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Woman’s Place UK submission on Hate Crime & Public Order (Scotland) Bill

This is the WPUK submission to the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill Call for Views.

We also submitted a PDF version of the record of all our meetings which you can download here: A record of the meetings organised by WPUK

For more on this including links to mainstream and social media coverage click here.

Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) was established in September 2017 to enable the voices of ordinary women to be heard in the debate about reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. We are a grassroots campaign group, founded by women in the labour and trade union movement. We believe in the right of everyone to live their lives free from discrimination and harassment.

Since then our campaign has broadened out to uphold and extend women’s sex-based rights more generally. In January 2019, we published five new year resolutions and in July 2019 we published a manifesto with demands across a range of policy areas that we would like to see taken up widely.

We welcome the opportunity to submit evidence on the draft Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill. Our comments relate to the proposal to enable the inclusion of sex as a protected characteristic in the list of statutory aggravations and the proposal to extend the offence of stirring up hatred to all listed protected characteristics.

Violence against women and girls

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is endemic and both a cause and consequence of inequality between the sexes:

  • Levels of domestic abuse recorded by Police Scotland have remained consistent since 2011-12, with between 58,000 to 61,000 incidents a year[1].
  • The police recorded 60,641 incidents of domestic abuse in 2018-19, 2% more than the previous year[2].
  • Where sex was recorded, around four out of every five incidents of domestic abuse in 2018-19 had a female victim and a male accused. This proportion has remained consistent since 2011-12[3].
  • Figures for many crimes in Scotland are decreasing, however reports of sexual offences are rising. Sexual crimes have been on a long-term upward trend in Scotland since 1974, and have increased each consecutive year since 2008-09. Sexual crimes are at the highest level seen since 1971, the first year for which comparable crime groups are available[4].
  • 13,547 sexual offences were reported in 2018-19, – an increase of 8%, from the 12,487 sexual offences recorded the previous year[5].
  • In Scotland, in the year ending March 2017:
    • 91% of prosecutions for serious assault were of males
    • 98% of prosecutions for sexual violence were against males.
  • Speeding offences had a conviction rate of 98% in Scotland in 2016-17. However, despite an increase in conviction rates to 47%, the lowest conviction rate continues to be for rape and attempted rape (47%)[6].
  • In 2018 there were 1,878 rapes and attempted rapes reported to the police in Scotland but only 98 convictions[7].
  • In the UK, since 2009 on average a woman is killed by a man every three days. A woman is killed by a partner or ex-partner every four days.  (Femicide Census )

Adding ‘sex’ as a protected characteristic

The Scottish Government cites as its rationale for the Bill the need to send a message to vulnerable groups at risk of being targeted on the basis of hatred. Therefore, the exclusion of ‘sex’ in the list of statutory aggravators sends a stark message to women. The Scottish Government evidently regards crimes perpetrated against women as being in a different category to other crimes motivated by hate, illustrated by the fact that it intends to set up a parallel working group to consider whether or not to add ‘sex’ as a protected characteristic under hate crime law (or whether to create a standalone offence of ‘misogyny’). It is certainly true that crimes in which women are the victim are most usually committed by men, whereas crimes where men are the victim are most usually committed by other men. Women also differ from other protected groups covered by the draft legislation in that they are not a minority group but in fact constitute a majority of the Scottish population.

WPUK believes that crimes committed against women should and must be treated more seriously by our criminal justice agencies than they are at present. For instance, so low is the conviction rate for sexual assault and rape that the men who perpetrate these crimes can do so in the knowledge that they are highly unlikely to face punishment. However, we have a number of concerns about approaching violence and other harms perpetrated against women and girls solely through the lens of hate crime.

The nature of harms against women

Harms perpetrated against women by men differ from most other hate crimes because they habitually take place within intimate relationships. Crimes of domestic and sexual violence are often difficult to prosecute for that reason.  Nor are we aware of any substantive evidence which demonstrates a reduction in harms perpetrated against women in jurisdictions which have legislated for hate crimes against women.

Failure to tackle underlying causes

We are also concerned that the framing of harms perpetrated against women as ‘hate crimes’ is a distraction from tackling the underlying causes of violence against women and girls (VAWG). For example:

  • The failure of criminal justice agencies to deal with perpetrators.
  • The failure of policymakers to ensure that women have the economic means to flee violent partners. For instance, women’s over-representation in low paid employment, the lack of access to affordable housing, women’s caring responsibilities.
  • The failure to adequately fund the women’s sector to provide refuge and support to women who are the victims of male violence.
  • The failure to tackle male socialisation which leads to a sense of entitlement and underpins male violence towards women. This in turn is perpetuated and magnified by the proliferation of pornographic imagery both online and in mainstream culture.

Whilst we are concerned at the exclusion of ‘sex’ as a statutory aggravator, as part of its Stage 1 deliberations, we would like to see the Committee explore how helpful the concept of hate crime is in framing harms committed against women on the basis of their sex and whether hate and misogyny “provides an adequate explanation or theoretical framework for understanding all violence against women” (Liz Kelly).

Creation of new offence of stirring up hatred

WPUK opposes the proposal to extend of the offence of stirring up hatred to all protected characteristics listed in the draft bill, on the grounds that it has the potential to curb Article 10 and 11, rights of freedom of expression and assembly.

Currently, the offence of stirring up of hatred is confined to those who are targeted on the basis of race. In its Policy Memorandum, the Scottish Government explains that the origin of this offence relates to the “historical and structural nature of racism, the prevalence and seriousness of race hate crime and the impact this has on community cohesion”. Racially motivated crime can also be differentiated from other forms of hate crime by the degree of political organisation. For that reason, it merits a bespoke response in law and WPUK supports the retention of the offence of stirring up racial hatred.

The debate on women’s rights and the rights of trans people, and the conceptualisation of sex and gender identity in law and policy, has become a flashpoint over the past few years. It is our view that, across the UK, public authorities and civic institutions have abrogated responsibility for creating space to debate this conflict of rights. Governments at all levels and other public authorities have also failed to make clear statements about the parameters of existing anti-discrimination legislation. Until that situation changes, it is likely that the debate about these issues will continue to be highly charged.

A desire to create fora where ordinary women could engage in the debate about proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004 is what prompted the establishment of WPUK. Since September 2017, WPUK has organised 27 public meetings around the UK, including a one-day conference in London in February this year which was attended by just under 1,000 people. In total, over 6,000 people have participated in our events, at which women have discussed proposals from both the UK and Scottish Governments to reform the GRA to enable individuals to change their legal sex by means of a statutory declaration and the potential impact on single sex spaces, services and other sex-based protections.

We have been persistently mischaracterised as a ‘hate group’ and nearly every one of our events has been hosted in the face of substantial obstacles including aggressive and intimidating protests, attempts to shut the meeting down and threats of violence, including a bomb threat. An account of our experiences of organising each of these events can be found here and evidence of accusations levelled at WPUK can be found at the end of this submission.

We are concerned that the introduction of an offence of stirring up hatred on the basis of transgender identity will have a chilling effect on the ability of WPUK and other groups of women to debate and discuss these critical issues.

The bar for what constitutes an offence of stirring up hatred on the basis of transgender identity appears to us to be very low. The legal threshold for the proposed new offence extends beyond behaviour or communication that is intended to stir up hatred to behaviour and communication that is likely to stir up hatred. And whilst there is a clause protecting freedom of expression for the offences of stirring up hatred on the basis of religion and sexual orientation, there is no such clause for the offence of stirring up hatred on the basis of transgender identity. Those factors, combined with the fact that the legislation contains no parallel offence for stirring up hatred on the basis of sex, gives us real cause for concern.

Based on our experience of organising meetings over the past three years, we regard it as highly likely that this new offence would have grave consequences for the ability of women to engage in debates about the way in which policy and law impacts upon their sex-based rights, a fundamental tenet of any democracy.

We call on the Committee to give careful consideration to the proposals contained in this Bill and the ways in which it might adversely impact upon women, who constitute a majority of the Scottish population.

Woman’s Place UK

24th July 2020

ANNEXE: ACCUSATIONS MADE AGAINST WOMAN’S PLACE UK

COMMENTS ABOUT WPUK EVENT IN OXFORD, OCTOBER 2019

Statement by Trans Action Oxford on 28 October 2019 (accessed 17 June 2020):

We would like to start with the positives. We were thrilled to see hundreds of people turn out to our Trans Solidarity Demo on Friday. We were deeply moved to see the people of Oxford show that transphobia of any kind is not welcome in our city. The extraordinary turnout and enthusiasm demonstrates beyond any doubt that students and residents of Oxford stand in solidarity with the trans community. Together, we will drive transphobia out of our city.

And yet, Friday night brought great disappointment and frustration. We were appalled to see that the Women’s Place UK event was hosted by the University of Oxford in its Examination Schools. We were even more shocked that they provided the group with security. While staff and students of the University stood in the rain in solidarity with trans people, the University itself endorsed and protected a group which has shown time and time again its disdain for trans identities, and its desire to erode our rights.

In short, we were all devastated by the news that, in hosting A Woman’s Place UK, the University of Oxford tacitly endorsed its transphobia. Now, more than ever, the University needs to listen to the message of frustration, empathy and defiance sent by trans students and staff, as well as those who stood alongside us, at the demo.

We know that a staggering 98% of trans students at the University of Oxford have experienced mental health issues. It is beyond outrageous that the University has spent a significant sum on protecting those who harm us, when it fails time and time again to invest sufficiently in welfare and support for trans students and staff.

The irony is particularly acute when you consider that to welcome transphobes into the University is to show trans students and staff the door. It is to make them feel alienated, disrespected and lacking in institutional support. It is simply unacceptable that the University has facilitated the spread of transphobia within its own institutions. Any policies and procedures which allowed this to happen need a swift and radical reconsideration.

This is not the first time that the University has played host to transphobes. In 2012, Exeter College hosted, and provided security for, the transphobic group Christian Concern. Neither is it the first time this week that the University has invited harmful groups to the city; on Monday, it welcome representatives of Glencore, a company heavily implicated in the climate crisis. The University of Oxford must do better to challenge regressive and hateful ideologies.

We are also deeply critical of the University’s continued support of Professor Selina Todd of St Hilda’s College. Todd was a speaker at Friday’s event, and is a key figure in the organisation’s campaign of transphobia. Todd refuses to grant trans women the same status as cisgender women. A person who is so openly transphobic should not be in the University’s employment, let alone in a teaching position where she is directly interacting with students, some of them trans. Her presence in this University is directly detrimental to their well-being and safety.

Put simply, the University is not doing enough to support its trans students. Indeed, by welcoming transphobic groups and employing transphobic members of staff, it is actively and seriously harming its trans community.

We demand better.

We demand that the University review its policies, and ensure that groups like A Woman’s Place are never hosted here again. We demand that it review its employment of Selina Todd. We demand, above all, that it invest properly and meaningfully in improving the well-being of its trans students and staff, because right now, it is only furthering our suffering

Signed,

Trans Action Oxford
A collective of undergraduate and postgraduate students, and staff, of the University of Oxford

 

Article in The Oxford Student on 29 October 2019 about WPUK meeting.

 COMMENTS ABOUT WPUK CONFERENCE, 1 FEBRUARY 2020

Statement on 31 January 2020 about the WPUK conference on 1 February 2020.

Statement by Students Union UCL on 23 January 2020 about WPUK conference.

Students’ Union UCL strongly objects to the upcoming ‘Women’s Liberation Conference’ organised by A Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) which is due to take place on our campus on Saturday 1 February.

WPUK advocate themselves as “gender critical”. Their manifesto opposes proposed improvements to the Gender Recognition Act, particularly the exclusion of transgender and gender diverse people from certain spaces and they have campaigned against gender-neutral spaces – views wholly opposed to our values.

We believe WPUK wrongly claim that rights won by feminist movements are threatened by trans people, and particularly by trans women. They have presented trans women as a threat to vital spaces such as rape crisis centres and women’s refuges.

Freedom of Expression is a fundamental right; however, this right does not extend to limiting or undermining the human rights of others. Freedom of Expression is not a valid argument to protect people who discriminate against or harass others and in the case of WPUK, by reference to someone’s gender.

UCL should be an open, accessible and safe space for trans people. WPUK is wholly at odds with the values of our institution and is not welcomed by our Union, our elected officers or our members and we have no tolerance for people who contribute to developing a hostile environment for the trans community.

On 1 February we will celebrate the beginning of LGBTQ History Month – an inclusive month of reflection and celebration of the LGBTQ community and reaffirm our commitment to ensuring UCL is a welcoming and safe place for the trans community.

Created: Thu, 23/01/2020 – 15:58
Last updated: Fri, 07/02/2020 – 12:30

COMMENTS ABOUT WPUK MEETING IN BRIGHTON, SEPTEMBER 2019

Comments made at Labour Party conference in September 2019.

  1. Delegate A claimed in his speech:

“I note that yesterday evening one of the fringe events was held by a transphobic hate group. So we had leaflets put on conference chairs, we had leaflets distributed outside.”

  1. Delegate B claimed in her speech defending the protest:

“…what I want to point out is that it is not the duty of a discriminated minority to be polite to group who are discriminating against them…”

  1. Delegate C:

“I have been horrified by some of the hateful material that has been spread by Labour members at Labour conference which deny the right of our trans siblings to be who they are.”

Statement made by BMECP about WPUK Brighton meeting.

Article in Freedom News about WPUK Brighton meeting (26 September 2019):

On Monday 23rd September 2019 the transphobic hate group WPUK (“Woman’s” Place UK) returned to Brighton to attempt to host another meeting under the cover of being a fringe event for the Labour Party Conference.

WPUK claim to be a “feminist” group for the furthering of “women’s” rights. Their views are essentialist, discriminatory, and hateful. They travel the UK hosting meetings to attract young women under the guise of feminism and then propagate violent anti-transgender rhetoric.

WPUK now intend to exclude, or worse still target, transgender women. Despite what WPUK and its members would have you believe, there is nothing radical nor feminist about their views nor actions. They are antiquated, ignorant and incite structural, societal and medical violence upon our trans community. Transgender identity is protected under hate crime legislation and is defined as hostile behaviours towards the victim, therefore, there can be no doubt to WPUK’s status as a hate group.”

Petition calling on Jeremy Corbyn to “denounce WPUK as a transphobic hate group”.

COMMENTS ABOUT WPUK IN TRANS PLEDGE DURING LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTEST

Labour leadership candidates signed a pledge calling WPUK a hate group:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/feb/12/labour-leadership-row-over-support-for-trans-rights-charter

Article in Tribune magazine by trans pledge author (February 2020): “Jess Phillips has also signalled support for transphobic hate groups such as Woman’s Place UK”

Article by Pink News writer in The Independent about the trans pledge (13 February 2020):

“Yet it is not merely WPUK’s apparent ignorance of the trans community that concerns many of us who belong to it. It is that both WPUK and the LGB Alliance shroud what we see as blatant transphobia in a concern for women (when in reality, their concern is only for cis women), in demands for “reasonable debate” (when our lives and rights should not be up for debate), or in pleas that they are being silenced by what a founding member of the LGB Alliance calls the “international, all powerful, wealthy & totally out of control trans lobby” (despite regular appearances in newspapers and on TV).”

COMMENTS ABOUT WPUK MEETING IN HASTINGS, JUNE 2018

Article in Hastings Online Times (13 June 2018):

I see A Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) doing their tour around the country and it scares me. It scares me because all I see them doing is just making a bad situation for anyone who is trans far worse than it is now. They say it’s about Self-Identification of trans people and their concerns, but I’ve heard them say nothing which justifies their fears and all I hear is rhetoric which claims I’m an ideology and therefore not real and worse to incite fear towards people like me.

This is what hate looks like and anyone giving a platform to them or promoting them in any way is empowering hate. This is why I implore anyone not to engage with them – just as we don’t engage with racism or homophobia because we should never legitimise hate in society. Despite their narrative, this is not about respectful debate, however you try and dress it up. This is a platform of hate to incite fear in their bid to create panic to enable discrimination and oppression.”

PINK NEWS ARTICLE ABOUT UK GOVERNMENT PLANS TO REFORM GRA, JUNE 2020:

“The letter condemns attempts “to depict trans rights as a new threat to cisgender women like ourselves,” and adds: “We are incredibly concerned that the language you have used is very similar to the anti-trans rhetoric used by transphobic hate groups and organisations such as Woman’s Place UK, Transgender Trend and the LGB Alliance.”

TWEET CLAIMING WPUK REPORTED TO PREVENT, SEPT 2018

[1] https://www.gov.scot/publications/domestic-abuse-scotland-2018-2019-statistics/

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] https://www.gov.scot/publications/recorded-crime-scotland-2018-19/

[5] Ibid

[6]https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/statistics/2020/03/criminal-proceedings-scotland-2018-19/documents/crime-justice-criminal-proceedings-scotland-2018-19/crime-justice-criminal-proceedings-scotland-2018-19/govscot%3Adocument/crime-justice-criminal-proceedings-scotland-2018-19.pdf

[7] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-43210970?fbclid=IwAR1OFVJOEOxrb7v8g3mccyQI4i_crO9jF1_cfh5WTHnT3jX1qKQNQjV41WQ

 

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