April 18, 2024

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UK PM Rishi Sunak Backs Author JK Rowling Over Scottish Hate Crime Law

“We believe in free speech in this country”, says UK PM Rishi Sunak (File)

London:

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday came out in support of ‘Harry Potter’ author JK Rowling over her stance against a new hate crime law enforced by the devolved government of Scotland, which she says restricts free speech.

The British Indian leader made a statement about the new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act, which came in force on Monday and led JK Rowling to issue a sharp rebuke on social media warning against the “dangers of eliminating women’s and girls’ single-sex spaces”.

The law creates a new crime of “stirring up hatred” relating to protected characteristics.

“People should not be criminalised for stating simple facts on biology. We believe in free speech in this country, and Conservatives will always protect it,” Rishi Sunak said in a statement.

In a series of social media posts on Monday, JK Rowling – a vocal defender of women’s only spaces when being balanced with the rights of transexuals – referenced several transgender women as men, including convicted prisoners, trans activists and other public figures. The award-winning Scottish author, who lives in Edinburgh, then invited police to arrest her if they believed she had committed an offence under the new law.

“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,” writes JK Rowling on X, formerly Twitter.

JK Rowling, 58, said the members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) who voted for the new hate crime laws had “placed higher value on the feelings of men performing their idea of femaleness, however misogynistically or opportunistically, than on the rights and freedoms of actual women and girls”.

Humza Yousaf, the Pakistani-origin First Minister of Scotland who was justice minister in the Scottish National Party (SNP) led government when the bill was passed in the Scottish Parliament Holyrood in 2021, was targeted with Islamophobic graffiti near his home in Dundee in the wake of the new law being enforced. However, he insisted it was a reminder of why such a law is needed to ensure a “zero-tolerance approach to hatred”.

Police Scotland is investigating the graffiti and said “inquiries are ongoing”.

Meanwhile, hundreds gathered outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to protest against the new hate crime law for its restrictions on freedom of speech. They waved placards reading: “Truth is not hate speech” and “Protect free speech”.

The new laws were developed following an Independent Review of Hate Crime Legislation, which concluded that new specific offences relating to stirring up hatred were needed.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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