspire to be”.
“This is a really important project and I’m really delighted to support it,” he added.
Mr Donnelly explained that the charity runs self-defence classes and helps young people with bullying and their mental health charities, but said: “It’s not enough just to teach women how to protect themselves.
“You have to teach young men what boundaries are, what limits are, and what is appropriate behaviour, and nobody does that any more.”
Revealing how he teaches boxing students about consent, he added: “You’ve got to take a stand and educate young boys just as much as you teach women how to protect themselves.”