Op-Ed

Photo: CC, Bartek Kucharczyk.

Infringing on someone’s safety is never okay

Over the past two weeks, the Internet has been abuzz over the latest human rights debate —the Return of Kings (ROK). For those who haven’t heard about it, they’re a group of men who, according to their website, believe in “the intellectual inferiority of women,” that “feminism (is) its own worst enemy,” and that “women should not be allowed to vote,” to touch on just a few of their archaic ideologies.

Although the controversy surrounding the group has mostly blown over, it brings up an important debate: was ROK exercising their right to freedom of speech, or were they engaging in hate speech?

Many would argue that ROK has a right to say what they want, while others would point out that the group is contributing to a culture that views women as sexual objects made solely for the enjoyment of men.

The group has published more than 2,000 articles which all fit this same misogynistic theme, but what really brought them into the public eye was their plan to organize a series of “pro-rape” meetings across the globe on Saturday, Feb. 6.

ROK’s founder, Roosh V, argued in a blog post that rape should be legal “if done on private property,” claiming that “consent is now achieved when (a woman) passes underneath (a bedroom’s) door frame, because she knows that that man can legally do anything he wants to her when it comes to sex.”

Following the condemnation of the event by news outlets and mayors across Canada, Roosh V cancelled the Feb. 6 meetings, citing the fact that the safety of ROK members couldn’t be guaranteed at these meetings.

In a society that prides itself on the right to freedom of speech, ROK is allowed to express themselves, given that their website is running and the group’s members are allowed to gather publicly. But in an age where we strive for progress and equality for all persons, it’s clear that ROK’s message borders on hate speech, and that is not something our society should tolerate.

Hate speech in Canada is any time when public statements are made that incite hatred against an identifiable group, according to the government of Canada. One of the most infamous cases was that of high school teacher James Keegstra, a high school teacher who taught anti-Semitic lessons to his classes. The case ended with a Supreme Court ruling that hate laws are an allowable infringement on the Charter.

We are all free to say what we want, but when what we say infringes on the rights of others, then a line must be drawn. When women are afraid to go out in public because of the threat of rape or sexual violence by men like those in ROK, their freedom of speech and mobility are limited.

We need to work towards protecting and helping those who fall victim to hate speech—not defend those who spread it.