The Scottish Parliament is currently reviewing a Hate Crime Bill which aims to better protect individuals and groups from hate crimes and tie already-existing pieces of legislation together. This Bill is seen as controversial and has sparked up many discussions so far - we thought we’d walk you through it!
Why is this Bill problematic?
The original Bill was raised concerns about freedom of speech infringement as it was very extensive in its definitions of illegality, removing otherwise central tenants of law that underpin our criminal justice system. Several senior legal figures came out against the poorly defined and vastly consequential language the bill over freedom of expression and the right to, civilly, disagree. The bill has since gone under wider consultation from the public and revision from MSPs.
The Bill today
Since going into the second stage of consultation, over 100 amendments were proposed. While amendments were largely necessary, several of these aimed to exclude transphobia from the definition of hate crime. Fundamentally this undermines the broader effort of the bill to protect people from discrimination and hate crimes as little to no specific criteria define what is and is not transphobic hate.
Amendment 82B, for instance, would have made it legal to refer to a person by their deadname (past name) even if they have legally transitioned.
We recognise that accidentally or unintentionally using an old name or pronoun should not be criminal, but this begins to border and stray into harassment if a pattern emerges as sustained discrimination. This is why the legislation should continue to be amended further to reflect the complexity of the issue at hand, and affirm free speech and trans rights as our civic and progressive society should.
Freedom of thought and speech are crucial elements of democracy and must be preserved; however, its protection should not be used as an excuse for transphobia. Trans rights are human rights, and although free speech means navigating difficult and conflicting points of view, our society should aspire to uphold the highest ideals of these rights.
What does this mean for students?
If these transphobic amendments had passed, your trans and non-binary friends would have been more vulnerable to hate crimes and violence, on the street, in the workplace, on the internet and even on campus. Although the Union and University operate on Zero-tolerance policies, any student found guilty of transphobia would have had a legal basis to appeal the outcome of their disciplinary case. The good news is that some of these specific amendments have now been scrapped!
But it’s not done yet
The bill is still to pass, and the protections around transphobia still hang in the balance
The recent evolution of the bill is a huge relief for many, but you can still support trans rights: