World News

Scotland’s new hate crime law was meant to protect against prejudice. It ended up sowing further division


A fierce debate that raged across social media, legal chambers, police stations and Scottish politics also played out on the streets of Edinburgh this weekend.

Scotland’s Hate Crime and Public Order Act came into force last week, a controversial law which expands existing legislation to include transgender identity as a protected characteristic against hate crime.

“We must remember why this bill is so necessary: ​​every day in Scotland around 18 hate crimes are committed,” Scottish First Minister – then Justice Secretary – Humza Yousaf said as the law was passed. in 2021, citing the government’s estimated figures at the time the law was passed. time.

“By passing this historic Bill, Parliament has sent a strong and clear message to victims, perpetrators, communities and society at large that bias-motivated offenses will be treated seriously and will not be tolerated,” he said.

Supporters of the law say it will provide much-needed protection to the marginalized and routinely vilified transgender community, while critics say it would stifle free speech and even threaten women’s hard-won rights. The two sides are at loggerheads, online and offline.

In the first week of the law’s enactment, a feminist group, Let Women Speak, organized a rally against the legislation in the Scottish capital on Saturday. She was met with a counter-protest by a small group of transgender rights activists, Reuters video showed. The two camps were separated by metal barriers as they exchanged loud insults, amid a heavy police presence.

Yet the bill came into effect as issues related to transgender rights and their intersection with women’s rights create a complex set of problems for lawmakers, sports regulators and employers, among others.

As the confrontation simmers, the debate has become intensely polarized and has attracted public figures such as JK Rowling, Elon Musk and Joe Rogan, none of whom are strangers to intervening on the touchpoints of the culture war.

So what does this law mean and why has it caused an outcry?

Jane Barlow/PA Images/Getty Images

Counter-protesters for transgender rights exchanged shouts with those participating in the Let Women Speak rally.

Before Scottish lawmakers passed the bill, laws already existed across the UK to criminalize “incitement to hatred” against racial identity. This new legislation introduces hate crime offenses against more characteristics, including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations of sex characteristics.

Biological sex is not included, however. The government says this is because it intends to submit a separate bill criminalizing misogyny to the Scottish Parliament at a later date.

However, according to Susan Smith, director of For Women Scotland, a gender-critical feminist campaign group, this creates an “inequality” within the law.

“I think for a lot of people, this idea of ​​removing certain characteristics means that you’re elevating or giving some people protection that others lack,” she told CNN.

Another major concern for those opposed to the hate crime law is the alleged lack of clarity over what type of behavior could constitute an offense under the new law. Section three makes it an offense to behave in a way or communicate material “that a reasonable person would regard as threatening or abusive” with the intention of stirring up hatred.

“The standard for ‘threatening’ is obviously much higher than the standard for ‘abusive,'” Smith said. “What someone considers abusive varies from person to person.”

Those convicted under the new law face up to seven years in prison and/or a fine.

To complicate the implementation of the law, Siobhan Brown, Scotland’s Minister for Victims and Community Safety, caused confusion over whether or not the law would make it a crime to misunderstand someone online.

It was at this point that Rowling – the Harry Potter the author has become a vehemently critical gender commentator – deliberately misgendered several trans women online and challenged police to arrest him.

Police Scotland later confirmed they would not investigate Rowling’s posts as a criminal offence.

Prime Minister Yousaf told the BBC last Wednesday that he was not “surprised” that police had decided not to charge Rowling, despite her comments being “offensive, upsetting and insulting to trans people”.

“But that doesn’t mean they meet a threshold of criminality of being threatening or abusive and intending to stir up hatred,” he said.

Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

British author JK Rowling has joined the online debate.

A Scottish Government spokesperson told CNN: “The legislation does not prevent people from expressing controversial, contentious or offensive views, nor does it seek to stifle criticism or rigorous debate in any way.” whatever, and the right to freedom of expression is specifically enshrined in law. »

Vic Valentine, Scottish head of trans policy and public affairs at the Equality Network, says the law “strikes the right balance” with freedom of expression.

“It is difficult to understand why anyone would think that threatening or abusive behavior or speech, aimed at stirring up hatred towards people simply because of who they are, should not be criminal,” they said at CNN.

But Lucy, a 25-year-old Scottish trans student (who asked not to be identified by her real name due to concerns about continued online abuse), said the new law did not reassure her.

“Abuse against trans people is normalized and sometimes encouraged, so I don’t see that changing, regardless of what laws are introduced,” she said, adding that abuse is “pretty constant” when using from the social media platform

The law is not the first time Scotland has deviated from alignment with the rest of the UK in a bid to make transgender laws more progressive.

In January, the British government blocked Scotland’s attempt to reform Britain’s Gender Recognition Act 2004, which allows people to request a legal sex change. Scotland’s proposed reforms would have allowed transgender people to self-identify without the need for a diagnosis or medical certificate.

This episode only made things worse, according to Lucy. “If the self-identification debate hadn’t started, I don’t think people would have been engulfed by a lot of the hate speech,” she said. “I think people will be stepping up their efforts to say what they have to say about trans people in light of the new law, as a form of ‘protest’.”

02:44 – Source: CNN

Transgender identity, in their words

“Vexatious” claims and misinformation

The Scottish Police Federation has repeatedly expressed concerns about officers’ ability to deal with a possible increase in hate crime complaints, suggesting on Sunday X that they had been “overwhelmed”.

Police Scotland have not confirmed media reports that thousands of hate crime incidents were reported in the week after the law came into force. A spokesperson told CNN that the data “is currently being collected and will be released as soon as it becomes available.”

In a Saturday editorial for a Scottish newspaper The mail, Yousaf wrote that “critics of this law should not exaggerate its impact with false fears.” Later in the day, he told the PA Media news agency that “deliberate misinformation” was being “peddled by some bad actors”.

Intensifying an already volatile debate, Scotland’s new law has become an obvious flashpoint in the online culture wars, with global public figures drawing attention to it on their platforms.

Last month, Police Scotland was forced to issue a statement denying that officers had been instructed under the law to “target actors, comedians or any other person or group”, after such claims were launched by influential American podcast host Joe Rogan and billionaire X. CEO Elon Musk.

On March 19, Musk reposted comments from Malaysian far-right commentator and social media influencer Ian Miles Cheong, who said Scottish police officers had received training to “target” social media posts with deemed content “threatening and abusive”.

Musk reposted it on X, calling it “an example of why it’s so important to preserve free speech.” However, in its statement, Police Scotland called this “inaccurate media reporting and commentary”.

Among those who are actually affected by the new Scottish law, like Lucy, not everyone is willing to speak out as much – despite being on the front line of this confrontation.

“I feel quite hopeless about the way gender is debated in society, I don’t participate in it anymore,” she told CNN. “I know a lot of trans people who feel the same way. We just want to continue living our lives.

News Source :
Gn world

jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
Back to top button