Helena Kennedy interview

Baroness Helena Kennedy was on BBC Radio Scotland this morning talking about the proposed Misogyny Bill. Frankly, it was an unfocused mess. And, worryingly, indicated the Baroness was unfamiliar with both Lord Bracadale’s report and the conclusions of her own misogyny working group!

Oddly, the initial discussion was on rape and the treatment of victims in court. Rape was deliberately excluded from the consideration of the misogyny working group. One of our complaints was that the proposed structure could see less serious offences given longer sentences than rape.

There was much discussion about the behaviour of lawyers in court. It is worth noting that Baroness Kennedy is not a double silk – she does not practice in Scotland, nor does Charlotte Proudman who was also name-checked.

She claims that Lord Bracadale recommended gender and there was controversy amongst MSPs as to whether the Bill should use sex or gender. She says the latter would have covered both women and transwomen and Lord Bracadale felt this would be better.

This is disingenuous. In fact, Lord Bracadale acknowledged when giving evidence to the committee at Parliament that he regarded the words as interchangeable. In his report he said that he used gender, rather than sex, to reflect use in other other reporting systems. Nowhere, in the section, does he mention transwomen.

Nor was there controversy amongst MSPs about the choice of the terms, just about inclusion. The then Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, agreed with the position of Engender et al which had been rejected by Lord Bracadale. Either this is misrepresentation or she has it confused with Johann Lamont’s #SixWords amendment!

It is also untrue to say that using sex/gender or just gender would have allowed for perception while sex would not. There is no reason to believe that would be disallowed using the category of sex – any more than it is for race, religion, or any other characteristic in the Hate Crime Act, or indeed the Equality Act.

It was a lacuna picked up by Elaine Smith and Johann Lamont in the final debate.

The interview wound up with Baroness Kennedy talking about the advantage of a stirring up offence for misogyny. In fact, there was provision to add that to part 2 of the Hate Crime Bill, and Lord Bracadale had made just that recommendation. Of course, this may have made the lives of Police Scotland even more impossible!

All of the concerns aired by Baroness Kennedy in this interview could have been resolved by the inclusion of sex in the Hate Crime Act. Instead, the misogyny working group hunted down gaps in the law which Lord Bracadale felt did not exist. Her concern about education was not matched by an urgency to ensure that women were protected sooner.

There are, however, glaring gaps that the working group deliberately ignored other than rape and domestic violence, namely porn and prostitution. This is what we wrote to the misogyny working group. If Kennedy really cared about reforming attitudes this would have been the place to start – with engagement with the Cross-Party Group – Commercial Sexual Exploitation and A Model for Scotland.

As it is, women are left hanging with a deliberately convoluted proposal that ignores major sources of Male Violence Against Women and serious crimes. And all because the Scottish Government were reluctant to put into law a definition of sex or, indeed, even confirm that there were only two.

The interview with Helena Kennedy can be heard at approx 1:12:20 here and a full transcript is here.

We posted this as a thread on Twitter, to which Johann Lamont added the following:

Interesting in light of the rewriting of history about why sex was not included in the Hate Crime legislation. The working group was established during the bill process as a result of concerns about exclusion of sex, not because women wanted a separate piece of legislation.

So pointing to the working group is a post hoc rationalisation of a position that was never adequately explained at the time. The women’s groups which wanted sex excluded did not make up the majority of women responding to the consultation.

And remember – amendments that defined sex – to clarify for the working group what it was to consider and to ensure that the protections for women were sex based – were voted down.

In summary. women’s groups funded by the @scotgov agreed with the @scotgov that sex should be excluded. And then the @scotgov pointed to these groups, funded by them, to justify a position they were not willing to explain. And under pressure the working group was established.

And now when the shambles which is the ‘urgent’ Hate Crime legislation is implemented three years later, the working group ‘fix’ and women’s groups demand for separate legislation becomes the justification. It is a sleight of hand and cynicism on stilts.

Ministers muddy the waters with specious ‘lines to take’ and hope to get through interviews about the impact of the law unscathed. And meanwhile women continue to be abused, prostituted, raped and murdered. If only as much energy was applied to make women’s lives safer….