JK Rowling dares police ‘arrest me’ for misgendering

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JK Rowling has thrown down the gauntlet over strict new misgendering laws, telling police: “I look forward to being arrested.”

The controversial new laws in Scotland make stirring up hatred against a number of groups, including transgender people, an offence.

The news laws have faced heavy criticism and came into force on Monday.

The Harry Potter author has been outspoken in her defence of the rights of women, raising concerns about single-sex spaces and the safety of women in prison.

She has publicly clashed with activists on social media, with transgender journalist and reality TV personality India Willoughby reporting JK Rowling to police earlier this month.

However, Northumbria police said that misgendering India online did not “meet the criminal threshold” of an offence.

However, the new laws in Scotland are much stricter, and Ms Rowling has been outspoken in her opposition.

“Scotland’s Hate Crime Act comes into effect today. Women gain no additional protections, of course, but well-known trans activist Beth Douglas, darling of prominent Scottish politicians, falls within a protected category. Phew!” she posted on social media.

She warned, “freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal”.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act passed by Scottish politicians in 2021 but is only now being rolled out. It consolidates existing hate crime legislation while creating the new offence.

Scotland’s devolved government has said it is a response to the recommendations of an independent review into hate crime laws and ensures such protections “are fit for the 21st century”.

Protected characteristics under the new laws include age, disability, race, religion and sexual orientation, as well as gender identity.

But critics including Ms Rowling — an opponent of much of the gender identity movement, particularly in Scotland — have hit out at the legislation on free speech and other grounds.

It is “wide open to abuse by activists who wish to silence those of us speaking out about the dangers of eliminating women’s and girls’ single-sex spaces,” Ms Rowling said in a lengthy online criticism.

“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,” she added.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell called the omission of women from the legislation an “astonishing exclusion”.

“The big flaw in this bill is it does not protect women against hate,” he told BBC radio.

Elon Musk, the owner of X (formerly Twitter), is among others to voice free speech concerns over the new laws.

However, Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf insisted he is “very proud” of them, saying they will help protect against a “rising tide” of hatred.

Scottish police are being trained to enforce the legislation, although it has emerged more than a third of officers have not yet completed an online course required about the laws.

That has concerned critics, but Yousaf insisted he is “very confident in Police Scotland’s ability in order to implement this legislation in the way it should”.

– with AFP