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by Margaret Taylor
21 April 2022
Government to consult public before bringing forward Helena Kennedy's misogyny laws

Government to consult public before bringing forward Helena Kennedy's misogyny laws

The Scottish Government is to consult the public before bringing forward plans to create laws aimed specifically at tackling misogyny.

Last month human rights barrister Helena Kennedy QC completed a review, commissioned by the government, into whether misogyny should be made a standalone offence within the parameters of existing hate crime legislation.

In her report Kennedy recommended that a Misogyny and Criminal Justice Act should be introduced to create three new criminal offences – stirring up hatred against women and girls; public misogynistic harassment; and issuing threats of rape, sexual assault or disfigurement of women and girls either online or offline – in addition to making misogyny an aggravating factor in other crimes.

The report, which was published on International Women’s Day, was welcomed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who praised its “bold” and “far-reaching” recommendations and said that it “highlighted ways in which the law was currently failing women and girls, and it gave powerful voice to the stark reality of the misogyny faced by women in everyday life”.

Today, justice minister Keith Brown said the government is still considering how the recommendations will be progressed, adding that it will consult with the public before a draft bill is introduced.

“The independent report rightly recognises the need to address misogyny and makes a compelling case for creating new laws to tackle this unacceptable conduct,” Brown said.

“The Scottish Government response outlines how we intend to make progress on the blueprint for legislation contained within the report by bringing forward a Bill to the Scottish Parliament.

“With such a substantial and significant report it will take time to work through the recommendations in discussion with key partners, but we are confident the resulting legislation will help send a clear message that male attitudes which emanate from prejudice and misogyny have no place in a modern and equal Scotland.”

Kennedy was asked to lead a Misogyny and Criminal Justice in Scotland Working Group at the beginning of 2021 and worked alongside a number of academics and representatives from organisations including Engender to come up with the recommendations.

Their report was issued a week after MPs voted to scrap a Lords amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would have made misogyny a hate crime in England and Wales.

Kennedy stressed that the recommendations for Scotland do not propose making misogyny itself a crime or to criminalise hateful thinking.

“It is the conduct that flows from hatred that can be criminal, but what goes on in our heads cannot and must not be criminalised,” she said.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights rightly protects freedom of thought. We were very clear from the outset that misogyny itself must not be criminalised as it is a way of thinking and freedom of thought must remain sacrosanct.”

She added that the group has recommended the new offences and the ability for judges to take misogyny into account when sentencing for other crimes because “harmful conduct which has its roots in misogyny should have consequences”.

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