30/05/2012 Leave a comment
Under proposed legislation, calling someone a ‘fatso’ could be classified as a hate crime.
A report conducted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image, working with the Central YMCA, proposed MPs should place appearance based discrimination on an equal level with other offences.
The study discovered one in five people had been victimised because of their weight whilst girls as young as five worry about their size and appearance.
The report showed that 43.5% of participants thought the role of the media was largely to blame for these opinions whilst 16.8% and 12.5% believed advertising and celebrity culture had a decisive impact.
The inquiry heard that weight stigma was believed to be a preventable form of illness and a condition in which the individual is primarily responsible.
This leads to the question of what constitutes a hate crime and the implications it has on freedom of speech.
The Equalities Act 2010 states that it is illegal to discriminate, harass or victimise anyone with regards to protected characteristics such as age, disability, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation.
Under the current law you can be prosecuted provided there is sufficient evidence of hostility based on the above factors.
If you were to call someone a fatty, lardo or Jabba would you end up committing an offence? Currently no but you may, and probably would, offend them.
What about the opposite. If someone were to call you lanky, four-eyes or baldy would you be offended?
Similarly, what about your taste in music, films and fashion style? Should these be on a comparable level with someone’s sexual orientation or race?
This leads to who should decide on what is insulting?
Under section five of the Public Order Act 1986 a person is guilty of an offence if he (no mention of women) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour.
At the moment this issue, whilst primarily affecting your mental well-being, is decided by a judge who would deem whether the offence was liable to classified as such.
Many argue this is an affront to free speech and that it could lead to new case law deciding on what people can and can’t say or do.
There are laws to prevent persecution and discrimination but if you feel insulted about something then should it really go through the legal system?
Have you been the victim of a hate crime or been victimised because of your appearance? If so, then please feel free to comment.