Emma Ritch: How 'Roosh V' highlights the need for gender hate crime legislation

Engender director Emma Ritch asks whether Scotland's laws are fit for purpose when it comes to protecting women from all forms of abuse

THE announcement of global misogyny meetups organised by apparent rape-advocate 'Roosh V' (real name Daryush Valizadeh) has prompted widespread anger and condemnation.

Whenever a story like this comes along (and they keep coming - there are plenty of attention-seeking misogynists out there), discussions are often about how much notice we should take.

Should we give them the coverage they so clearly crave, or ignore them and hope nobody notices what they're saying? With the Roosh V meetups, though, the clear threat of intimidation towards women in public spaces - men are encouraged to film women protesting and circulate the footage so Roosh and his followers can 'tear them up' - means that people have understandably been mobilising around next weekend's events.

With the Roosh V meetups, though, the clear threat of intimidation towards women in public spaces means that people have understandably been mobilising around next weekend's events.

Counter-protests have been planned, petitions started, and people have been asking how this is allowed. One of the answers to this lies in the fact that in Scotland, it is not currently an offence to incite hatred against women.

While crimes that are aggravated by malice or ill-will towards people on the basis of disability, race, sexual orientation, religion, or gender identity receive stiff sanctions in Scotland, and are known as hate crimes, there is no equivalent for crimes perpetrated through hatred of women.

While it would be a mistake to instantly turn to legislative changes in response to one man's misguided vision for men sharing his abhorant views to "come out of the shadows and not have to hide behind a computer screen for fear of retaliation", the outrage over his comments has shone a spotlight on a wider issue which women's groups have been discussing for a long time.

Men are encouraged to film women protesting and circulate the footage so Roosh and his followers can 'tear them up.

In this new age of internet abuse, online anonymity and virtual stalking, are Scotland's laws fit for purpose to protect women from hatred?

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 their lives free of domestic abuse, rape, commercial sexual exploitation, stalking, forced marriage and female genital mutilation (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.

In this new age of internet abuse, online anonymity and virtual stalking, are Scotland's laws fit for purpose to protect women from 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 a change to the law in Scotland to make sure women remain free from all forms of abuse.

Follow Emma Ritch on Twitter.

Picture courtesy of Kuba Bozanowski