A woman in Norway faces up to 3 years in prison on hate speech charges after saying a man cannot become a lesbian.
Tonje Gjevjon, a lesbian filmmaker and actress, was informed on November 17 that she was under investigation for speaking out against prominent Norwegian activist Christine Jentoft on Facebook. Jentoft is a transgender woman who often refers to herself as a lesbian mother.
Jentoft previously accused another woman, Christina Ellingsen, of transphobia over a similar claim. Ellingsen is also under investigation and faces three years in prison if found guilty.
The post on Gjevjon’s Facebook page under investigation said: “It is just as impossible for men to become a lesbian as it is for men to get pregnant. Men are men regardless of their sexual fetishes.”
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He said he intentionally posted his message on Facebook to draw attention to Norwegian hate speech laws.
Gjevjon’s comments appear to be under investigation for falling under a 2020 amendment to the country’s penal code that added “gender identity and gender expression” among the categories protected from hate speech. People found guilty of hate speech face a fine or up to one year in prison for private comments and up to three years for public comments.
Women’s rights activists, including Women’s Declaration International Norway, of which Ellingsen is a representative, said the amendment undermined freedom of speech and expression in the country.
It’s not the first time that Gjevjon has spoken out on controversial topics regarding gender and women’s rights.
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Last year, Gjevjon confronted Anette Trettebergstuen, Norway’s minister of culture and reality, arguing that the misinterpretation of gender identity and biological sex has “harmful” and “discriminatory” implications for women, particularly for the lesbians.
“Minister for Equal Opportunities will act to ensure lesbian women’s human rights are safeguarded, making clear that there are no lesbians with penises, that males cannot be lesbians regardless of their gender identity, and tidying up the gender mess harmful policies left by the previous government?” Gjevjon asked.
“I do not share an understanding of reality where the only two biological sexes are to be understood as sex. Gender identity is also important,” Trettebergstuen replied.
Norway’s first discrimination charge centered on gender identity was filed in 2018. The case centered on a transgender woman who complained that she was asked not to shower in the women’s locker room of a sports center , according to the female-led news organization Reduxx .
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Similar cases have surfaced across Europe, including Finland, where a religious freedom case has seen tensions rise between free speech and LGBTQ advocates.
In March, Finnish parliament member Päivi Räsänen and Lutheran bishop Juhana Pohjola were acquitted of all charges in their case. Räsänen faced three charges of ethnic agitation over a 2004 brochure, for taking part in a discussion on a radio show in 2019, and most recently for 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 an image of Romans 1:24-27, which defines relationships between people same-sex “shameful”.
Pohjola faced a count of ethnic unrest for hosting a pamphlet written by Räsänen on his church’s website that was equally 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.