Proposals to Criminalise Abusive & Humiliating Behaviour
Misogynistic harassment could become a criminal offence as part of proposals aimed at providing greater protection for women and girls.
A consultation has been launched on the draft reforms, which would create five new laws to provide police and prosecutors with new powers to tackle the corrosive effects of misogyny.
The proposals are based on the recommendations made by the Working Group on Misogyny led by Baroness Kennedy. This concluded that the harmful effects of misogyny meant women and girls required new protection through the criminal law.
Under the proposals, the scope of how current laws tackle misogynistic abuse would be expanded to include threatening, abusive or sexual behaviour directed towards women or girls – because of their gender– which is likely to cause them to feel degradation, humiliation or distress.
It would also be used to tackle situations where women or girls are subjected to threatening or abusive messages about rape, sexual assault or disfigurement – either in person, or online.
The consultation will run from 8 March to 2 June 2023. Take part in the consultation.
The five new proposed criminal laws are:
- An offence of misogynistic harassment. This would make it a criminal offence for a person to behave in a way that amounts to misogynistic harassment directed at a woman or girl or group of women and girls.
- An offence of misogynistic behaviour. Intended to deal with misogynistic behaviour which is likely to have the effecting of causing a woman or girl to experience fear, alarm, degradation, humiliation or distress where that behaviour is not directed at a specific woman or girl (or group of women and girls) and so could not be described as ‘harassment’.
- A statutory aggravation concerning misogyny. This would be used where an offence had a misogynistic motive or a person demonstrates misogyny whilst committing a crime. The statutory aggravation would ensure that this motive is recorded and taken into account when sentencing.
- An offence of threatening or abusive communications to women or girls that reference rape, sexual assault or disfigurement. This offence criminalises sending an abusive message to a woman or girl that refers to rape, sexual assault or disfigurement
- An offence of stirring up hatred against women and girls. This offence is concerned with the effect that the behaviour may be likely to have on the people in whom the perpetrator is seeking to stir up hatred of women and girls.