A couple who were victims of a violent, homophobic attack on a London bus are calling for misogyny to become a hate crime, as a report reveals that women are three times more likely to experience sexual violence and threats than men.
Melania Geymonat and her partner Chris, who were unwillingly propelled into the spotlight last year when they were beaten up by a gang of young men after refusing to kiss, have joined forces with a former police chief, MPs, religious leaders and the charity Citizens UK to put pressure on the government to introduce the new law.
“We were beaten up by a group of young men, who demanded that we kiss. It started off with aggressive harassment and quickly escalated into assault and robbery,” the women said in a statement. “In the wake of being subjected to a homophobic hate crime we have been looking to find ways to ensure that we prevent other, more vulnerable people, from having to go through the horrors we did.”
The new study from Citizens UK, based on findings from more than 1,000 respondents in England and Wales and focus groups in Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle, Manchester and London, showed that 45% of women had been threatened with sexual violence, compared with 16% of men, while 43% of women had suffered a sexual assault, compared with 12% of men.
Women told the study of their experiences. One, Alison Branitsky, the Citizens UK leader at Jackson Row synagogue, Greater Manchester, said she had been slammed against a wall, threatened with sexual assault and subjected to antisemitic abuse in Manchester. “I was walking down the street wearing my kippah when two men started to shout antisemitic abuse at me,” she said. “One of the men then pinned me to the wall and told me if I wasn’t going to run his business for him, I should sleep with him instead.”
In Birmingham, a Muslim woman said she was punched in the face at a traffic light.
Pressure is growing to change the law after Stella Creasy, the Labour MP, tabled an amendment during the “upskirting” bill in 2018, resulting in a review by the Law Commission, due to go out to public consultation in September. Scotland has already begun the process of taking misogyny hate crime through Holyrood. .
Creasy said the change in the law was more necessary than ever after a sharp increase in violence against women during lockdown. “Making misogyny a hate crime would give them equal protection and ensure that no woman from any background is asked to tick a box in order for the police and courts to act when she is a victim of crime,” she said.
The move is supported by a retired police chief constable, Sue Fish, who introduced the reporting of misogyny as a hate crime in Nottinghamshire in 2016. “Making misogyny a hate crime was one of the simplest tasks I’ve ever done working in the police – and yet the results that we saw were incredible,” she said. “Some of the feedback we had was that women, for the first time, described themselves as walking taller and with their ‘heads held high’.”