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by Andrew Learmonth
04 October 2021
Scotland’s hate crime law could be amended to make misogyny an aggravating factor, working group chair says

Scotland’s hate crime law could be amended to make misogyny an aggravating factor, working group chair says

Scotland’s hate crime law could be amended to make misogyny an aggravating factor, the chair of a government working group has suggested. 

Baroness Helena Kennedy told the BBC that while it was early days, her committee were “leaning towards an aggravating hate crime element being introduced into the law” rather than making hatred of woman a separate crime.

The QC made clear that no final decision had been made and that her group were still taking evidence, with a report due to be published in the new year. 

Back in March, there were calls for the Scottish Government to add a sex aggravator to their controversial Hate Crime Bill, alongside race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity. 

READ MORE: Love and hate: Helena Kennedy on tackling misogyny

However, MSPs voted against amendments tabled by the then Labour MSP Johann Lamont that would have done just that. 

At the time, the then Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf urged his colleagues to give “the working group the time that it needs to explore the issue, come forward with recommendations and create, potentially, a world-leading approach.”

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, Kennedy said the evidence submitted to her group so far showed that women were “not confident that criminal justice systems are working for them.” 

She added: “We all end up passing this on like the facts of life to our adolescent daughters and granddaughters. As soon as you become 11 you have to be very careful as there are men out there that are going to do bad things to you.

“Of course it's not all men, but what we know is that there is hardly a woman who hasn't had a bad experience in her lifetime, and usually more than one.”

Asked about a separate law on misogynistic abuse, Kennedy said: “That's not how we're thinking of addressing this. Women have to know what is available to them so that even if they're going to report it that they can indicate what it is that has happened and talk about what the law there is.

“There is law in Scotland, and the problem is that the vast majority of women are not aware of it. And the other thing is an awful lot of police officers are not aware of it and don't make use of it to secure justice for women. So we've got to do something about all of that.”

Pressed on what her group were recommending, the peer said: “We're leaning towards certainly, an aggravating hate crime element being introduced into the law, but we were still taking evidence.”

Kennedy said there was a “bigger problem” here and that “just tweaking bits of the law” would not be enough. 

“We're really trying to get to something deeper in here because the problems are deep set.

“One of the things that we're doing is we're looking to see whether there are gaps in the law and we're looking to see whether there's anything supplementary that needs to be done. And we're also looking at all the different sort of cultural elements that are involved in this. 

“Everyone thinks that misogyny is about the odd peculiar man who hates women, but we live in a society in which there's still a sense of entitlement that men feel in relation to this status and place in society, and boys grow into thinking that they have that sense of entitlement in relation to women, women's bodies, and the way that they can talk to women and the way that they can treat women. 

“And so there's a bigger picture here which is about the culture that creates this sort of bad behaviour. And so I think that we're going to have to think about how do you address that in our homes, in our schools and in our universities and so on, but also in our police forces in our different institutions.” 

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - Time is right to reform Scotland's exams, says education minister

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