Section: 6.2 Government responses

Government responses to gendered hate or gendered-based hate crimes

This section reviews how different governments respond to gendered hate. It highlights

Iif governments consider gendered hate a crime and where countries have enacted or are in the process of enacting laws specifically to address gendered hate.

Please note that this information is not exhaustive and is accurate as of the date it was published.

What is a hate crime?

According to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE),1 REF? a hate crime is a criminal act compounded by a bias motive. It involves two elements: a base offense, which must be a violation of criminal law, and a bias motivation, where the perpetrator commits the criminal act due to prejudice against a protected characteristic like disability, religion, ethnicity, colour, or gender. The presence of this bias motive distinguishes hate crimes from ordinary crimes.

What is gender-based hate crimes?

Gender-based hate crimes are a specific type of hate crime committed against individuals where the primary motivation is prejudice against the victim's gender. These crimes can target individuals, property, or associations due to their actual or perceived gender. This category includes acts of violence and discrimination aimed at individuals because of their gender presentation, gender identity, or perceived gender norms and roles. While these crimes can target anyone, they disproportionately affect women and girls, often stemming from entrenched societal biases and misogyny. Such crimes manifest as violence or harassment directed at women and girls explicitly due to their gender.

The United Kingdom

Recommendation 8 (5.381) from the 2021 UK Law Commission report1 on hate crime laws in England and Wales stated that “sex or gender should not be added as protected characteristics” as the risks identified outweighed the benefits. The UK Government accepted the Law Commission recommendation in 2023. The UK Government stated in their response2 that they will seek to pursue other options to address violence against women and girls (VAWG) outside of the hate crime framework. An example is the 2021 cross-Government government Tackling VAWG Strategy,3 which focusses on criminal justice processes for women and girls who have suffered violence. Other examples are the 2022 cross-government Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan4 and the Rape Review and Action Plan.5

See the UK Government Response to: Online Misogyny.

See the UK Government Response to: Misogynistic Extremism.

Further Reading

Studies and reports

Scotland and Northern Ireland

When the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 was enacted in April 2021, it included a provision allowing for the potential future inclusion of 'sex' as a protected characteristic via secondary legislation. A working group established in February 2021 conducted thorough investigations into misogynistic conduct against women, including reviewing oral and written evidence and extensive research. The Working Group on Misogyny and Criminal Justice stated that “misogyny is so deeply rooted in our patriarchal ecosystem that it requires a more fundamental set of responses” than could be provided under the existing hate crime legislation.

Therefore, the Working Group in their 2022 report6 recommended against adding 'sex' as a protected characteristic under the hate crime legislation, arguing that misogyny's pervasive nature required a broader approach. Consequently, they proposed the creation of the Misogyny and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, which would create a new statutory misogyny aggravation outside of the Hate Crime and Public Order Act. This new act would also establish specific offences addressing misogyny, including stirring up hatred against women and public misogynistic harassment.

In response the Scottish Government launched a public consultation7 in 2023 on proposals to criminalise abusive behaviour targeted at women and girls. This includes creating a new law to address misogynistic harassment, aiming to provide better protection for them. The draft reforms, based on the recommendations by the Working Group on Misogyny and Criminal Justice would expand current laws to cover threatening, abusive, or sexual behaviour directed at women or girls due to their gender, causing them feelings of degradation, humiliation or distress. This would also address situations where women or girls are subjected to threatening messages about rape, sexual assault, or disfigurement, in person or online.

The five new proposed criminal laws are:

  • An offence of misogynistic harassment. This would make it a criminal offence for a person to behave in a way that amounts to misogynistic harassment directed at a woman or girl or group of women and girls.
  • An offence of misogynistic behaviour. Intended to deal with misogynistic behaviour which is likely to have the effecting of causing a woman or girl to experience fear, alarm, degradation, humiliation, or distress where that behaviour is not directed at a specific woman or girl (or group of women and girls) and so could not be described as ‘harassment’.
  • A statutory aggravation concerning misogyny. This would be used where an offence had a misogynistic motive or a person demonstrates misogyny whilst committing a crime. The statutory aggravation would ensure that this motive is recorded and taken into account when sentencing.
  • An offence of threatening or abusive communications to women or girls that reference rape, sexual assault or disfigurement. This offence criminalises sending an abusive message to a woman or girl that refers to rape, sexual assault or disfigurement.
  • An offence of stirring up hatred against women and girls. This offence 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.

Legislation for the proposed bill could be tabled at Holyrood before the summer recess of 2024, with the passage through parliament by the first quarter of 2026.8

In Northern Ireland, hate crimes is a general term used to describe offences which are motivated by hostility or bias on the basis of race, religion (including sectarianism), sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. While there is no explicit legal definition of a hate crime, it is generally accepted as being “any incident which constitutes a criminal offence perceived by the victim, or any other person, to be motivated by prejudice or hate towards a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation or disability”.9

These crimes are generally divided into two main types: offences where the motivation is explicitly prejudiced or hostile towards the victim’s identity, and actions that are likely to incite hatred or fear among a community. Hate crimes can also be considered 'aggravated by hostility' if there is sufficient direct evidence showing the offender’s hostility toward the victim based on their actual or presumed membership of a protected group. This evidence allows prosecutors to pursue enhanced penalties under the law.

The Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 specifically addresses activities likely to stir up hatred or arouse fear (part III) based on religious belief, colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origins, sexual orientation, or disability. This includes using threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behaviour, as well as distributing or displaying written material that could provoke hostility.

The Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 expands on these protections by criminalising certain behaviours at sporting events, particularly sectarian chanting or other actions that involve threatening, abusive, or insulting content directed at individuals based on their colour, race, nationality, religious belief, sexual orientation, or disability.

See Scotland and Northern Ireland Response to: Online Misogyny.

See Scotland and Northern Ireland Response to: Misogynistic Extremism.

Further Reading

Studies and reports


In 2022, The Irish Minister for Justice announced plans for a new Hate Crime Bill. The Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 outlines the protected characteristics the would be covered in the proposed act, which include race, colour, nationality, religion, national or ethnic origin, descent, gender, sex characteristics, sexual orientation, and disability.9 This means that crimes motivated by prejudice against these characteristics could be persecuted as a hate crime, including those motivated by misogyny.10

The new legislation encompasses both hate crime and hate speech, including online. This change was made due to widespread belief that The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 was ineffective, after only around 50 prosecutions over more than 30 years. The new legislation will be simpler and is designed to enable more prosecutions. 11

See the Republic of Ireland Response to: Online misogyny.

The European Union

In December 2021, the European Commission took steps to enhance its legal approach to combat hate speech and hate crimes throughout the European Union (EU).12 The EU adopted a communication titled a more inclusive and protective Europe: extending the list of EU crimes to hate speech and hate crime.A more inclusive and protective Europe: extending the list of EU crimes to hate speech and hate crime. The aim of the communication is to initiate a Council Decision to expand the list of 'EU crimes' defined in Article 83 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Such a decision would enable the Commission to subsequently enhance the legal framework for addressing hate speech and hate crimes throughout the EU.

The Gender Equality strategy from 2020 to 202513 outlines actions to fight gender-based violence against women and girls. It emphasises the need to make certain forms of gender-based violence illegal at the European Union (EU) level. This effort will work together with a proposal for a directive aimed at preventing and countering violence against women and domestic violence. Key elements of this proposal include the criminalisation of rape and cyber violence such as cyber stalking and harassment, cyber incitement to hatred or violence and the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, across the European Union. The proposal complements the Digital Services Act (DSA) making it operational by defining illegal online content related to cyber violence. It will also allow for quick judicial proceedings to have relevant online content removed swiftly.14

In March 2023, The European Committee of the Regions provided an opinion15 on extending the list of EU crimes to hate speech and hate crimes, suggesting common standards for criminalising hate speech and hate crime across EU Member States, extending them to include gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and disability.

The EU has also signed the Istanbul Convention, (also known as the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence) is a human rights treaty of the Council of Europe that aims to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence.16 As of March 2019, it was signed by 45 countries and the European Union. Between 2013 and 2023, 38 countries ratified the Convention. The Istanbul Convention establishes a legal framework across EU countries to protect women from all forms of violence.

See the European Union Response to: Online misogyny.

See the European Union Response to: Misogynistic Extremism.

The United States of America

The United States of America (U.S.) have both federal and state laws aimed at protecting people from hate crimes (also known as bias crimes).

State laws in the U.S. may differ, but federal statutes allow for the prosecution of hate crimes based on protected characteristics such as race, religion, ethnicity, disability, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and campus police departments, are mandated to gather and release statistics on hate crimes. The FBI’s Hate Crime Statistic Programme also collects data about crimes committed wholly or partly due to gender/sex, gender identity and other intersecting identities.17

Federal hate crime laws in the United StatesU.S. are outlined under Title 18 U.S. Code § 249 Hate Crimes Act. These laws make it a federal crime to cause bodily injury or attempt to do so based specifically on the victim’s actual or perceived race, colour, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. The penalties for a federal hate crime can be severe, with potential sentences up to life in prison depending on the circumstances and the extent of injury caused to the victim. When prosecuting, if it's determined that a crime was committed against someone because of these protected characteristics, the perpetrator can face enhanced penalties under both state and federal hate crime statutes, which recognise gender, sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics.

This means even if individual states do not cover these categories in their hate crimes laws, cases can still be reported to the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI). This is important because out of the 50 states plus the District of Colombia, 36 include gender/sex in their hate crime laws, while 15 do not. Moreover, 16 states include gender identity, while 35 states do not.

One key aspect of federal hate crime legislation is the inclusion of both ‘actual or perceived’ characteristics, broadening the scope of protection to cover victims who are perceived to possess any of the protected traits, even if the perpetrator is mistaken.

See the United States Government Response to: online misogyny.

See the United States Government Response to: Misogynistic Extremism.


The Canadian law known as Bill C-16, passed in 2017, amends the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. It specifically includes gender expression and gender identity among the protected grounds under the Canadian Human Rights Act. These protections extend to the Criminal Code, where they relate to hate propaganda, incitement to genocide, and are considered aggravating factors in sentencing. This legislation aims to enhance legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes targeting individuals based on their gender identity or expression.18

In June 2021, Canada introduced Bill C-36 (An act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act and to make related amendments to another Act (hate propaganda, hate crimes and hate speech) to amend both the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. This bill, aimed at internet users within Canada, proposes to reintroduce an amended section 13 to the Canadian Human Rights Act, refine the complaints process for hate speech, and enhance the available remedies.19

The proposed legislationIt seeks to define ‘hate speech’ in alignment with the Supreme Court of Canada’s interpretations, focusing on speech content and its effects. It specifically defines hate speech as communications expressing detestation or vilification based on protected characteristics like race, sex, or disability. The bill distinguishes between harmful hate speech and other forms of offensive or hurtful expressions to ensure that only the most severe acts are targeted.

These changes will apply to public online communications, including blogs and social media posts by individuals and comments on websites like online newspapers. However, the amendments will not apply to operators of social media platforms whose primary function is to facilitate communication among users. Nor will they affect intermediaries providing technical infrastructure, telecommunications service providers, licensed broadcasters, or private communications such as emails and direct messages.

In February 2024, the Government of Canada introduced the Online Harms Act (Bill C-63), a legislation to make online platforms responsible for addressing harmful content and for creating a safer online space that protects all people in Canada, especially children.20 This legislation focuses on making online platforms, including those offering livestreaming and user-uploaded adult content, accountable for mitigating exposure to harmful content. Key proposed amendments are to the Criminal Code to enhance provisions against hate crime and hate propaganda and to the Canadian Human Rights Act to facilitate the filing of complaints against online hate speech.

See the Government of Canada’s Response to: online misogyny.

See the Government of Canada’s Response to: Misogynistic Extremism.

New Zealand

The Human Rights Act 1993 (HRA) section 21 makes it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sex, which includes pregnancy and childbirth, or sexual orientation, which mean heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientations. In 2021, the NZ Government consulted the public on in-principle proposals to amend the incitement laws and extend the prohibited grounds of discrimination (gender/sex) in the HRA to include trans, gender diverse, and intersex people.21

The Sentencing Act 2002 requires the court to take into account aggravating factors to the extent they are applicable to an offence. In this context, section 9(1)(h) is significant. The court must consider whether the offender committed the offence partly or wholly because of hostility towards a group of persons who have an enduring common characteristic such as race, colour, nationality, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or disability. The court needs also to examine whether the offender committed the offence because they believed that the victim has that characteristic and was hostile because of the common characteristic.

The NZ Police are guided by the Sentencing Act 2002 s9(1)(h) in relation of what constitutes a hate crime. However, with the absence of specific legislative definitions, Police have developed ‘working or operational definitions’ in relation to hate crimes. Hate crimes and hate incidents can encompass a broad range of acts, including threatening behaviour, harassment and verbal abuse, online abuse, criminal damage, assault and sexual violence.22

It’s important to clarify that hate speech itself is not a distinct crime in New Zealand, and it doesn't criminalise new behaviours. If an offender's actions align with the elements of an existing offence, it's considered a crime; otherwise, it's not. Similarly, hate crimes aren't standalone offences.22 Instead, an offence is flagged as a hate crime if it's recorded and identified as having hate or prejudice as part of the motivation. The Police's definitions for hate crime, hate incidents, and hate speech are perception-based. If the Police, a victim, a witness, or a third party perceives that an incident is motivated by hate, it must be recorded and flagged as ‘perceived hate.’ Unless there's immediate evidence to the contrary, this perception is recorded. Any further investigation or court proceedings will determine if hate was indeed the motivation, considering the Sentencing Act 2002. The Police National Intelligence Application (NIA) was improved in 2020 to enable better recording practices, including the addition of protected characteristics after hate crime has been flagged in the system.

In response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCOI) recommendations after the Christchurch terrorist attacks, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) developed the Social Cohesion Strategic Framework.23 Programs and initiatives under this framework aim to benefit all New Zealanders, with a focus on providing opportunities and support for New Zealand diverse communities, while working to increase feelings of safety and reduce experiences of discrimination and racism for everyone in New Zealand. 22 The programme includes establishing Te Raranga (the Weave), a new victim-centred program of work to improve Police’s response to hate crime and hate incidents and provide support to victims.24

See the Government of New Zealand’s Response to: Online Misogyny.

See the Government of New Zealand's Response to: Misogynistic Extremism.

Further Reading


We understand that this research could be confronting or upsetting for some readers. If you or someone you know needs to talk:

  • Free call Women’s Refuge 0800 733 843 for support for women and children experiencing family violence.
  • Visit Netsafe to complete an online form to report any online safety issues or free call 0508 638 723 for support.
  • Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.
  • Free call Youthline 0800 376 633 or text 234 to talk with someone from a safe and youth-centred organisation.
  • Free call Safe to Talk 0800 044 334 or text 4334 anytime for support about sexual harm.
  • Free call OutLine Aotearoa 0800 688 5463 any evening to talk to trained volunteers from Aotearoa's rainbow communities.