In March 2018, Labour’s MP Melanie Onn urged Parliament to consider treating ‘catcalling’ and ‘wolf-whistling’ as acts of misogynistic hate crime towards women. Mrs. Onn supported her position with the details of Nottinghamshire’s Police pilot, where examples of misogynistic acts towards women were recorded as hate crimes. Eight months into the scheme in 2016, 79 acts were recorded, with 31 of them marked as hate crimes. Calling for the pilot to be rolled out nationwide, she said this change could give women the confidence to report these types of behaviour.
What is hate crime? Hate crime is a usually violent, prejudice motivated crime that occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group. At present, the police categorise five distinct types of hate crime – race and ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity. The Nottinghamshire pilot, defined misogyny hate crime as “behaviour targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman”. When considering the 2016 YouGov survey found that 85% of women aged 18-24 said they had received unwanted attention, it could be suggested that most women do not view such approaches as complimentary.
Clearly some kind of consideration needs to be made regarding this matter, but there are some who suggest labelling Catcalling a hate crime will not be the answer:
‘we should be equipped to deal with that ourselves. Domestic abuse and controlling behaviour are already covered by other legislation, and lumping catcalling and the taking of photos in the same category as serious life-changing abuse will not help anyone. Women need to be equipped to deal with low-level unwanted attention, but they need to be able to handle it themselves. If this behaviour involves a threat of violence or intimidation or sexual harassment or physical contact, that is a different matter, and it is already covered by existing guidelines’ (Street-Porter, 2016).
A discussion that could be long continued…
Nevertheless, unwanted attention that places somebody in a position of fear or distress should not be ignored, no matter how trivial you fear it may be perceived to be, particularly if it happens on more than one occasion and it has been made clear that the behaviour is unacceptable or unwanted. There are practical steps for both men and women to take if you feel you have been subject to harassment.
- If you feel as though you or your family are in danger and have been subjected to a hate crime, call the police.
If you are subjected to a course of harassment that does not fall within a police remit:
- Speak out. Further remedies are available under The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 which enables you to obtain an injunction through the courts to protect yourself from harassing behaviour. It protects all such victims of harassment whether they have been subjected to so-called stalking behaviour, racial harassment, or anti-social behaviour.
An injunction can, for example, prohibit someone from coming within a certain distance and from communicating, or causing others to communicate with you further. Should they fail to abide by the terms of the injunction, it is possible they could face imprisonment.
- Dependent on the relationship you have with the person harassing you, you may be able to obtain a Non-Molestation Order through the Family Court. The application can be made without cost but is only applicable against spouses, parents, relatives, cohabitants, civil partners or those in a long-term intimate relationship. In effect, this is similar to an injunction in that it can prevent the perpetrators from coming within a certain distance of the victim, from communicating with them directly or indirectly or using threatening violence against you.
Before taking action:
- Seek legal advice. NB: Use a solicitor who may be willing to discount their hourly rate and share the risks associated with litigation with you.
- Consider whether you have an insurance policy that may cover your legal fees, for example a household insurance policy.
Whether you agree that misogynistic acts should be categorised as hate crimes or not, cases of varying degrees of harassment are unfortunately commonplace, with many unreported, and rising with the increased use of social media.
Griffin Law have successfully assisted individuals from harassment and abuse by ensuring they obtain the protection of the courts with the peace of mind that should the perpetrators continue with their actions, they risk imprisonment.
A Case Study:
Griffin Law were instructed to stop Ms Rebecca Palmer’s campaign of online harassment. We successfully obtained an urgent injunction to stop any further harassment. Read more here.
Written by Zachary Baldwin, edited by Laura Ware
Street-Porter, J. (2016). Catcalling shouldn’t be labelled a hate crime – we should be equipped to deal with that ourselves. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/catcalling-shouldnt-be-labelled-a-hate-crime-we-should-be-equipped-to-deal-with-that-ourselves-a7138791.html [Accessed 16 Jul. 2018].