Jewish women back campaign to make misogyny a hate crime
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Jewish women back campaign to make misogyny a hate crime

Charlotte Fischer of Citizens UK, Rabbi Robyn Ashworth Steen of Manchester Reform, and Alison Branitsky, a psychosis researcher, are among the campaigners hoping to make it law

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Charlotte Fischer, a senior community organiser with Citizens UK, Rabbi Robyn Ashworth Steen of Manchester Reform Synagogue are spearheading the campaign
Charlotte Fischer, a senior community organiser with Citizens UK, Rabbi Robyn Ashworth Steen of Manchester Reform Synagogue are spearheading the campaign

Jewish women have been in the forefront of a ground-breaking campaign to make misogyny a hate crime — and it is now hoped that the Law Commission, due to make an announcement of September 21, will recommend it to the government.

Charlotte Fischer, a senior community organiser with Citizens UK, Rabbi Robyn Ashworth Steen of Manchester Reform Synagogue, and Alison Branitsky, a Manchester-based psychosis researcher, are among the campaigners.

As Ms Fischer explained, the ultimate aim is to allow victims to record more than one category of complaint — and Jewish women are often doubly targeted, both by misogyny and antisemitism.

Citizens UK launched this campaign five years ago in Nottinghamshire, whose police force became the first to take misogynistic attacks seriously. Now seven police forces back the initiative and Citizens UK, whose report on the issues was published this week, hopes for national backing.

Danny Stone, MBE, chief executive of the Antisemitism Policy Trust, fully supports the initiative. He said: “There is no question that Jewish women have suffered and continue to experience a dual attack, both for their race and their gender. Yet, despite the major support for an intersectional approach to hate crime which this survey reveals, Jewish and other women are presently denied the opportunity to report this twin abuse — nor see those that perpetrate it properly held to account for their actions”.

He added: “Intersectional approaches to hate crime will ensure we have national reporting services that are fit for purpose and that we will be better able to support the victims of hate crime”.

The Citizens UK report states: “Certain groups, such as Jews and Muslims, often face forms of discrimination and hate which draw upon more overt, well-defined and widely circulated stereotypes and tropes, some of which are more unambiguous than others”

Nevertheless, the campaign survey shows that Christians (71.4 per cent) and those of “other” religious backgrounds (84.6 per cent) were the most likely to say they never reported hate crime, while Jews and those identifying as atheist or agnostic were most likely to say they always or sometimes reported.

The report contains many stories of misogyny and hatred. One woman, from Birmingham, described how late one evening someone had posted on her Birmingham Nisa Nashim WhatsApp group, a photo [of some physical graffiti] “of the chilling words ‘Die Jewish’.The support from our Muslim sisters was immediate. I shared it on the Citizens UK WhatsApp group and again got immediate support.

“By planning on WhatsApp, by 2pm the next day around 10 of us congregated there. I’d phoned the local MP, who came over too. And one of the local police team came, happy to test the new graffiti removal kit. We put up bunting and left a message in chalk.

It was a shock to see this on the streets of the city I love but I really felt that the Jewish community wasn’t alone in saying there’s no room for hate in Birmingham”.

Another woman, Alison Branitsky, reported to a focus group in Manchester: “I was walking down the street. I wear a kippah. Two men behind me started saying “we need you to run our business”. I didn’t understand, I said “what?” They grabbed me and said it again. Then they said, well if you’re not going to run our business you can at least f*** me. I was terrified, they had grabbed me… I feel when I’m identified as Jewish, the amount of harassment and misogyny I get is much more, and it tends to be much more racial and much more sexualised”.

Rabbi Robyn Ashworth Steen, from Manchester Reform Synagogue,  said: “There are some shocking stories from my community, including misogyny, transphobia and homophobia alongside antisemitism. We’ve shared evidence with the government review and community safety remains a top concern – as women, as Jews, as people who are gay. This abuse sadly hasn’t gone away since lockdown.”

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