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Hatespeech - Expanding the scope: Combatting lawful gender-based hate speech, harassment and violence against women

Side event "The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud in Norway", CSW, New York 12.03.2015

Opening statement by Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, Ms. Solveig Horne

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to have the opportunity to participate in this important side event to the CSW.

Discrimination and contempt against individuals and groups are causing deep concern all over Europe. As Norwegian Minister for Equality, this development worries me. 

Hate speech causes unhappiness and fear among those who are victims.  It causes people to withdraw from the public debate – and as a result silence important voices that should be heard in the public debate. I am especially concerned about women and girls being silenced in the public debate.

In November last year my Government invited a number of organizations and individuals to a round table discussion on hate speech. We learned a great deal from the participants.

One of the things we heard about is how damaging effect hate speech has on women and girls who participate in the public debate. Some are called names, laughed at and even threatened with rape and violence.

I wish to draw your attention to the link between hate speech against women and girls and several of the strategic objectives of the Beijing Platform for Action:

As I have mentioned, being threatened and in public affects women’s general health in a negative way. Women’s sexual health may be affected negatively by being labeled through hate speech.

Hate speech can also trigger violence against women.

Hate speech which is directed against women in public life causes fear and withdrawal from public life, silencing women’s voices in the public debate. This also harms women in power and decision-making especially. 

Attempts to silence women in the public debate through hate speech are an attack on women’s human rights. No one should be silenced or subjected to threats when expressing themselves in public.

Women are under-represented in the media. In order to get a balanced media picture it is important that many voices are heard. We must encourage women and girls to make their voices heard in the media. Hate speech prevents women from making their voices heard.

I also call upon media to take responsibility in this matter. In some cases media may facilitate a platform for hate speech. At the same time, I would like to stress that a liberal democracy like Norway strongly support freedom of speech as a fundamental right.

I wish to draw your attention to the fact that hate speech is also directed against groups and individuals for reasons other than – or in combination with – gender.

Sexual orientation, disability, ethnic or religious background may be some of the reasons why individuals and groups are subjected to hate speech. 

Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, has pointed out that hate speech is not a new thing, but that the use of modern form of communication has made it both easier to attack others, and to do so anonymously.

My Ministry will now follow up the topics raised with the aim of developing efficient strategies to combat hate speech.
We are now considering how we most effectively can do this.

We have also been awaiting the report on hate speech that the Norwegian Equality and Anti-discrimination ombud (LDO) will present shortly. I am quite sure that this report will be of great importance for our coming work to mobilize against hate speech.

In Europe there is at the moment a debate on how hate speech may have a link to radicalization and extremism.

We have already taken some measures in the fight against Radicalization and Violent Extremism:
My Ministry supports the campaign called Stop hate speech online. This is linked to the Council of Europe campaign Young people combating hate speech online.

The aim of the measure is to avoid discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and disability.
We will receive a report on the measure by 1st June this year.

Another measure is directed against teachers. The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research has developed a course for teachers based on material developed by The Council of Europe (Bookmarks).

The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research will launch an online program aimed at teaching children and young people how to handle undesired online experiences.

In October 2014 The Ministry of Culture arranged a conference on how one may prevent online hate speech and radicalization.  I am sure that both governments and civil society will have to address this question in the future. 

I am looking forward to the report on hate speech that the Norwegian Equality and Anti-discrimination ombud (LDO) has made. I am eager to learn more about the findings and the recommendations.

Along with my colleagues in the Government I will continue working to prevent hate speech in order to ensure that people may participate freely in public debates – regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability.

Thank you for your attention.

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