One could argue that we’re living in an unfortunate golden age of hate crime. The pseudo-anonymity of social media has a habit of luring the more toxic elements of society where they proceed to abuse, slander and deride other users while espousing hateful philosophies or extreme political leanings. Moreover, in the wake of the Trump administration in the US and the Brexit vote in the UK it seems that extreme right groups such as the nebulous “Alt Right” have been emboldened by the divisive and broadly anti-immigrant policies of the Republican and Conservative parties respectively. Yet, while we tend to associate hate crimes with the persecution of racial, cultural or religious minorities, there is a large proportion of the world’s population who have also been subjected to a whole lot of hateful speech… women.
“Ingrained” levels of misogyny
Of course, misogyny is nothing new. Indeed, there’s evidence to suggest that while many of the world’s societies may actively take steps to oppose it, there’s an institutional sexism, especially in the world of work that pervades many societies. Indeed, the ever-present yet oft-denied gender pay gap is estimated by the World Economic Forum to take over 200 years to close completely.
In Scotland, however, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf told delegates at the SNP conference on Sunday 7th of October that a new crime could be introduced to target sexist behaviour and what Yousaf referred to as “ingrained” and levels of misogyny.
Lack of specificity
This proposed legislation is not the only measure that Scotland has taken to curb misogynistic hate speech and hate crimes, although a lack of specificity has made it hard for victims and criminal defense lawyers alike. As pointed out in The Scotsman, a previous report made by the retired Lord Bracadale called for a new aggravation of misogyny added to current hate crime but stopped short of backing a standalone crime, much to the chagrin of women’s rights groups like Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland and who called for a specific crime to be introduced for women to better defend themselves from the wide gamut of misogynistic hate crimes from hateful online speech to sexual assault.
Time for men to “stand up and be counted”
Yet, while we should laud Scotland for its attempts to better legislate against individual and institutional misogyny, real change can only come about when we as a society tackle the culture that has for too long turned a blind eye to the mistreatment of women at the hands of men in all its forms. As Mr. Yousaf quite rightly stated in his speech;
“Hatred isn’t directed only to minorities – ask any woman that… To my fellow men in the audience, we have to stand up and be counted in the fight against misogyny… To every single man here and every single man listening, we have to be allies in the fight against misogyny and in the fight for equality. It is undoubtedly a fight for all of us. If we are simply passive then we are just part of the problem…”