This has been a good week for self-promoting controversialists who boast about the rapes they have perpetrated. It’s been an exciting week for the million plus followers of their grooming how-to sites, who have found themselves the focus of the global and Scottish media. It’s been less of a good week for the women with experience of the rape, sexual harassment, and everyday sexism that flow from their toxic notions of women’s place in the world.
Twitter, Facebook, and other online social platforms, have brought us together, and enabled us to share ideas, jokes, and pictures of pandas. They have also provided new spaces in which crimes against women are incited, and hate speech becomes currency. Women with opinions have been introduced to men who face few consequences for threatening to burn their houses down, murder their children, and rape them. As women who live in our culture are very aware of the possibility of being stalked, or raped, or murdered, these threats understandably have a chilling effect on women’s speech.
The brutal history of white supremacy and anti-Semitism has left us with a sense of revulsion towards the acts of rubbing bacon on a mosque, planting a burning cross on a lawn, or desecrating a Jewish grave with a swastika. We rightfully see those as hate crimes, driven by animus towards people of a different race or religion. We know that they cause harm to whole groups of people. They create fear. They say “you’re not welcome”.
Crimes that are aggravated by malice or ill-will towards people on the basis of disability, race, sexual orientation, religion, or gender identity receive stiffer sanctions in Scotland. It is also an offence to incite hatred against people because of their race.
In Scotland, there is no such thing as a hate crime perpetrated because of someone’s gender. In Scotland, it is not currently an offence to incite hatred against women.
Engender, along with Rape Crisis Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid, wants to see women given every legal protection from violence and the threat of violence. Scotland’s bold new strategy on violence against women, Equally Safe, envisages a nation in which women can live our lives free of domestic abuse, rape, commercial sexual exploitation, stalking, forced marriage, and FGM. Freely available material that incites men to perpetrate violence against women cuts across that ambition.
Other jurisdictions around the world have introduced gender-based hate crimes, or bias crimes, including incitement to hatred. This approach is not without its challenges, but it is a symbolic assertion that misogyny is incompatible with civility. Women’s and human rights organisations will be meeting over the coming weeks and months to carefully consider the possibilities for change to the law in Scotland.
Our goal is freedom for women, justice for women, and safety for women.
Photo by Karen.
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