How hostility to men could become a hate crime

Scourge: There were 80,393 hate crimes recorded by police in England and Wales in 2016-17.

Is this a good idea? The government is considering expanding the definition of a hate crime to include prejudice against men — as well as women and the elderly. The move is highly divisive.

“Hate crime goes directly against the long-standing British values of unity, tolerance and mutual respect,” Home Secretary Sajid Javid recently declared. “I am committed to stamping this sickening behaviour out.”

Soon, part of this effort could involve expanding the definition of what a hate crime fundamentally is.

It is currently defined as an act of violence or hostility motivated by prejudice based on one of five things: disability, race, religion, transgender identity and sexual orientation. Crimes themselves can take many forms, from verbal abuse to physical attacks.

However, a review by the Law Commission is considering whether more categories should be added, including misogyny, ageism, and most controversially, hatred of men (otherwise known as misandry).

Some women’s rights campaigners have long argued for defining misogyny as a hate crime. MP Stella Creasy laments the fact that “if someone targets people on the basis of their race or their religion they can receive a tougher sentence for their behaviour [but] someone who repeatedly targets women faces no such sanction.”

And while such a change to the law is being considered, the government’s decision to consider hatred of men too, surprised many.

“When we talk about misogyny, we are talking about the global societal issue of the life-threatening prejudice, hatred, harm, oppression, rape, marginalisation and harassment of women and girls purely based on their gender,” writes The Guardian’s Jessica Eaton. “Misandry, on the other hand, seems to be anything a woman says or does that any man doesn’t like.”

What the government will decide remains to be seen. “It may well be that particular strand (misandry) is not necessary to take forward,” stated Baroness Williams. But she insisted the government is only responding to what “the public and other organisations are telling us”.

For some people, then, hostility to men is worthy of the hate crime label.

Are they right?

Hu-Man rights

Absolutely not, some argue. From sexual assault to domestic violence, women are the majority of victims. It is women who systematically earn less than men, and it is women who often cannot walk down the street without fear of harassment. If the definition of a hate crime is expanded, it must focus on misogyny. Men simply do not face equivalent problems.

Hold on, others respond. There is a question of fairness here. If it is possible to discriminate against women on the basis of gender, the same holds for men. Incidents like this may be less frequent, but the law should be able to punish these offences when they occur. We must send a message that prejudice of all kinds — against men and women — is not acceptable.

You Decide

  1. Should hostility to men be a hate crime?
  2. Should hostility to women be a hate crime?

Activities

  1. On your own, quietly consider the ways that prejudice impacts your own life. If you like, share your thoughts with the class. Do you think that society is getting more, or less, prejudiced?
  2. Consider the term “hate”. Using your own words, write a definition of the term. Share your definition with the class. As a group, can you agree on what the best definition is?

Some People Say...

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

Margaret Atwood

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
There were 80,393 hate crimes recorded by police in England and Wales in 2016-17, an increase of almost a third on the previous year. A further part of the government’s bid to tackle hate crimes includes training taxi drivers and door staff to spot signs of prejudice. The government is also giving £1.5 million to groups fighting prejudice among young people.
What do we not know?
The review is still ongoing, and we do not know what the Law Commission will say. It could recommend the government make no changes to current hate crime laws, or adopt some of the proposed measures. Any new legislation would have to be voted on in Parliament.

Word Watch

Home Secretary
One of the Great Offices of State within the British government. The Home Secretary is responsible for the internal affairs of England and Wales.
Crimes
Those who are convicted of a hate crime receive harsher punishments than those who commit the same crime without prejudice.
Review
The outcome of the review has not been announced and the law has not changed.
Categories
Crimes which target alternative cultures could also be included, such as goths or punks.
Misogyny
Hatred and contempt for, or prejudice against, women and girls.
Change
Nottinghamshire police force have experimented with recording incidents of misogyny. See the link in Become An Expert to find out more.
Marginalisation
Treatment of a person or group as insignificant or peripheral — pushing them into a marginal position.

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