Misogyny law must protect all women – including trans women – says human rights lawyer leading Scots review

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC

Scottish misogyny law must protect trans women as well as cis women, according to a leading human rights QC tasked with reviewing the criminal justice system.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, vice president of the Campaign for Homosexual Equity, has been charged with determining whether Scotland requires a standalone offence to tackle misogynist abuse.

She has appointed a panel of six experts with specialisms in Scots law, human rights, women’s equality and perpetrator behaviours relating to gender-based violence.

“It’s the perception of the perpetrator that matters here,” she told The Guardian as she explained how she would define the scope of protection.

“This is about hatred. Trans women, gay women, journalists, parliamentarians, all women get a whole lot of horrible stuff slung at them – disproportionately – and I’m not narrowing down those who receive it.”

The working group led by Kennedy will consider potential gaps in the law as it considers how the Scottish justice system currently deals with misogynistic abuse, such as street harassment and online persecution, which affect cis and trans women alike.

Over the course of the next year the panel will establish whether misogynistic abuse should be classed as a specific offence or if sex should be added to the list of protected characteristics, thereby making misogyny a hate crime.

“What you don’t want is for it to be used in a way that brings it into disrepute, where someone makes a kissy noise and finds the heavy hand of the law on their shoulder,” she said.

“What we’re really talking about here is the sort of abuse that ends up putting people in fear, that denigrates and reduces women.”

Kennedy’s appointment comes as the SNP bears scrutiny over a proposed Hate Crime and Public Order Bill which seeks to modernise and consolidate hate crime laws in Scotland.

Critics dubbed the bill a “transphobes’ charter” after an amendment was added to make “criticism of transgender identity” exempt from hate crime coverage. It was quickly scrapped by the country’s justice minister after a wave of backlash.

When asked what her reassurance would be for any women concerned that the new bill does not protect them, Kennedy was unflinching.

“I’m sure that’s precisely why I was asked to look at whether women should just be added on [to the list of protected characteristics] or there should be a much more ambitious project to protect women,” she said.

“Going into the difficult areas is not something that I mind doing.”