Last month, anti-street harassment campaigners celebrated as the government announced a comprehensive review of hate crime legislation, which will consider whether to recognise hurtful actions towards women as a hate crime.
While the outcome of the review is yet to be determined, the campaign behind it has revealed an overwhelming consensus on the need to re-examine approaches to understanding and prosecuting crimes against women.
Figures show that nearly half of all women in the UK have been sexually harassed in a public place, with 63% of women saying they’ve changed their behaviour because of street harassment. Sadly, those numbers won’t come as a surprise to many, but they reveal an important truth: it is essential we empower women to report abusive behaviour and to do what we can to raise awareness and provide support.
One group that is working to do just that is Citizens UK, a charity that organises communities to fight for causes related to social justice and the common good.
In 2014, Citizens UK supported the Nottingham Woman’s Centre in encouraging their local police force to trial a misogynistic hate crime policy – the first of its kind in the UK.
The two year scheme, which gatheredoverwhelming public support, saw the Nottinghamshire police record incidents of groping, use of explicit language and sexual assault as hate crimes against women.
Other police forces have since followed suit – North Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, and Avon and Somerset –while campaigners continue to lobby Manchester and London forces to do the same.
The Citizens UK campaign raised awareness of street crime against women, mobilised local communities and empowered women to demand concrete action. It’s an inspiring example of what can be achieved when we come together as citizens to push for the change we want to see in society.
The review on classification means that hateful attitudes to women in our society are being challenged and that women can walk taller on our streets, knowing that they are taken seriously. It also allows police forces to intervene and thus prevent more serious cases of violence from taking place later down the line.
But there is always work to be done to challenge the narratives and behaviours that drive hateful actions. Hate Crime Awareness Week is a poignant a reminder of this.
Going into 2019, we hope to see even more cooperation between our police forces, councils and citizens in the fight to prevent and reduce crimes against women and minorities, and bring those responsible to justice.
If you, or anyone you know, may have been a victim of a hate crime, then you should report it. If it’s an emergency and the crime is still taking place, call 999 and ask for the police. If it’s not an emergency, you can call 101, your local council, or “third party” independent hate crime advice and support services such as Tell Mama.
If you’re looking for more information about what constitutes a hate crime, or to get involved in anti-hate crime awareness, you can find guidance and resources via the National Hate Crime Awareness Week hub: https://bit.ly/2Ojqsqs
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