A RADICAL new report has recommended world-leading misogyny laws should be introduced in Scotland to protect women and girls from male violence.

Baroness Helena Kennedy was tasked with investigating how the Scottish justice system deals with misogyny in January 2021, with the results revealed in the report Misogyny - A Human Rights Issue. 

The report, launched on International Women’s Day, calls for the creation of a Misogyny and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act which would include a statutory aggravation of misogyny, which could lead to a harsher sentence, and a new offence of stirring up hatred against women and girls.

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It would also establish two further new offences - public misogynistic harassment, such as street harassment, and of issuing threats of, or invoking, rape, sexual assault or disfigurement of women and girls - both offline and online.

Scottish Justice Secretary Keith Brown has welcomed the findings from the independent working group headed by Kennedy, and said the recommendations will be “closely considered”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also welcomed the report and said the "detail will be considered closely". 

The group defined misogyny as a “way of thinking that upholds the primary status of men and a sense of male entitlement, while subordinating women and limiting their power and freedom.”

The report added that conduct based on misogynistic thinking can include, “a range of abusive and controlling behaviours including rape, sexual offences, harassment and bullying, and domestic abuse.”

Kennedy explained that one of the main issues in Scots law is getting convictions for crimes such as rape and domestic abuse, and that one of the main reasons women don’t feel comfortable reporting violence committed against them is because the justice system is “imbued with misogyny” and a change of perspective is needed across all levels - police, judiciary and government.

The National:

Kennedy with the report at the launch at the Glasgow Women's Library

However, the findings ruled out the addition of “sex” as a characteristic to existing hate crime legislation as misogyny is so deeply rooted in society that a more fundamental set of responses is required.

The role of the law would be to criminalise abusive conduct which stems from misogyny - not to criminalise hatred or misogyny.

The report explains: “It is the conduct that flows from hatred that can be criminal, but what goes on in our heads cannot and must not be criminalised.”

Launching the report at the Glasgow Women’s Library on Tuesday, Kennedy said that although the “daily grind of sexual harassment and abuse degrades women’s lives” it seems to have been accepted as “part of what it means to be a woman”.

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She added: “The failure to acknowledge the ramifications of what is seen as low-level harassment is just one of the ways in which the criminal justice system fails women.

“What is seen as low-level harassment is often the sub soil from which more grave crimes emerge.

“The current system allows abhorrent behaviour to be missed, ignored, and normalised. The women we spoke to through this investigation told us: enough is enough; something must be done.

“We are recommending that the Scottish Government creates a specific piece of legislation for women - to protect them from the daily abuses which blight their lives. This malign conduct does not happen to men in any comparable way.

“That is why new law should be created exclusively for women, and those perceived to be women, reflecting the inherently gendered nature of the problem we have been asked to address. Such law will establish new boundaries and will, importantly, shift the dial towards perpetrator behaviours and away from the current focus on women as victims.”

A key point in the recommendations is a shift towards abandoning the neutral perspective currently embedded in Scots law, which Kennedy described as “ambitious and transformative”.

The National:

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said he will "closely consider" the findings

She explained: “People are concerned that rape and sexual assault laws are not working and the reason largely lies in the underlying mindsets and behaviours into which we have all been socialised.

“What we are recommending is innovative, change-making and radical. It will no doubt raise alarms about abandoning the default position that all law should be neutral and be available to men as well as women.

“That assumes an equality that sadly does not yet exist. The reality is that there are particular kinds of behaviour which target women. That is why we need legislation that is targeted at protecting women by focussing on male behaviour.”

The report added that the law would not be sufficient to tackle the issue and urged the Scottish Government to invest resources in training across the criminal justice system, public agencies including schools and colleges, improving technology and police reporting and recording systems, and helping men and boys understand misogyny.

Kennedy added that the group’s recommendations are a “comprehensive package”, designed to work together to tackle misogyny.

She explained: “I don’t want cherry picking of this, you know we’ll have this and not that, or let's just have the aggravation but not bother with the other stuff.

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“The public misogynistic harassment offence is absolutely imperative, I mean it really is, because of the level of it, it’s now a pandemic.

“It’s become so present in women’s lives, the business of experiencing this stuff. Sitting on the bus, with men opening up their pornography and make it deliberately visible for you to see, that kind of thing that women experience.”

Brown said: “This is an extremely important piece of work to help inform policy to address the many forms of violence, transgression and abuse experienced by women which may emanate from misogyny and is a milestone in making our society safe, equal and fair.

“It is clear to me that to achieve true equality we must continue to think about our messaging and how men's attitudes to women can be effectively challenged to make women feel safe when going about their everyday lives.

“We welcome the Working Group’s report on its findings and recommendations and will now carefully consider those before publishing our response in due course.”