Scottish Hate Crime Bill to Criminalise Misgendering Trans People

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 12: Humza Yousaf MSP attends the Glasgow election count at th
Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Scots who pronounce that transgender women are not actually women will face criminal prosecution under the impending hate crime legislation if a court finds that their speech “stirred up hatred”, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said.

On Monday, Mr Yousaf tried to defend the draconian speech restrictions, telling the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee that expressing the idea that “a trans woman is not a woman” is not “in itself is not going to lead to a prosecution under this legislation”.

The proposed Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, which “seeks to modernise and extend existing hate crime legislation”, would, however, criminalise the statement if it is found to have been accompanied by anything falling under the vague “stirring up hatred” classification.

“It may well be offensive to some, it may be controversial to others, it may be absolutely the mainstream view for many others, but simply expressing the opinion is not in itself criminal,” Yousaf said in comments reported by The Times.

“If the behaviour that accompanies that expression is proven beyond reasonable doubt that it was intended to stir up hatred and was also threatening or abusive, then, of course, you may well face some criminal sanction,” he said.

The director of For Women Scotland, Susan Smith warned that the legislation would serve to reduce freedom of speech in the country, saying: “When people start throwing around accusations of hate, especially when those people are perceived to have an authority, we think there will be a chilling effect.”

“The stirring up part of this bill has the potential to make life very much harder for a number of people by using this law as a weapon,” Smith warned.

Opponents of the legislation have warned that the legislation could be used to target political campaigns that break with left-wing orthodoxy.

Mr Yousaf also confirmed that the left-wing separatist Scottish National Party (SNP) has no intention of removing the “dwelling defence” clause from his legislation, which seeks to criminalise so-called hate speech within the privacy of Scottish people’s own homes.

“For me the bill isn’t about specifically targeting dinner-table conversations,” he said.

“Of course, if there is a stirring up of hatred that meets the threshold — the behaviour is threatening or abusive under the new offences with intent of stirring up hatred — and that is done round the dinner table with ten of your mates and that can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that would be prosecuted, potentially, under the offence,” Yousaf warned.

The new legislation would add to the already strict hate speech laws in the country, under which police used to launch an investigation last December after a series of “it’s ok to be white” signs were posted in Perth.

Becky Kaufman, a justice policy officer with the Scottish Trans Alliance (STA), said last week that opponents of the bill were trying to use the “bogeyman” of censorship to prevent the government from protecting minorities and that her organisation was not in favour of censorship.

Kaufman was forced, however, to correct the parliamentary record, after she falsely claimed that the STA had not told Scotts to report supposedly transphobic stickers to the police, such as the ones saying ‘Woman. Noun. Adult human female’ put up at Edinburgh University.

In January, a policy officer for the Scottish Trans Alliance, Vic Valentine said: “If people feel distressed or alarmed by transphobic stickers they see posted around Scotland, we do encourage them to report this to police. It is then for Police Scotland to decide if they report this as a hate crime or not.”

British actor and founder of the newly formed Reclaim Party, Laurence Fox, denounced Humza Yousaf’s legislation, writing on social media: “This hate crime bill will only increase hatred and division. Subjective legislation is an attack on objective truth, reason and language.”

“Who decides what hate is?” Fox questioned.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here: @KurtZindulka


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