Posts Tagged ‘Equality Bill’

Hate Crime/Equality Bill

November 26, 2009

TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of hate crime. Have tried to keep it down to what’s in the article.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The writer is a queer, genderqueer, biologically female, disabled, fat, person, and therefore may have an agenda. So may mainstream media sources.

So, I visited those news sites that don’t have trigger warnings and are often not the most aware places in the world, the nicer variety of those (BBC and Guardian), and I found this:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8378817.stm

It is an article on how the UK has the largest number of reported hate crimes, and how it might not really. I’m not really sure what to make of it. My cynicalprogressive brain thinks that parts of it seem to be leaning towards the political-correctness-gone-not-quite-mad-we’re-the-BBC-but-progressing-more-than-we-would-like and it seems to want to shift the attention towards “anti-social behaviour”. I also don’t like the following extracts:

Earlier this year the case of Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her 18-year-old disabled daughter Francecca after being hounded by local youths in their home at Barwell, Leicestershire, saw their plight described by disability groups as a hate crime.

Neighbour Anne Jones told The Report she had no doubt her old friend was targeted because of her disabled daughter and son.

“It was terrible… It was going on for years because she had a disabled daughter – they picked on her,” she said.

But Julie and David Smith, who live a few doors along from Fiona Pilkington, said the same youths harassed and abused many residents in that locality.

and then

Many in Liverpool’s gay community believe trainee policeman James Parkes was targeted because of his homosexuality when he suffered multiple skull fractures after an attack in October.

The most recent figures from Merseyside Police show a 41% increase in homophobic attacks in the city and police are treating the assault as a homophobic crime.

But others we spoke to in Liverpool, claim to know a different version, alleging that Pc Parkes was beaten up after he intervened as an off-duty police officer because the gang had been causing problems with doormen.

If true, this version would turn an iconic hate crime into a still serious but altogether different kind of assault.

Both instances, “described by disability groups as a hate crime” and “many in Liverpool’s gay community believe” are the standard BBC undercutting trick, most recently used on their piece on fatphobia (to which they contribute) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8327753.stm

Both seem to point towards the “they’re just being too sensitive/paranoid” defense, especially with the other witnesses/voices being called being in one case, one couple and in another case “others we spoke to in Liverpool”, coming across as somewhat flimsy.

Then there’s the quotes from experts. The main gist seems to be that some crimes are prejudice, not hate crime. I’m fairly sure that anti-social behaviour based on something that a person is should count as an hate crime. To quote Melissa McEwan at Shakesville:

The prosecution of hate crimes requires special consideration because when someone is targeted for hir race, nationality, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, it has the potential to affect everyone who shares that identity in hir community, state, across the entire nation.

That’s to do with prosecution, but it also applies to the monitoring of hate crime in order to bring in such legislation, which is what the last part of the article’s about. The gist of the BBC article seems to be that

a) what are reported as hate crimes are just misread crimes/anti social behaviour and it’s difficult to tell what a hate crime is, because some might just be prejudice, which is a “much more expansive notion”

b) the explicitly stated ”

In fact there is no such thing in law as hate. Prosecutors have to prove hostility. The former director of public prosecutions has said this could mean antagonism, meanness or unfriendliness.

But if the victim or a witness believes the crime is motivated by some kind of hatred, it will be recorded as a hate crime.”

c) There is so much about hate crime that we do not know – such as its scale, whether it is increasing and if it really affects victims more than other crimes.

As mentioned above, hate crime terrorises, or has the potential to terrorise, an entire community. This, especially combined with the following passages:

This summer the government launched a massive hate action plan.

It is considering a host of ways to tackle hate crime – like establishing specialist hate crime courts, obliging all public bodies to record and report all hate crimes and incidents – getting schools to report all bullying with hate elements.

While well intentioned we may end up with a picture of the UK that is much more hateful than the reality and may not reduce the levels of this type of crime.

The dismissive tone “well intentioned” and the inclusion of the act of “getting schools to report all bullying with hate elements”, followed by this, pretty much makes me weep. Because the terrorising an entire community goes as far as schools- I was less willing to come out as queer because of homophobia in our society, and homophobic elements in the bullying of others at school. I still monitor the places I publicly identify myself as queer, by behaviour or otherwise, and will do so more if homophobic violence has happened in that area. Accounts of ablist bullying and hateful/prejudiced behaviour make me less likely to disclose my disabilities. Ditto outing myself as genderqueer. These things started when I was yea high, at school, and I really think the government doing something about it in schools, as well as in society in general, is a good idea. Outside my own experience, someone victimised because of their religion or race in a certain place will be more likely to feel unsafe in other places because of this, and this starts at school.

I think the timing of this article makes me especially suspicious- the next reading of the Equality Bill is next week, which covers protection for discrimination and harrassment, including in schools. Activists, myself included, are currently lobbying their MPs to vote for amendments to the Bill with regards to discrimination against transgender people, namely to change those protected in the Bill from those who have undergone gender reassignment to all transgender people (the majority of whom to not undergo gender reassignment), and to protect transgender school pupils from transphobic bullying. Possibly I am, genuinely, oversensitive in this respect, but a dismissal of hate crimes just before a piece of equality legislation looks like an attempt to dismiss concerns about prejudice, discrimination, and yes hate at a time when they can affect things.

(Given that the article said that hate crimes “can be anything from verbal abuse, graffiti all the way through to murder”)

NOTE: If you are a UK citizen and interested in lobbying your MP about the inclusion of all Transgender people in the Equality Bill, model letters are here: http://justfillingintheblanks.blogspot.com/