The London Independent reports that a man in Belgium has attained the distinction of being the first person convicted of sexism in public under a new law in that country.
He faces a fine of €3,000 for this incident:
The Belgian case involved a driver who was stopped for breaking the highway code. The young man – who has not been identified – insulted the police officer because of her gender, the court heard.
He was reported to have said she would be better off doing a job “adapted to women”, in a scene witnessed by several other people.
The driver was found guilty of three charges: contempt of a police officer, making threats and sexist remarks in public, and a serious violation of another person’s dignity because of her gender.
He was warned that if he failed to pay the fine, a prison term of a month would be imposed.
“This is the first time we have used this law to prosecute someone,” said Gilles Blondeau, spokesman for the public prosecutor's office. “It is quite common for people arrested by the police to insult and threaten. But to personally blame a policewoman because of her sex is different.
“It was a good case to test this law: a concrete and very clear case, with many witnesses. This is obviously not always the case.”
Rudeness and sexism are always wrong and the Belgian man was guity of both.
But to criminalize such behavior, umpleasant though it is, strikes me as the beginning of something that could have untoward results.
It amounts to saying, "You offended me–that is illegal."
I can imagine these laws being used in a trivial manner. If the Belgian man actually made threats (and this could be the case), he deserved what he got. But if that is not the case, this strikes me as
unnecessarily punishing somebody for the crime of having stupid ideas and expressing them in public. And of being rude to the officer–but should that be criminal?
And here is another thought: our society is moving towards criminalizing just about everything. A man (or woman) who makes unkind remarks, based on sex or race, certainly deserves to be ostracized.
We don't want to be around such a person. But do we need to call in the gendarme if the incidentis mostly a thought crime, not involving threats of physical harm?
With rape kits stacking up and serious crimes uninvestigated for lack of personnel, is this the best use of the criminal justice system?
France is considering a similar law.