UPDATE: 15th March 2021
Last week, the Hate Crime Bill was approved by Holyrood, and the amendments we hoped to see included were not made. There is still a chance a Judicial Review may find it discriminatory, but for now its passage into law seems assured. So, what light might the Scottish Government’s Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Bill shed on how it happened?
Existing ‘hate crime’ statutory aggravations already included race, religion, disability, sexual orientation & transgender. The EIA says the Scottish government accepted all of Lord Bracadale’s recommendations about a new bill, except he said ‘sex’ should be included. It’s not, so they didn’t.
The Scottish Government said hate crime legislation “sends a message to victims, perpetrators and wider society that hate crime is not acceptable and will not be tolerated”. Clearly, they didn’t want to send that same message in relation to misogynistic hate crime. The EIA says the Scottish Government found that “none of the proposals are discriminatory…the Bill will have a positive equality impact.” The section on sex says only that there is no direct or indirect discrimination under the Equality Act. No consideration was given to any issues of concern raised and no explanation was offered.
91% of responses to the EIA were from individuals but their opinions have been disregarded where they differed from the main groups and organisations the Scottish Government funds, consulted with over and over, and who agreed with them. Wider organisations had a broader range of opinions which were largely ignored. One of the favoured organisations, Engender Scotland, does not consult anyone, even their own members, but the opinions of their 10 staff and 12 Board members are cited repeatedly by the Scottish Government. Engender, Rape Crisis, and Women’s Aid have not explained how including sex in the Hate Crime Bill would lead to what they claim would be “a failure to deal effectively with violence against women and girls” but would not have had the same failure in relation to other groups.
The EIA notes that the majority of individuals did not support Hate Crime Laws at all, mostly out of concern for the impact on freedom of expression and the creation of a hierarchy of victims. Hello you 1,000+ people! How does it feel to know your views don’t matter?
Email your MSPs about the Hate Crime Bill
9th March 2021
The Hate Crime Bill reaches the final stage in its passage through Parliament TOMORROW – Wednesday 10th March.
Time is very short so we are asking for people to email their MSPs today to highlight outstanding concerns with the Bill and to press them to support amendments that will protect women, LGB people’s ability to defend our rights and everyone’s free speech. We are calling for ‘sex’ to be added to Part 1 of the Bill and, since the freedom of expression protections remain weak, we are also calling for Part 2 to be scrapped.
Everyone has one constituency MSP and seven regional MSPs – they will all be voting tomorrow (10th March 2021) so please contact all eight of them. To find out who they are and their email addresses just enter your postcode here. Remember to put your address at the bottom of your email so MSPs know you are in their constituency/region.
Please ask your MSPs to SUPPORT all of Johann Lamont’s amendments*.
Also, ask them to support: Amendments 6-10 and 13 by Liam Kerr to leave out Part 2 of the Bill. The amendments proposed by the Scottish Government do not go far enough to protect free speech and will not prevent a chilling effect on women’s ability to discuss their rights or partake in debates on reform of the Gender Recognition Act.
However, if MSPs cannot support scrapping of Part 2 it is essential to support Amendments 11B-11F by Johann Lamont, any of which will go some way to allay fears over protection of free speech for women and LGB people.
Please also ask your MSPs to REJECT Amendment 24 by Humza Yousaf which proposes to downgrade the mandatory collection of data on hate crimes by sex to data that “may” be collected. There is currently no data on how many female victims of hate crimes there are across the characteristics, compared to men. Many organisations, including FWS and Engender, have stressed how important it is to have sex-disaggregated data.
The latest amendment list runs to some 10 pages in length, so the above list is not exhaustive of all helpful amendments. You may wish to include others, particularly regarding freedom of expression or the dwelling defence. Please feel free to change or add to the comments above when emailing your MSPs.
Send the message to our politicians that we are watching, even if we cannot be at Parliament in person on Wednesday.
*Johann Lamont’s amendments:
Amendment 4 to add sex as characteristic to Part 1 of the Bill (aggravation of offences). Women have been calling for this since it was first proposed 18 years ago and Lord Bracadale’s recent review recommended its inclusion. Women are hugely, and increasingly, impacted by hate crimes and the Bill should not pass into law without us. This does not stop any work by the working group on misogyny and will actually provide them with useful data.
Amendment 17 to add the definition of sex, as it is given in the Equality Act 2010. This will provide important clarity whether sex is added to the Bill now or at a later date by the decision of the separate misogyny working group. It will also ensure the Part 3 requirement for data collection by the police is consistent with the Public Sector Equality Duties in the Equality Act.
Amendment 26 to remove the possibility for sex to be redefined. Sex is defined by the Equality Act and by all prominent international organisations as a biological characteristic. There is no need for an “interpretive provision” which could possibly result in conflation with gender identity. The Scottish Government has been clear that sex and gender are two separate concepts so there is no need for a clause in the Bill that will introduce confusion.
Amendments 35, 36, 39 & 40 to change the definition of sexual orientation. The Bill refers to “a different sex” which implies there are more than two sexes and should be corrected.
Amendments 37 & 41 to remove cross-dressers. It is outrageous that something that is best a fashion choice or at worst a sexual fetish is protected in law and ahead of any provision for women. There is zero evidence of any hate crimes against cross-dressers.