The government says existing laws do not protect a person’s gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability.
The New Zealand government announced on Friday that it plans to strengthen the country’s hate speech laws and increase sanctions for incitement to hatred and discrimination, in response to the attack by a white supremacist in Christchurch two years ago that killed 51 Muslims.
The move comes after a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 15, 2019 attack recommended changes to hate speech and laws on hate crimes, which, they said, were weak. dissuasive for people targeting religious groups and other minority groups.
New Zealand’s hate speech laws have led to only one indictment and two civil claims so far, the Royal Commission has noted.
“Protecting our right to freedom of expression while balancing this right with protections against‘ hate speech ’is something that requires careful consideration and a wide range of input,” the minister said. of Justice Kris Faafoi at a press conference.
“Building social cohesion, inclusion and valuing diversity can also be a powerful means to counter the actions of those who seek to spread or reinforce discrimination and hatred.”
The government has proposed new offenses for hate speech which it said would be clearer and more effective.
Under the proposal, a person who “intentionally arouses, maintains or normalizes hatred” would violate the law if she had done so by threatening, abusing or insulting it, even inciting violence, the government said.
The penalty for such offenses would be increased to a maximum of three years in prison or a fine of up to NZ $ 50,000 ($ 35,000). Currently, the penalty is up to NZ $ 7,000 ($ 4,950) or three months in prison.
It also proposed provisions to protect trans, diverse and intersex people from discrimination. Current laws only target discourses that “excite hostility” against a person or group because of their color, race, or ethnicity.
‘Question on freedom of expression’
Proposals are now open for public consultation.
According to Radio New Zealand, the government is also considering changing the language and extending the incentive provisions in the Human Rights Act.
But it has not yet been decided which groups will be added.
Currently, the only act considered offensive is the use of the word that will “excite hostility” or “despise” a person or group because of their color, race, or ethnicity. But gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability are not considered protected.
Australian Brenton Tarrant has killed 51 people and injured dozens when he opened fire on Muslim worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch, broadcasting the atrocity live on Facebook shortly after posting a racist manifesto online,
With support across the political spectrum, New Zealand has quickly banned the sale of high-capacity semi-automatic weapons used by Tarrant.
In August 2020, a judge sentenced Tarrant to prison without life, the first time a New Zealand court had handed down such a sentence.
But changes to hate speech laws have been more contentious as some political parties have said they impede freedom of speech.
“The hate speech laws proposed by the government are a huge victory to overthrow the culture and create an even more divided society,” New Zealand’s youngest ACT Party leader, David Seymour, said in a statement.