Did Norway ban hate speech against LGBQT people?

LGBT flagPhoto: Mercedes Mehling / Unsplash

A question that’s arisen over the last few months.

We spoke to Ministry of Justice and Public Security of Norway to find out.

In short

Norway’s law already banned hate speech (both online and in person) against homosexual and bisexual people.

To be deemed hate speech, “a statement must threaten or insult a person or promote hate of, persecution of or contempt for another person”. Lawsuits covered in the past by Norwegian courts have set precedents as to the difference between freedom of expression and hate speech.

Reports of hate crimes (both violent and non-violent) increased in Norway during the 2010s. It’s unclear whether cases actually increased, the number of reports increased, or both. Most cases in 2019 pertained to racial and ethnic hate crimes.

Now, a new law amendment will officially protect trans people against hate speech, as well.

The amendment has been passed by the Norwegian parliament, and it will become official once the King and Prime Minister sign off on it.

For all the details provided to us by the Ministry, read on.

Did Norway update its ban on hate speech on November 10, 2020?

“Yes, the Norwegian Parliament approved a bill on November 10, 2020, broadening the scope of several provisions in the Penal Code, including the provision regarding hate speech in Section 185, to cover discrimination and offense motivated by the victim’s gender identity or gender expression. 

All that remains is for it to be submitted to the King in Council for the Royal Assent.

When the King has signed the Act and the Prime Minister has countersigned, it becomes Norwegian law from the date decided by the Government.

The amendment regarding hate speech pertains to Section 185.”

How is the update worded?

This is a translation, by Norway Today, of Section 185 of Norway’s Penal Code, as it stands in Norwegian:

  • Hate speech: A penalty of a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years shall be applied to any person who with intent or gross negligence publicly makes a discriminatory or hateful statement. «Statement» includes the use of symbols. Any person who in the presence of others, with intent or gross negligence, makes such a statement to a person affected by it, see the second paragraph, is liable to a penalty of a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year.
  • “Discriminatory or hateful statement” means threatening or insulting a person or promoting hate of, persecution of, or contempt for another person based on his or her
  • a) skin color or national or ethnic origin,
  • b) religion or life stance,
  • c) homosexual orientation, or way of life or sexual orientation,
  • d) reduced functional capacity.

The Norwegian government’s English-language translation still reads just “homosexual orientation“, without the added language (bolded above).

The Ministry explains, “The law has not entered into force yet.

The authentic, Norwegian text will be published in ‘Norsk Lovtidend’ [a Norwegian periodical published by the Ministry] as soon as it enters into force.

The English language text is an unofficial translation, provided for information purposes only.

This translation will not necessarily be amended right away.”

Which groups did the hate speech legislation protect against hate speech in previous years and decades, before the new amendment?

“Before the amendment Section 185 covered hate speech motivated by the victim’s skin color or national or ethnic origin, religion or life stance, homosexual orientation or reduced functional capacity.

Please note that the term “homosexual orientation” included bisexual orientation.

The amendment was for clarification purposes only.”

Which groups does the new version protect now that it didn’t before?

“When the new law enters into force, the provision will protect transgender persons, in addition to the groups that are protected today [bisexual and homosexual people]”.

Does the law include cyberbullying, and if not, will it be expanded to include cyberbullying? How is that/will that be prosecuted?

“Section 185 covers cyberbullying that fulfills the conditions in the provision.

“To be covered a statement must threaten or insult a person or promote hate of, persecution of, or contempt for another person.

“When interpreting the provision it is necessary to take due account to the freedom of expression as protected in both the Norwegian Constitution and in International Conventions to which Norway is bound.

“Several judgments from the Norwegian Supreme Court clarifies the boundaries between freedom of expression and protection against hate speech.”

Data regarding the hate speech law

“The Police Directorate publishes annual national statistics on reported hate crimes [see STRASAK-rapporten 2019, pages 40–46]. There has been an increase in reported hate crimes from 2015 (347 in total) to 2019 (761 in total).

“Violence is committed in 33% of the incidents reported, whereas 60% involve other crimes, such as hate speech or discrimination.

“When it comes to motives for the hate crimes reported, 533 incidents in 2019 were related to race/ethnicity, 144 to religion, 122 to sexual orientation, 34 to disabilities, and 19 to anti-Semitism.

“We do not know for certain whether the figures represent an actual increase in the occurrence of hate crime. The increase could also be a consequence of more people choosing to report incidents.

“However, the police assume that there are significant dark numbers. For example, the police’s population survey from 2019 indicates that only one in five hate crime victims reported the crime.

“In 2019, there were 744 prosecution decisions made in cases with a hate motive. Out of these, 47 % were solved. During the same period, there were in total 74 legal reactions to hate crimes.”

Source: #Norway Today, #NorwayTodayNews

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