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Hate speech: Disabled, Rainbow communities and women forgotten in watered-down plans

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Disabled people, Rainbow communities, and women have voiced disappointment, frustration and fears for safety after being excluded from the Governments hate speech reforms, chief Human Rights commissioner Paul Hunt says.
Meanwhile, members of the Muslim community who are included in the new proposals have told the commission its unfair other groups arent covered, and that they did not want any other community to suffer what they have.

The Government has forgotten its fundamental human rights duty to protect vulnerable groups, he said.

Sometimes the Government has to do the morally right thing, it has to stand with vulnerable groups and not the majority.

The Government in 2020 promised to make changes after the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch mosque terror attacks found the law failed to appropriately capture hate-motivated offending, or deal with hate speech.

READ MORE:
* Justice Minister Kris Faafoi won't commit to passing hate speech and crime laws before election
* Payouts to Christchurch terror attack victims about 'justice, not charity'
* Policing hate: What are the proposed changes and will they make a difference?

Hamish McNeilly/Stuff
Chief Human Rights Commissioner Professor Paul Hunt says the Government needs to stand with vulnerable groups. (File photo)

It first announced reforms last year, but they were largely unpopular, and ministers struggled to explain what they would mean.

Justice Minister Kiri Allan, who is now in charge of the reform, on Saturday opted to make a single change to the Human Rights Act, expanding protections to religious groups, and dropping proposals to include gender, disabled people and the rainbow community.

Any further change will face a battle against ACT, National and other groups outside Parliament who oppose the idea, she said.

Its our intention to include these groups, and we are still working towards changes for these communities, but we want to get it right, she said in a statement.

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff
Kiri Allan says the Government is still working towards protecting vulnerable groups. (File photo)

I know how these communities can be affected, which is why we are continuing with this work.

But Hunt said fears legislating against speech which incites hostility and hatred based on disability, sexual orientation and gender would infringe on free speech have been greatly exaggerated, and based on a misunderstanding.

There have only been two cases of hate speech prosecuted in the last 40 years, he said.

The threshold is high, and it should be, he said.

The commission had contacted groups who had been left out of the new plans, and had heard they were feeling vulnerable. Groups facing bigotry and abuse had been waiting for years since March 15, 2019 he added.

The Government had referred the rest of its first proposals to the Law Commission for a fundamental review, but Hunt said this could take years, and in the meantime it could get cracking with expanding the scope of who is covered by hate speech laws.

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