Worldwide women remain the most discriminated against and the most violently attacked group. “In the UK, two to three women are murdered by men per week (Allen et al., 2020).” In Afghanistan, those prohibited from societal participation are women. In Iran, those beaten for not wearing “proper” headgear are women. In El Salvador, the femicide capital of the world, those murdered are women. It harms women to minimize and disguise the violence against them.

Yet Scotland (part of the UK) just passed a new hate crime bill that went into effect April 1, 2024. Women, 51% of the population, were excluded. Women were told that the lawmakers would get around to them in the future. Women have heard this before – everyone else’s rights come before ours.  One parliamentarian said, “I don’t think the Scottish parliament cares about women at all.”

The law creates a new crime of “stirring up hatred” relating to protected characteristics. The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 makes it a an offence to behave in a threatening or abusive manner with the intention of “stirring up hatred” based on disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or being intersex. Stirring up hatred based on race, colour, nationality or ethnicity was already illegal in Great Britain under the Public Order Act 1986 but is now included in the new law. The police had received many complaints about a speech given in 2020 by a justice secretary in which he said a lot of white people hold prominent positions in Scotland. So the law was triggered by white people and men – neither are vulnerable nor marginalized groups.

Many criticized the law for stifling free speech, but the media focuses on the J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame) controversy. She lives in Edinburgh and wrote: “Scottish lawmakers seem to have 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.”  She added: “It is impossible to accurately describe or tackle the reality of violence and sexual violence committed against women and girls, or address the current assault on women’s and girls’ rights, unless we are allowed to call a man a man…Freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal.”

In response to the free speech criticism the government claims, “The legislation does not prevent people expressing controversial, challenging or offensive views, nor does it seek to stifle criticism or rigorous debate in any way.”  It also references the right to freedom of expression in the European Convention on Human Rights, which includes protection for “ideas that offend, shock or disturb.”

Just because you disagree with someone is no reason to make it criminal. Men have been verbally and physically assaulting women for centuries. For 300 years they called them witches, murdered nine million of them, and took their property also blotting out centuries of herbal healing knowledge. In today’s pop culture women are referred to as whores and deserving of a slap or two or perhaps death. I asked my gym monitor one day to turn off a song that was about how a man had to kill his girlfriend and how much better he felt. Pornography that degrades women generates more income than TV, movies, and theatre combined. Yet women in Scotland, and in the United States, who are the most attacked are excluded from the protection of the hate speech laws. When Arizona passed its hate speech law, I was in the hearing room and testified that women should be included. The man who testified after me said that we could not include women in the law because there were so many assaults on women it would consume all the time and resources of the police. Precisely.