History of Women and Hate Crime Law

A gender aggravator to crimes was first mooted in the Draft Criminal Code for Scotland some seventeen years ago. Later the same year Robin Harper MSP lodged an amendment to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 to make provision for offences aggravated by disability, sexual orientation, age and gender. Mr Harper’s amendment was not accepted but did lead to the establishment of a Working Group to further consider what improvements could be made to hate crime legislation.

Members of this Working Group included representatives from Equality Network, Stonewall and Engender. 102 individuals and groups responded to the main consultation (although both Engender and Scottish Women’s Aid withheld their submissions from publication). A Hate Crime Report was published in October 2004 detailing 14 recommendations for the Government – protection for transgender identity was in, along with sexual orientation and disability, but women were out.

The minutes of the meetings of the Working Group seem to be lost to the archives but the final report does indicate that a number of women’s groups called for the characteristic of gender to be added, in opposition to the views of the Scottish Executive’s Violence Against Women Unit:

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Women and the Hate Crime Bill: Nothing about us without us

On Tuesday 24th November For Women Scotland will give evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee on the controversial Hate Crime and Public Order Bill.

In our written submission, we made clear our objection to Part 2 of the bill, which seeks to extend the offence of stirring up hatred, but also our objection to the non-inclusion of ‘sex’ as a protected characteristic.

There have already been three oral evidence sessions and we have been closely monitoring the discussions.

Across the three sessions, there have been a total of 32 witnesses, two thirds of whom were men. The Committee, of course, has limited control over the make-up of the panels, but we note that, once again, women have been outnumbered in discussions about an important aspect of law reform that will impact them.

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Letter to Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee

The Delegated Powers Memorandum for the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill contains a clause that states: “Regulations under this section may modify section 14 (meaning of the characteristics) by adding interpretative provision relating to the characteristic of sex. They may also make incidental, supplementary, consequential, transitional, transitory or saving provision, and make different provision for different purposes.”

This means that if the characteristic of “sex” is added to the Hate Crime legislation at a later date then it can be redefined by a Committee, without public consultation or Parliamentary scrutiny, and may differ from the definition given in the Equality Act:

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Hate Crime Bill – Call for Views

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.

Our full submission 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.

Please email your views to justicecommittee@parliament.scot by the 24th July 2020.