Names will never hurt me?
But names are about to supplant sticks and stones, under proposals issued by Justice Secretary Jack Straw MP. The new Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill will make it illegal to use threatening words or behaviour on the grounds of sexual orientation. And those pupils who are convicted could face up to seven years in jail (or a young offenders' institute for 'correctional therapy').
The main problem is the word ‘gay’. What used to mean ‘happy’ became over time a badge of honour worn by homosexuals. But if used as a playground taunt, it can now lead to a police investigation. This is an issue because the meaning has transmuted again in recent years to simply mean ‘bad’, ‘stupid’ or ‘un-cool’. It is the vernacular of youth culture; and children copy children as sheep follow sheep, and nobody has the slightest idea of the meaning of the word – it means simply what they want it to mean. While the children’s charity Kidscape calls for police officers to use ‘common sense’, Cranmer is reminded that schoolchildren as young as 11 have already been investigated for ‘racism’, ‘homophobia’, and other ‘crimes’ they never knew existed.
Hitherto, the 1986 Public Order Act has been used to prosecute people for ‘homophobic’ comments which are to be threatening, abusive or insulting in a way likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. The new ‘gay hate’ law is supposed to strengthen this, though Cranmer is puzzled as to why threats to or harassment of homosexuals is a greater crime than threatening or harassing a heterosexual.
The new incitement law is supported by the Liberal Democrats, but the Conservative party has been more cautious, citing concerns about freedom of speech.
Indeed. While bullying should not be tolerated in schools, a little playground banter is part and parcel of real life. Censor it there, or criminalise those who genuinely meant nothing serious by heir taunt, and the resentment against those whom the law is designed to protect will simply resurface a hundredfold.