British county names street harassment a hate crime in tough blow to local perverts

Street harassment — every woman who reaches a certain age and dares to walk around in public, no matter what she’s wearing, is inevitably going to face it. Unfortunately everyone knows it can quickly escalate from classic, insidious wolf-whistling and cat calls to disturbing threats in a matter of moments if the target ignores her harassers, and depending on the time of day and who’s around, it can be not only gross and annoying, but dangerous, too. This might be why in one British county, street harassment is a hate crime.

Nottinghamshire’s police force recently updated its definition of what constitutes a hate crime to include gendered attacks, or behaviors that target women for being women. According to Slate, this includes “unsolicited phone contact, unwanted physical contact, and nonconsensual photography,” allowing women to make police reports against men “who exert their power over women in misogynist ways.”

The British county regards hate crimes as incidents which may or may not end up constituting other criminal offenses, but appear to the victim as motivated by prejudice. So, basically, if you ever find yourself strolling through Nottinghamshire and find some creepy dude following you and yelling gender-based things, feel free to call the cops.

Cat callers probably aren’t going to face jail time, and whether or not the whistling and gestures will wind up being deemed a punishable crime is up to police discretion, but you now have the leeway to report and call shit out, so that’s undeniably pretty cool.

Still, according to Melanie Jeffs, manager of the Nottingham Women’s Center, which collaborated with Nottinghamshire’s police force on this improvement to the county’s hate crime policy, the most important aspect of “understanding” street harassment as a hate crime is that now people will be forced “to see the seriousness of these incidents,” she told The Guardian.

Some guilty parties who whistle and throw compliments at female passerby might think they’re just being friendly, or, sure, they know they’re being creepy as all hell, but who’s going to stop them? Cue Nottinghamshire’s new hate crime definition, which will hopefully teach local perverts across the county to hold their tongues. It could very soon teach perverts in other British counties, too, since according to Slate, other counties are likely to follow Nottinghamshire’s example and open the definition of a hate crime to recognize misogyny, as well.

As a general rule, if a compliment winds up making a woman feel uncomfortable and objectified, it’s not really a compliment at all. Now if only the U.S. would follow suit.