Fat Hate Crime and its Heavy Implications

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.

Teeline Impressions

Having blogged about a lot of serious events recently, I thought I’d relax a little and write about every trainee journalists favourite subject.

For those of you who aren’t trainee journalists, the answer is Teeline Shorthand a.k.a hand-slayer, mind-boggler and the plot line of LOST’s adopted cousin.

Teeline is said to be the easiest form of Shorthand to learn, which is good considering that you have to sit a 60 word a minute exam after 10 weeks of a 14 week course. But if this is the easiest to learn then the other forms must be like trying to ride a unicycle up Mount Everest.

In fairness I’m finding the theoretical side of Teeline relatively straight-forward. The majority of the system is based on the alphabet whilst many outlines are based on common sense and context. Something we are constantly reminded of in class.

You wouldn’t write “I want to bad light lost note” for example, unless you were Arthur Bostrom rehearsing for a line as the linguistically confused Officer Crabtree in Ello Ello.     

“I was pissing by your door”

Having now finished all 20 theory units of Marie Cartwrights wonderful book (kaching) we have now begun speed building exercises.

Speed building is the Batman of Teeline. A darker but practical and effective entity for journalists to have.

It is something which, at first, I can only imagine feels like having your brain extracted through your nostrils whilst your hand flaps around like a dying fish; desperately trying to remember the special outline for vandalism (VN blend, D, S, M).

By the time you’ve remembered this, the dictation has ended and you’re left feeling like the Marie Celeste, empty, alone and adrift.

But have no fear! Now we’re being told not to worry about getting the correct outlines provided we can read our own outlines back.

Common sense and context rides in on it’s white horse once again. Albeit leaving clumps of manure over 20 theory based units.

Having said this, I’m amazed at everyone’s progress after six and half weeks on the course. Our outlines have evolved from single-celled amoeba to complex, and in some cases, diverse lifeforms.

With three and a half weeks until the 60 word a minute exam, we can only endeavour to advance our shorthand skills. Otherwise it may be the end of teeline for us wannabe journalists.

Syria and the U.N.-successful Response

The Syrian Situation has gone on long enough.

Attacks in the Houla area last weekend resulted in the deaths of 32 children and over 60 adults.

The deaths are the latest in a campaign that has been waged since the unrest began 15 months ago and has been met with widespread condemnation by the international community.

With pressure increasing against President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime to face justice this begs the question as to when should the U.N. intervene in the affairs of another sovereign state?

Article 2.7 of the U.N. Charter states that:  “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”

But when the institutions of a state are turned upon its own citizens then a serious breach of sovereignty has occurred.

Articles 2.4/7 are later contravened by Article 42 which states: “It [the Security Council] may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

This statement may prove more potent than first thought. It was used to justify the intervention against Iraq when it invaded Kuwait in 1990 and against Serbia in the mid-90’s.

It becomes more relevant as sectarian violence is showing signs of escalating in Lebanon.

Alawites, a Shia sect of Islam that supports Assad, have clashed with Sunni’s who support the Free Syrian Army.

The Middle East is volatile enough without further sectarian violence spilling onto the streets of Lebanon.

It is clear that further intervention must be imposed but what form should the intervention take?

The main penalty which the U.N. seems to dispense like paper towels are economic sanctions.

Recent reports from Syria’s oil minister estimate that economic sanctions have cost the Country $4 billion and have led to a shortage of  fuel, sugar and other essentials.

This underlines the problem. Sanctions against a dictatorship do not work.

Economic penalties hurt the people rather the regime as they can still afford luxuries through extortion and privilege. The only thing a dictatorship understands is the use of force and the impact that force can have on its power.

This leaves the issue of military intervention but this is stacked high with difficulty.

First is the question of Russia. The former Soviet Union has close military links with Syria. It supplies the regime with arms and trains military personnel in exchange for a naval base in Tartus.

By removing the Assad regime from power, the U.N. may risk diplomatic escalation as a new government may not take kindly to the fact that Moscow had been supplying its oppressors with military aid.

Russia may, therefore, lose the benefits of its Syrian agreement. Even U.N. Peace Keepers seizing weapons may prove as a tipping point in international relations.

The second problem is who would intervene?

Any intervention by Western powers may be met with further suspicion from the Islamic world as part of the ongoing ‘War on Terror’ and attempts by the West to weaken Islamic regimes through the establishment of democracy.

Daft as this may seem, it is is real issue and must be addressed by the U.N.

The best answer to this issue is to get Arab and African League nations to provide troops to protect civilians. But as events in Libya showed, these institutions lack the political will and military expertise to contribute a decisive military element.

This would most likely result in Western Air power providing the bulk of the force perhaps implementing designated ‘safe zones’

But with economic matters taking priority and a lack of political willpower to intervene, the fate of more Syrian civilians hangs precariously with the Syrian Army.

Many in the West have become wary of the prospects of military intervention but how many more events such as Houla must occur to grab the worlds attention?

Addressing the Gulf: Saudi Arabia and the Olympics

Saudi Arabia will be the only nation in the London 2012 Olympic games to not feature female participants.

The Gulf state has refused to send any female athletes to the games in accordance with it’s domestic policy regarding women and sport.

Speaking at a news conference on 4th April Prince Nawwaf al-Faisal, the Saudi sports minister and head of the Saudi National Olympic Committee, said: “At present, we are not embracing any female Saudi participation in the Olympics.”

The decision goes against the fourth fundamental principle of the Olympic Charter which states that: “The practice of sport is a human right.”

The charter also says that: “Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind.”

This is further compounded by principle six which says: “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race,religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic
Movement.”

Saudi policy towards women in sport begins at an early age with girls being banned from taking part in physical education at school.

The state also bans women from accessing sports facilities and does not hold any competitions for women to qualify for national teams and international competitions.

Discrimination is further substantiated by a lack of sports clubs for women compared to the 153 government supported ones for men.

At the Beijing Olympics in 2008 Saudi Arabia was joined by Brunei and Qatar as countries with all male teams.

Saudi Arabia did send a a female athlete to the Inaugural Summer Youth Olympics in 2010.

Dalma Rushdi Malhas won a bronze medal after she competed in the equestrian individual jumping event. The medal was the only one picked up by Saudi Arabia during the games.

With less than 70 days until the 2012 opening ceremony, Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East Director for Human Rights Watch, said: “The clock is running out for Saudi women to join the Games.”

Bomber Command Memorial

A memorial to the Bomber Command airmen who gave their lives in the Second World War has received the final amount of funds needed for its completion.

 

The memorial, which will be unveiled in London’s Green Park at the end of June, will  commemorate the approximately 64,000 members who died during the conflict.

Lord Ashcroft, who donated the final £1 million for the completion of the memorial, said: “Over the years there has been controversy about Bomber Command but you can respect bravery and men who obey their call of duty irrespective of what they do and which side they are fighting on.”

The controversy surrounds the strategy of area bombing adopted by the RAF during the Second World War.

This strategy sought to target German production on two fronts. The first being the destruction of the industrial plants and  therefore, the ability of Nazi Germany to produce the materiel needed for its war effort. Secondly, it aimed to bring about a collapse in German morale.

At the time, Allied air-power doctrine focused on the knock-out blow that could be delivered from aerial fleets. It was also Britain’s only way of waging an offensive against Germany.

Critics of the area bombing campaign will argue that there was no need to conduct the slaughter of civilians and that bombing contributed very little to the defeat of Nazism.

Normally we would accept this viewpoint as modern technology can now guide a cruise missile to someone’s doorstep which, in turn, means that ‘collateral damage’ should be minimal.

What critics sometimes forget to factor in is that area bombing was conducted during a total war. A war in which all members of society contribute to the war effort. The targeting of civilian morale was therefore regarded as a way to shorten the war effort.

Although German production levels reached their peak in mid 1944,  a post-war survey revealed that bombing was seen by many Germans as a major hardship to endure.

Area bombing is now widely regarded to have diverted more than two million troops from the Russian front to defend the German homeland from aerial incursion.

Regardless of moral convictions we cannot forget the sacrifices made by Bomber Command. These, mostly young, men served their country against one of the most depraved ideologies of the 20th Century at a time when the free world needed to strike back.

With the completion of the memorial these forgotten avengers can now be honoured publicly by those whose freedom they helped to secure.