By Harriet Seedhouse and Nadya Dimitrova
Hate speech or freedom of expression: where do we draw the line?
This week, the BBC reported on a case of confrontation between Harry Miller and the police. Indeed, after complaints had been filed against Mr Miller for transphobic tweets, the police made the decision to visit him at his workplace to discuss the issue. This is something the man found widely inappropriate, and a few days ago, the High Court supported his opinion when the police’s decision was judged unlawful. There are multitudes of issues with reporting hate crime, and we will not even start to bore you with the extensive details of legislation, but what should be discussed is what the meaning and impact this decision has for society and especially the LGBTQI+ community.
Reported hate crime incidents have seen a drastic increase over the past few years. Some attribute it to the rising trust in institutions, whilst others believe it simply comes from the rise in hate crime offences. Although there is no saying what the correct answer is, we can, however, note that events like these only lead marginalised groups such as the LGBTQI+ community to distrust institutions such as the police, the judiciary system and the government when it comes to treating hate crimes and speech seriously. The fact that the police’s decision was deemed unlawful sends the wrong message to the trans community, who do not feel protected and defended by the justice system, which in this case, was unable to recognise and punish hate speech. This decision also proves that British society still has a long way to go on the road to equality and the fight against cyberbullying and incitement to hatred.
Would tax-free sanitary products bankrupt the economy?
Every year, for the month of July, Tennessee holds an annual sales tax holiday where, for the entire month, customers can purchase computers and clothing without paying the usual 7% state sales tax. This week, and for the first time, Republicans have addressed their concerns about the proposal to add menstrual products to the list of tax-free products, arguing that the cost of doing so was estimated at $132,700. They do not deem this essential spending and also said there would be no way to limit the amount that one consumer buys. Advocates were quick to note that over 10 U.S. States had already eliminated their “tampon tax” whilst also drawing attention to the fact that dandruff shampoo, viagra and chapstick were all tax-free health and personal care items.
This comes just as Tesco in the UK faced backlash over their anti-stealing signs in front of tampons. The supermarket giant had placed warnings that said “Help us build safer communities – report shoplifting to a member of staff” which were quickly criticised by the media for criminalising those in desperate situations. Sanitary products are a necessity, not a luxury, and ending the stigma around periods and the increased tax that comes with menstrual products is an important step towards the gender equality we need today.
Are student activists the answer to climate change education?
Students in the UK have drafted their own climate bill due to growing concerns that children are not being taught adequately about the climate emergency. A group of young campaigners have founded a group called “Teach the Future” who has outlined legislation entitled the “climate emergency education bill”. This bill aims to “review […] how students are being prepared for the climate emergency and ecological crisis”. The passion and commitment are not only admirable but also necessary, given that the U.K. is far from having compulsory climate education.
At the end of 2019, Italy announced its plans to introduce mandatory climate education in state schools. Their new curriculum, coming into effect in September 2020, means that all school-age children will be taught about climate change and environmental sustainability. Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti has said that he “wants to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school.” Climate change and sustainability have been prominent topics in the media and wider society in recent years, and so at last, someone is paving the way for more governments across the world to take this seriously.
On the 26th of February, “Teach the Future” campaigners will launch their bill in parliament with sponsorship from Nadia Whittome, the UK’s youngest MP. With many schools burying their heads in the sand when it comes to curriculum reform relating to climate education, this campaign illustrates how much young people are wanting and needing to learn. Their bill requests net-zero buildings, increased training, and additional funds which would greatly improve the knowledge of those responsible for the future of our planet. However, they are still unsure if the government will be willing to listen and consider this new bill.