Free Speech Fight: JK Rowling Takes on Scotland’s Hate Crime Law

JK Rowling has publicly critiqued Scotland’s new Hate Crime and Public Order Act on social media, sparking debates over free speech and the legislation’s approach to protected characteristics.

Becoming Controversial

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JK Rowling is the author of the Harry Potter series and since the conclusion of the books, has become a controversial figure due to her hard-standing beliefs regarding transgender individuals.

Scotland’s New Act

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Now Rowling is again in the news for publicly challenging and critiquing Scotland’s new Hate Crime and Public Order Act on social media.

Stirring Up Hatred

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Coming into effect on April 1st, Scotland’s Hate Crime and Public Order Act is meant to penalize acts that can potentially “stir up hatred” with up to seven years in prison.

Protected Characteristics

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The new Act will create penalties, fees, and potentially time served for anyone critiquing someone else’s protected characteristics which include age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity, and variations in sex characteristics.

Lesser Sentencing

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In order to critique the new act and challenge its validity, Rowling went onto social media and listed male criminals who claimed to be transgender before being sentenced in order to receive lesser sentencing in a women’s prison.

Speaking Up

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Rowling wrote, “I hope every woman in Scotland who wishes to speak up for the reality and importance of biological sex will be reassured by this announcement, and I trust that all women – irrespective of profile or financial means – will be treated equally under the law.” 

Further Challenges

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Rowling also challenged the act by suggesting that discussions about biological sex could be criminalized under the new law and the act’s overall treatment and categorization of gender identity 

Repeating Women

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Addressing the penalties, Rowling wrote, “If they go after any woman for simply calling a man a man, I’ll repeat that woman’s words and they can charge us both at once.” 

Calling the Cops

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Rowling’s posts resulted in many people contacting the Police of Scotland about her posts, but they ultimately concluded that her comments did not constitute a criminal offence under the new legislation.

A Win For Free Speech

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Later, the BBC confirmed that the police were contacted and found no crime to be committed, and Rowling posted about how this was a win for free speech.

Sillars Weighs In

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However, Rowling was not the only one to speak out against the law. Former deputy leader of the Scottish National Party Jim Sillars argued that the law could potentially limit people’s freedom of speech and expression.

One Particular Purpose

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Sillars said, “Today on their own admission, Police Scotland will translate itself from a service into a force for one particular purpose — the pursuit of people who speak their minds.”

Prime Minister’s Take

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The UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, also responded to the controversy and supported Rowling’s position against the legislation.

Common Sense Sunak

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In his statement, Sunak said, “We should not be criminalizing people saying common sense things about biological sex, clearly that isn’t right.”

The Rising Tide

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On the other side of the argument, First Minister Humza Yousaf and other supporters of the legislation say the new act is necessary for combating a “rising tide of hatred” in society.

Shielding Children

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First Minister Yousaf said, “I do my best to shield my children from the racism and Islamophobia I face on a regular basis. That becomes increasingly difficult when racist graffiti targeting me appears near our family home.” 

Keeping Up With Complaints

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Now that the new legislation has come into effect, there are also concerns that the police will not be able to handle the high volume of complaints.

Two Days of Complaints

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In the first two days after the legislation took effect, reports suggested that the Scotland Police received at least 3,000 complaints that they must now investigate and process.

Time Will Tell

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For the time being, the law is still in place, but remains highly controversial in the public spotlight and only time will tell if the new act will help curb the problems surrounding hate speech or unnecessarily impede people’s freedom of expression.

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