The Justice Committee issued an emergency Call for Views on the options proposed for Freedom of Expression amendments to the Hate Crime Bill. Our submission is as follows, and can also be downloaded as a pdf:
We are troubled that it has taken so long for these crucial amendments to be considered in this Bill. Cynically we are frightened that the Government is running the clock down and is looking for a botched compromise rather than a proper examination of the issues at stake.
As far as the proposals are concerned; Option One is the least worst. However, it does not cover all our concerns. At this stage we would draw the Committee’s attention to a similar hate crime bill in Spain where the hanging of an effigy of the Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo, who has defended women’s rights, is not a hate crime. However, a renowned feminist campaigner, Lidia Falcon (85 years old and who was tortured by Franco) can be prosecuted under their hate crime law for campaigning for the rights of women as a sex class.
If this is what the Scottish Government want for women in Scotland, they need to state this on the face of the Bill. If not, they must incorporate definitions and protections.
Sex: It is disappointing that the Draft Guidance does not give clear definitions for the terms sex, gender and gender identity, preferring instead to rely upon definitions provided by a range of other organisations, and without specifying an agreed definition to be used consistently by all organisations using the guidance.
The references cited from the World Health Organisation, the Royal Statistical Society, and the USA Federal Interagency Working Group on Improving Measurement of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Federal Surveys all state that sex refers to biological characteristics yet the Draft incorrectly introduces a statement that this objective and biological classification can instead be an emotional feeling.
The National Secular Society has some excellent guidance on how to submit a response on the Hate Crime Bill. They have concentrated on concerns regarding free speech with respect to religion or belief – but of course, the proposed law also seriously endangers our ability to speak up about women’s rights, oppose reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, and question the concept of gender identity.
The Hate Crime Bill and Public Order (Scotland) Bill can be found here, and information on how to submit your views to the Justice Committee is here.
We have called for the characteristic “sex” to be added to Part 1 (aggravated offences) of the Bill and outlined how Part 2 (stirring up hatred) would seriously compromise the work of our group and everyone’s freedom to speak about women’s rights. Amendments such as removing the term “abusive” or adding freedom of expression protections for transgender identity will not fully mitigate the risks, so we are calling for Part 2 to be removed from the Bill.
We have submitted our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act as follows. A pdf copy can be downloaded here.
Question 1 Do you have any comments on the proposal that applicants must live in their acquired gender for at least 3 months before applying for a GRC? Yes ✓ No ☐ If yes, please outline these comments.
There is no clear definition in the consultation paper as to what living in an acquired gender means and the draft Bill removes the current requirement to provide evidence that this criteria has been met. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 defines the “acquired gender” as the gender in which the person is living, which, without a definition of “gender”, is both circular and meaningless. If the law is to be reformed it is essential that this term is clarified, particularly if an applicant is expected to declare under oath, subject to a potential criminal offence, that they meet this requirement.
The Scottish Government funds organisations working towards the outcomes in their Equally Safe policy for eradicating violence against women and girls. Funds were last awarded in 2017 for a three year period to 85 organisations, including 33 Women’s Aid groups across the country, who each received an average of £148,000 per year.
A Freedom of Information response uncovered the following Eligibility Criteria which outlines the conditions that each organisation must meet before submitting a funding application.