FIVE new laws have been proposed by the Scottish Government to criminalise misogynistic abuse and harassment.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said the reforms would be an “important step” in tackling violence against women.

Following Baroness Helena Kennedy’s report on misogyny in Scotland, published on International Women’s Day last year, a consultation has now been launched.

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The plans could see sending threatening or abusive messages to women and girls which refer to rape, sexual assault or disfigurement become a specific crime.

It also suggests creating an offence of stirring up hatred against women and girls.

The report, published last year, was “stark in its assessment of the level of misogyny that exists in Scotland”, Brown said.

He added: “Women and girls are routinely humiliated, touched, groped, undermined, trolled and objectified both online and off, and subjected to threats, harassment and abuse about their looks or desirability – stopping them from fully participating in society.”

The Justice Secretary said that while there are currently a number of laws that can be used to deal with this, “these do not accurately identify the particular harm caused by misogyny”.

The National: Brown said the reforms would be an 'important step' in tackling violence against womenBrown said the reforms would be an 'important step' in tackling violence against women

Using existing legislation to prosecute misogynistic behaviour also fails to “adequately respond to problems faced by women”, Brown said, setting out that this was why ministers are now looking at further reforms.

The five new laws under consideration are:

  • Offence of misogynistic harassment. It would become a criminal offence to behave in a way that amounts to misogynistic harassment directed at a group of women and girls or individuals.
  • Offence of misogynistic behaviour. Causing a woman or girl to experience fear, alarm, degradation, humiliation and distress through misogynistic behaviour which is not directed at a specific woman or group, and could not be defined as “harassment”.
  • A statutory aggravation concerning misogyny. This would be used in situations where an existing criminal offence has a misogynistic motive, or the perpetrator demonstrates misogyny while committing a crime. The aggravator would ensure this motive was taken into account when it comes to sentencing.
  • An offence of threatening or abusive communications to women or girls that reference rape, sexual assault or disfigurement.
  • An offence of stirring up hatred against women and girls. This is concerned with the effect that the behaviour may be likely to have on the people in whom the perpetrator is seeking to stir up hatred of women and girls

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Brown added: “While criminal law reform alone cannot be expected to eliminate misogynistic abuse, or the attitudes which perpetuate it, these specific criminal protections are an important step in challenging society’s – and particularly men’s – tolerance of misogyny.”

Baroness Kennedy said she would “strongly encourage as many women as possible to participate in this consultation”.

She added: “For too long the law has not been drawn from the experience of women.

“It is time to hear from girls and women about what they think sho It comes after MSPs heard how women and girls in Scotland have been forced to adapt their behaviour on public transport to feel safe.