INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day will be marked in the Women’s Library in Glasgow today when Baroness Helena Kennedy QC unveils her commission’s report on misogyny.

The Commission was set up in the wake of a fierce debate over the 2021 Hate Crimes and Public Order Act protecting a raft of characteristics, but excluding sex. It was charged with either adding sex under secondary legislation or looking at a new standalone offence based on misogyny.

The Commission has apparently gone for the second option, ditching the long-standing tradition of gender neutral legislation in favour of recommending separate misogyny and criminal justice legislation.

It would mean specific new offences relating to stirring up hatred against women and girls, publicly harassing them, or issuing threats of rape, assault and disfigurement.

Yet the new aggravation would exclude rape and sexual assault.

Kennedy’s contention is that there is nothing wrong with existing laws tackling these particularly serious crimes, not least since there is now a recognition that successful prosecutions will result in lengthy sentences.

The National: LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Baroness Helena Kennedy QC introduces 'If' at BFI Southbank on September 28, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Mark Milan/Getty Images).

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC

The problem, of course, is because there are so few of these, women’s faith in getting justice means they have little belief in the system.

It’s Kennedy’s conviction that the core cause of a failure to deal adequately with these offences lies in a culture of ingrained misogyny which has led to the police and judiciary being unable to deal with the abuse, degradation and fear which scar all women’s lives at some point.

A misogyny which causes all girls to be brought up to be fearful of attack and taught to take evasive action to protect themselves.

As Helena notes, when men have nights out together, they don’t feel the need to text each other to say they’re safely home. She wants the dial shifted from the victimhood of women to the motivation of the perpetrators.

It’s not that all men are abusive to women, she says, but pretty well all women have experience of being abused.

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She reminds you that the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Ness were followed by 80 more women slain in the next seven months, and that the women-hating incel movement (men who are involuntarily celibate) has gained a frightening amount of ground.

She claims that failure to give women the justice they deserve has been intensified by the toxicity of online abuse where, she observes, not just women in public life are routinely threatened with rape, but school girls too.

Combined with the #MeToo movement, she says, the debate about the abuse evidenced in so many women’s lives and ambitions has now moved centre stage.

Her defence of proposing highly unusual women-specific legislation is that the Hate Crimes law dealt with protecting minorities and is a poor fit when women comprise over half the population.

She’s also persuaded of the need for a cultural sea change to tackle endemic levels of abuse and harassment. A need to address a patriarchal society where men have a sense of “natural” entitlement and women an all too rational set of daily anxieties. Without challenging that mindset, we won’t get the radical changes we need, she argues.

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However, she’s quite clear that if the Scottish Government goes ahead with the legislation her commission recommends, there will not be a repeat of the furore which greeted the suggestion the Hate Crime legislation would intrude on people’s privacy.

“Hate itself is not a crime, just the criminal behaviour which may flow from it.” As she says, freedom of thought is protected by international human rights, and thought crimes are the stuff of totalitarianism.

Instead, she asserts, a statutory misogyny aggravation would give the judge scope to take that into account when sentencing. She’s dismally aware that the use of such aggravations in sentencing hasn’t stamped out racist or homophobic behaviour.

Yet she believes that a law specifically intended to outlaw sexual touching and groping, public harassment, and verbal threats of a sexual nature would help prevent and subdue such hostile acts.

As she observes: “Misogyny is about making women conform and stay in line; misogyny is a problem at the very core of society. Until that is fixed, no-one will enjoy real freedom to be who they are.”