'Scotland should bring in law to tackle misogyny', says expert group

The group advocates for the creation of a number of new offences aimed at protecting women from abuse.

Misogyny law should be introduced by Scotland, expert group led by Baroness Kennedy recommends iStock

Scotland should introduce a new law aimed at tackling misogyny, according to a new report.

The document has been published by experts, led by Baroness Helena Kennedy, as part of a working group on misogyny and criminal justice.

It advocates for the creation of a number of new offences aimed at protecting women from abuse.

Amongst those, the law would create an offence for stirring up hatred against women and girls, an offence of public misogynistic harassment, and an offence for issuing threats of or invoking rape, sexual assault or disfigurement of women and girls both online and offline.

The expert group noted that it is “not normally the role of advisory panels to recommend the titles of legislation”, it would advise the creation of the ‘Misogyny and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act.

It explained their advice on this is because “language matters”, adding that they “wish to focus the minds of those involved in the criminal justice system” in order to create a better understanding of the “gendered nature” of law.

The group also stated that they do not recommend the addition of sex as a characteristic to the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021.

Misogyny is “so deeply rooted in our patriarchal ecosystem”, the group said, that it “requires a more fundamental set of responses”.

They went on to explain that the new legislation would not capture all misogynistic behaviours, but indicated that it could help to bring about a resetting of cultural norms.

It would also “depart from thee established practice of having law that is neutral with regard to gender”, the group wrote in their report.

And they insisted that in order to eradicate misogynistic crimes, the laws have to be targeted at protecting women.

The report was welcomed by Scotland’s justice secretary Keith Brown who indicated that the findings and the recommendations of the report will be considered carefully.

“I would like to thank Baroness Kennedy for the hard work she and her working group have undertaken in the development of this report,” 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 welcome the working group’s report on its findings and recommendations and will now carefully consider those before publishing our response in due course.

“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.”

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Jamie Greene said that his party supports laws to crack down on misogyny.

“The Scottish Conservatives are committed to the protection of women and girls, which is why we back the principles behind the vast majority of Baroness Kennedy’s recommendations,” he explained.

“While our position on the Hate Crime Bill remains the same, we support laws to crack down on misogyny. 

“These recommendations, which are separate from any existing legislation, could help women and girls in Scotland to live their lives without the looming threat of misogynistic behaviour.

“Too many women suffer at the hands of predatory men, and our justice system which prioritises the criminal over the victim.

“These recommendations must come alongside a zero tolerance attitude to violence against women and girls with perpetrators severely punished and victims supported through our proposals for a Victims Law.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar welcomed the introduction of new legislation, but insisted it is “on men” to change their behaviour.

“Violence against women and girls is a blight on our society and Scottish Labour supports all moves taken to combat it,” he said.

“I welcome the vital work that Helena Kennedy QC has undertaken and look forward to making her recommendations a reality.

“The classification of misogyny as a hate crime is long overdue and Scottish Labour will work with SNP ministers to make this vital change to our legislation.

“As Helena Kennedy says, for too long low-level harassment of women by men has been overlooked.”

He added: “Every day, women across Scotland are made to look over their shoulder or think twice before walking down certain streets. This is unacceptable.

“New legislation is welcome, but it is on men everywhere to change their behaviour.”

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