“Belgium bans a wide range of sexist speech”

by Walter Olson on March 22, 2014

The bill originated in a desire to control men’s accosting of women on the street, but according to Eugene Volokh it sweeps much more broadly than that: it exposes speakers to imprisonment even for written communication, not necessarily individually targeted, that is “evidently intended to express contempt for a person because of his gender, or that regards them as inferior, or reduces them to their sexual dimension, and which has the effect of violating someone’s dignity.” [Rik Torfs and Jogchum Vrielink via Volokh] Torfs and Vrielink point out a perhaps unexpected corollary, which could also restrict speech:

A logical side effect of making sexism illegal is that the simple act of accusing someone of being sexist, may amount to criminal defamation. Under Belgian law, as in many other legal systems, it is an offense to accuse someone of having committed crimes that they were not actually convicted for. Law is often a double-edged sword.

{ 6 comments }

1 Richard Nieporent 03.23.14 at 10:16 am

So continues the long slide down the slippery slope. First we have made “hate crimes” an offense where the penalty is enhanced if the crime was deemed to be against some person in a protected class. Now Belgium is making the speech itself a criminal offense if it is deemed sexist. If this continues it won’t be long before the fascist left will make it a crime to “offend” in any way a member of a protected class. The Left considers the ideal society to be one in which all speech is censored, since no member of a protected class will ever again have to hear a discouraging word. Think of the scene from the Soup Nazi episode where the customers go up to the counter with their heads facing down while they place their order in a monotone voice for fear of offending the Soup Nazi. This will be the only safe way to interact with other people.

2 John Fembup 03.23.14 at 11:36 am

“intended to express contempt for a person because of his gender, or that regards them as inferior, or reduces them to their sexual dimension, and which has the effect of violating someone’s dignity.”

Well, hmmm. The law prohibits intent? Nifty.

And it seems to me that same law would revolutionize television advertising in this country. All those subtle and not-so-subtle put-downs of men wouldn’t be legal anymore.

Not that I wish for that same law here. I say, let the Dutch have all the fun on this one.

3 John Fembup 03.23.14 at 5:29 pm

” I say, let the Dutch have all the fun on this one.”

But first . . .the Belgians.

4 Jazzizhep 03.23.14 at 8:33 pm

The only thing that surprises me is that it took Belgium as long as it did. Several western European countries have already adopted the old eastern European practice of codifying unacceptable speech. I guess Belgium isn’t as compassionate and understanding as Britain and the old U.S.S.R. under Stalin.

5 Boblipton 03.23.14 at 9:38 pm

First first, for something completely different:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19fcN3VaXs4

Bob

6 Bumper 03.23.14 at 10:24 pm

Not to worry they’ll all be speaking Russian soon enough…

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