The government’s desire to foster social cohesion and create empathetic communities is honourable, but the proposed hate speech laws are not the way to achieve that goal.
Our objections to the proposal include:
The definition of hate speech is so broad and imprecise that the law will unintentionally stifle the expression of legitimate differences of opinion.
The Bill risks conflating the theory of ‘gender identity’ with the realities of biological sex
Hate speech definition
The law would change so that a person who intentionally incites, stirs up, maintains or normalises hatred against any specific group of people based on a characteristic listed in Proposal One, would break the law if they did so by being threatening, abusive or insulting, including by inciting violence.
A person cannot – and should not – be held accountable for the feelings originating in other people.
If someone feels hatred, that is their responsibility, we cannot hold other people accountable for those feelings.
Speak Up For Women say that transwomen are male. We do not do this out of any malice or hatred, but rather to highlight that the demands for self-identification of legal sex fundamentally erodes women’s existing rights to single-sex spaces and services.
Some transphobic people may incorporate this into their self-justification for hating transgender people, but causing hatred is not our intention, our intention is to protect women and girls. But how can we prove our intent?
The words ‘abusive’ and ‘insulting’ are highly subjective.
We know that some transwomen take offence at hearing that some people consider transwomen to be male.
Maya Forstater’s case in the UK established that believing that ‘sex matters and is immutable’ is a protected belief. Gender critical feminists such as those our group represent must remain free to state their belief in sex, without fear of being prosecuted for hate speech.
Already, before a hate speech law has been enacted, the hyperbolic concept of ‘hate speech’ is being used by our political opponents to de-platform and silence us, as we go about lawfully advocating for women’s rights.
Numerous city councils cancelled our venue bookings after a handful of activists coordinated a campaign to target the venues accusing us of ‘hate speech’ and being a ‘hate group’. We had to go to the High Court to enforce our right to freedom of expression and assembly. The judge found that ‘SUFW cannot rationally be described as a “hate group”
Not many groups and individuals will have the ability to go to court to determine if they are a hate group, and these accusations are lobbied around liberally on various topics by political opponents. This is already an issue in New Zealand and this Bill exacerbates it.
Our billboard of the dictionary definition of woman – adult human female – was taken down from a Wellington building in July after barely 24 hours following complaints to the media owner and the Advertising Standards Authority that it was ‘hateful’ and a ‘dog whistle’.
The Authority has not yet publicised its judgement, but if a dictionary definition is deemed by it to be ‘hateful’, freedom of speech in is in extremely dire straits and the Bill is doing nothing to help.
Proposal Five: Change the civil provision so that it makes “incitement to discriminate” against the law.
It is in women’s interest to make the providers of female-only services aware that they have the lawful right, under the Human Rights Act 1993, to discriminate against males.
This right is specifically granted in sections of the act as follows: a)Section 27 allows for discrimination on the basis of sex, where sex is a “genuine occupational qualification”; where “reasonable standards of privacy” need to be upheld; or where the job involves counselling about intimate matters (for example sex or violence)). b)Section 43 allows for the maintenance of “separate facilities for each sex” on the grounds of “public decency or public safety.” c)Section 49 provides an exception in relation to participation in sport where the “strength, stamina or physique” of competitors is relevant. d)Sections 55 and 58 provide exceptions in relation to sex‐specific accommodation and schools.
We are concerned that this lawful discrimination conflicts with the wording on the prohibition on discrimination in this Bill.
This law is likely to have a chilling effect, where thousands of women who would otherwise take courage from Maya Forstater’s case and would speak up in defence of women’s rights will self-censor.
This will give the mistaken impression to the government and wider society that women are not concerned about the loss of their sex-based rights.
‘Gender identity’ vs biological sex
Proposal Six: Add to the grounds of discrimination in the Human Rights Act to clarify that trans, gender diverse, and intersex people are protected from discrimination.
Differences of Sexual Development (intersex) are diagnosable sex-specific medical conditions. Individuals with intersex conditions should be included and protected under sex in the act.
‘Trans’ and ‘gender diverse’ are personally held identities and should not be conflated with sex. A male with a trans identity (a “transwoman”) remains male. Nothing in this Bill should conflate the separate concepts of ‘gender identity’ with biological sex or undermine existing rights to single sex spaces and services.
We are concerned that some of the most violent hateful rhetoric is misogynistic in nature, directed exclusively at women and girls because they are female- for example women being threatened with violent rape and called ‘breeders’.
Transwomen suffer abuse often from the same source – males – but for very different reasons. They are abused because they are trans, not because they are women. It is import that these two issues are understood separately to most effectively address both.
Hating what some people say does not mean the speakers are hateful or motivated by hate. Instead of improving social cohesion, these proposals will do the opposite. They will stifle genuine debate on important issues and will restrict the right to challenge others’ thinking that is essential to democracy.
Suppressing opinions that may offend others but do not cause significant harm will create less understanding and more divisions. We urge the government to trust in the principles of democracy and forgo this Bill.