A woman in Norway faces up to three years in prison for criminal hate speech after saying a man can’t become a lesbian.
Tonje Gjevjon, a lesbian filmmaker and actress, was informed on November 17 that she was under investigation for speaking out on Facebook against prominent Norwegian activist Christine Jentoft. Jentoft is a transgender woman who often describes herself as a lesbian mother.
Jentoft had previously accused another woman, Christina Ellingsen, of a similar allegation of transphobia. Ellingsen is also under investigation and faces three years in prison if found guilty.
The post under investigation on Gjevjon’s Facebook page read: “Becoming a lesbian is just as impossible for men as it is for men to become pregnant. Men are men regardless of their sexual fetishes.”
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She has said that she posted her Facebook message on purpose to draw attention to Norway’s anti-hate speech laws.
Gjevjon’s comments appear to be under scrutiny because they fall under a 2020 amendment to the country’s penal code that adds “gender identity and gender expression” to protected categories from hate speech. People found guilty of hate speech face a fine or up to one year in prison for private speech and a maximum of three years for public speech.
Women’s rights activists, including Women’s Declaration International Norway, which Ellingsen represents, have claimed the change undermines freedom of speech and expression in the country.
This isn’t the first time Gjevjon has spoken out on controversial issues surrounding gender and women’s rights.
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Last year, Gjevjon confronted Anette Trettebergstuen, Norway’s culture and reality minister, claiming that misinterpretation of gender identity and biological sex has “harmful” and “discriminatory” effects on women, particularly lesbians.
“Will the Minister for Equality take action to ensure that the human rights of lesbian women are upheld, by clarifying that there are no lesbians with penises, that men cannot be lesbians regardless of gender identity, and by breaking the chaos of the harmful sex clean up policies left behind by the previous government?” asked Gjevjon.
“I don’t share an understanding of reality in which only two biological sexes are to be understood as sex. Gender identity is also important,” Trettebergstuen replied.
The first discrimination complaint in Norway that focused on gender identity was filed in 2018. The case centered on a transgender woman who complained that she was asked not to shower in a sports center’s women’s changing room, according to women-run news organization Reduxx.
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Similar cases have surfaced across Europe, including Finland, where tensions between freedom of expression and LGBTQ advocates were rising in a religious freedom case.
In March, Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen and Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola were acquitted of all charges in their case. Räsänen faced three charges of ethnic hate speech over a 2004 pamphlet, participating in a discussion on a radio show in 2019 and most recently tweeting a picture of the Bible.
In a 2019 tweet, Räsänen questioned her church’s sponsorship of an LGBTQ pride event and linked to an Instagram post with a picture from Romans 1:24-27, which called same-sex intercourse “shameful.” .
Pohjola faced one charge of ethnic agitation for posting on his church’s website a pamphlet written by Räsän that was similarly critical of gay men and women.
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Norway is considered one of the most liberal countries in Europe for LGBTQ people, even allowing people to legally change their gender without the need for a medical diagnosis.