Wellington, 8 May 2019
Speak Up For Women NZ says the sacking of a gender critical British tax expert in the United Kingdom serves as a warning of what is to come if New Zealand doesn’t take a restrained approach to proposed hate speech laws and begin to have reasonable open conversations about sex, gender, and identity.
Maya Forstater, an internationally renowned researcher on tax avoidance did not have her contract renewed at the Centre for Global Development in London after being told by her managers that she had used “offensive and exclusionary” language. The language they took offence at was not communicated in a work capacity; it was on Ms Forstater’s personal social media accounts. It also wasn’t illegal; in fact the core message was simply that transwomen are not women.
“Women are people born with female bodies. Womanhood does not depend on dressing, acting or thinking in a feminine way,” states Ms Forstater. She is taking the CGD to the Employment Tribunal in what she hopes will be a test case to set a precedent for discrimination against people who do not subscribe to gender identity ideology. “If we can establish this point in law it would help people who are currently afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs or being treated differently by their employer.”
Speak Up For Women is concerned that some of the most vocal proponents for restrictions on free speech in the form of ‘hate speech laws’ in New Zealand are the most closely aligned to those seeking to silence women who hold views like Ms Forstater. They say the increasingly partisan behaviour of some parts of the current government have caused many to lose trust in its ability to apply hate speech laws in a way that is not simply an alignment of their ideological position.
Award-winning NZ Herald columnist Rachel Stewart found herself under public attack this week for holding similar views to Ms Forstater. Political commentator Morgan Godfery took to Twitter declaring Ms Stewart had “no mana” and “no place in public life” because he disagreed with her challenges to gender identity ideology in a column she wrote in October 2018. Godfery’s main issue seemed to be that Ms Stewart’s writing would be included in the new ‘premium content’ section of the NZ Herald.
“Ms Forstater and Ms Stewart have both been harassed for expressing opinions that have solid grounding in facts and science,” says Ani O’Brien, spokeswoman for Speak Up for Women. “It is a scary time when people have to fear speaking the truth and we only hope New Zealanders will realise the value of protecting the freedoms associated with speech and beliefs.”
Speak Up For Women supports existing legislation against the incitement of violence and harmful digital communications. They say they are also staunch supporters of free speech principles that protect all citizens from tyranny. “Offensive speech that does not incite violence should be countered with silence and depriving it of attention or by using fact and ‘good’ speech to challenge it,” Ms O’Brien says.
“Kiwis need to remember that they may agree with who is setting the parameters of ‘hate’ now, but governments change and once in law it is very hard to take that power back. Legislating against speech because of disagreement takes us down a very dangerous road where the government decides what we are allowed to say and express belief in.”