A British police force has become the first in the country to record “misogyny” as a hate crime, potentially criminalising complimenting, texting, and catcalling women in some contexts.
Nottinghamshire Police, who introduced the measures in partnership with Nottingham Women’s Centre, will be recording incidents such as unwanted physical approaches and taking photographs without consent as crimes.
They will also include using mobile phones to send unwanted messages, unwanted sexual advances, and “unwanted or uninvited physical or verbal contact or engagement”, possibly including “wolf whistling”.
However, the potential inclusion of everyday human interactions into the “hate crime” definition has left police unable to define and describe what a hate crime is.
A force spokesman told the Telegraph: “Nottinghamshire Police has been working hard to understand exactly what hate crime means to the people of Nottinghamshire and has a clear definition.
“A hate crime is simply any incident, which may or may not be deemed as a criminal offence, which is perceived by the victim or any other person, as being motivated by prejudice or hatred.”
“Unwanted physical or verbal contact or engagement is defined as exactly that and so can cover wolf-whistling and other similar types of contact. If the victim feels that this has happened because they are a woman then we will record it as a hate crime.
“This doesn’t necessarily mean that a criminal offence has been committed, but means we will carry out risk assessments and offer support as we would to any victim of a hate crime.”
However, not all women perceive wolf whistling and unsolicited chat up lines as “motivated by hatred”.
Nottingham Women’s Centre, a local feminist group who developed out of the radical Women’s Lib movement in the 1970s, has helped define what the law is and how it should be implemented.
The feminist group has trained call centre staff and officers on the beat to recognise a “misogynistic hate crime” – which includes “behaviour targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman” – and ways to tackle it.
“Thanks to everyone who has worked so hard to make this happen, including all the women who have shared their stories and Nottinghamshire Police for being so open to taking this forward,” the centre wrote on Facebook.
Adding: “Nottingham is leading the way with this – it’s not happening anywhere else in the country…yet!”
Melanie Jeffs of Nottingham Women’s Centre is seen talking to BBC Nottingham below. She told them that “shouting at women” is a hate crime.
— BBC Radio Nottingham (@BBCNottingham) July 13, 2016
The force has welcomed the new procedures. Chief Constable Sue Fish said: “I’m delighted that we are leading the way towards tackling misogyny in all its forms.
“It’s a very important aspect of the overall hate crime work being conducted and one that will make Nottinghamshire a safer place for all women.
“What women face, often on a daily basis, is absolutely unacceptable and can be extremely distressing.”
Sarah Green, acting director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “We welcome this because it comes off the local police force talking to and listening to local women’s groups.
“What we are talking about is not trivial behaviour – some harassment that women and girls receive in public is upsetting and should have the attention of the authorities.”