Legislative option to form part of forthcoming public consultation.
Ministers will consult on how the criminal law might be strengthened as part of efforts to tackle misogynistic behaviour, Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf has announced.
Mr Yousaf said a forthcoming consultation focusing on updating and consolidating Scotland's hate crime laws will include consideration as to what measures may be needed to better tackle gender-based violence, including misogyny.
Mr Yousaf said:
"The Scottish Government is working with a range of partners - through education, legislation and enforcement - to tackle violence against women and girls, including challenging unacceptable attitudes and harmful behaviour.
"We must guard against a pervasive misogyny which, unchecked, impacts on the wider health, wellbeing and safety of our communities - breeding a culture where this type of harm is tolerated - sometimes even condoned - and as a result is allowed to continue.
"So there is a clear need for continued action to be taken to tackle gender-based prejudice and misogyny in Scotland, although there are different views on the specific actions needed.
"We will be consulting later this year on Lord Bracadale's recommendations for necessary reform to Scotland's hate crime legislation. We will keep an open mind on the best way to address behaviour motivated by misogyny, including the possibility of new criminal law measures.
"The consultation will be launched in November and will seek views on a number of options, including an aggravation based on gender hostility as proposed by Lord Bracadale. But we will also ask whether, separately, a specific offence targeting misogynistic behaviour could be an effective step in addressing this form of behaviour and the damage it does."
Lord Bracadale was appointed by the Scottish Government to review hate crime legislation in Scotland and to consider whether existing laws represent the most effective approach for the justice system to deal with criminal conduct motivated by hatred, malice, ill-will or prejudice. On 31 May Lord Bracadale published his review report and recommendations which included consolidation of hate crime legislation and the addition of gender and age hostility aggravations.
Current hate crime legislation allows any existing offence to be aggravated by prejudice in respect of one or more of the protected characteristics of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity. Where a person is convicted of an offence with a statutory aggravation in respect of a protected characteristic it will be recorded and taken into account in sentencing. In addition, there are some stand-alone offences too.
A number of organisations have called for the development of a standalone offence for misogyny to tackle the unique features of violence and harassment against women. They take the view that adding a statutory aggregation for gender hostility will not be helpful in tackling misogynistic behaviour.
The Scottish Government has accepted Lord Bracadale's recommendation to consolidate all Scottish hate crime legislation into one new hate crime statute and will use his report and recommendations as the basis for consulting on the detail of what should be included in a new hate crime bill. This will include considering how best to tackle misogyny in Scotland.
The United Nations has defined violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."
Read further information about Scottish Government work with partners to tackle violence against women and girls.