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J K Rowling challenges Scottish hate crime law, UK govt comes out in her support

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LONDON: The British govt said J K Rowling should not be arrested for her transgender views after the Harry Potter author challenged Scotland’s new hate crime law with social media posts asserting that a number of trans women were men.
Rowling, a prominent gender critical campaigner, made the comments on Monday, the day that the crime of “stirring up hatred” relating to age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity came into effect.A conviction could lead to a fine and a prison sentence of up to seven years.

The new hate crime law has also faced criticism over its impact on freedom of speech and concerns that it could be used to silence some views, including from those who advocate for women-only spaces.

Rowling tested the law by listing 10 trans women, including a convicted rapist, sex abusers and high profile activists, on X and saying they were men. “Freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal,” she said. “I’m currently out of the country, but if what I’ve written here qualifies as an offence under the terms of the new act, I look forward to being arrested when I return to the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment.”

When asked about the criticism, Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf said the bill was about “protecting people from a rising tide of hatred”. “It is not Twitter police. It is not activists, it is not the media. It is not, thank goodness, even politicians who decide ultimately whether or not crime has been committed,” Yousaf said. He said it would be up to “the police to investigate, and the threshold for criminality is incredibly high.” “Unless your behaviour is threatening and intends to stir up hatred, then you have nothing to worry.”

Police Scotland said it had received complaints in relation to Rowling’s post. “(But) The comments are not assessed to be criminal and no further action will be taken,” it said.

Earlier, PM Rishi Sunak said Britain had a proud tradition of free speech and that the new law had given the police the wrong priorities. “We should not be criminalising people saying common sense things about biological sex,” he told reporters. “Clearly that isn’t right.”

India Willoughby, Britain’s first transgender newsreader and one of those who was listed by Rowling, questioned why anyone should “publicly denigrate and mock” trans people. “The best-known author in the world sitting up all night to write a mega-long troll post about me, because she’s consumed by a hatred of trans people.”
Scotland has been at the forefront of extending rights to the transgender community but a previous bid to make it easier to change a legal gender was blocked by London over concerns it would impinge existing equality legislation.
(Reuters and NYT)