04:12, March 06 120 0 theguardian.com

2018-03-06 04:12:10
Make catcalling a crime, Labour MP to urge parliament

Catcalling at women and sexist abuse in public should be made hate crimes, a Labour MP is to argue, calling for a pilot scheme in Nottinghamshire to be made law across the country.

Melanie Onn said wolf-whistling, harassment on public transport and taking photographs up women’s skirts were low-level crimes that often went unreported, but said it was important for police to be able to record any increase.

In a debate in parliament on Wednesday, Onn said she would argue that a change in the law would give women the confidence to report misogynistic behaviour.

“I’ve been told by police that women don’t necessarily report these incidents, such as men standing far too close to them on public transport,” the MP told her local paper, the Grimsby Telegraph.

“In my experience, the first thing you do in that situation is doubt yourself that it is even happening. And even when you know it is, you don’t know if the perpetrator will react aggressively if you do confront them about it.

“This could also include someone who catcalls a woman in the street or follows a woman out of a shop to chat them up when it is unwanted. I think these are warning signs and this change would give women the confidence to report these things.

“These things might be considered ‘banter’ or flirtatious but, if they are received as unwelcome in the way it is delivered, then it can be tantamount to harassment, even in a one-off case.”

A recent pilot scheme by Nottinghamshire police treats misogynistic acts as hate crimes, defined as: “Incidents against women that are motivated by an attitude of a man towards a woman and includes behaviour targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman.”

In the first eight months of the scheme in 2016, 79 misogynistic acts were recorded, 31 of which were categorised as hate crimes.

Onn said she did not believe the approach was too heavy-handed, saying women who found catcalling to be a compliment would have no reason to make a complaint. “I do think such women are in the minority,” she told the paper. “The situation of people getting that kind of reaction when pushing their kids in a pram seems massively inappropriate.

“Would a man who does this be happy if it was their sister or mother being a victim of it?”

The government is considering changing the law around “upskirting” or “downblousing”– taking intimate pictures underneath a victim’s clothes – images that are already illegal in Scotland.

Conservative MP Maria Miller, the chair of the women and equalities select committee, said last month that new laws could help tackle the problem, which she called a “horrific crime”, as they had done with legislation against “revenge pornography”, which leads to 500 prosecutions annually.

The TV presenter Holly Willoughby recently spoke out about the problem, saying female celebrities were targeted by the paparazzi trying to get a photograph underneath their skirts as they left the Brit awards, despite them having spent the night supporting the Time’s Up campaign against sexual harassment.