New Zealand: Jacinda Ardern suggests opposition leader is a ‘Karen’

The prime minister said that the proposed hate speech laws would not make it illegal to call someone a ‘Karen,’ adding that the law would not protect the opposition leader from such a claim

Celine Wadhera
Thursday 01 July 2021 10:06
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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern suggests opposition leader is a 'Karen'

New Zealand’s prime minister suggested that the opposition leader could be called a “Karen” in a parliamentary debate over laws governing hate speech.

During the debate, Judith Collins, the opposition leader, asked how the prime minister would respond to a constituent calling proposed changes to the country’s hate speech laws “completely and utterly wrong”.

She asked what the prime minister’s response was to the following quote: “Jacinda Ardern is wrong about her own hate speech wrong law, completely and utterly wrong. Not only is the PM wrong about the basic facts about the proposal, she is wrong to shut down debate on the proposal.”

Ms Ardern replied that she disagreed with the statement, adding: “As it happens, I also disagree with the member’s statement on Twitter, that somehow it will become illegal to call someone a ‘Karen.’

“That is absolutely incorrect and I apologise that it means these laws will not protect the member (Judith Collins) from such a claim.”

Ms Collins responded by raising a point of order, but reneged on making a statement, saying that she had decided not to raise a certain point, as she “thought it would be cruel”.

“Karen” is a pejorative term that evolved on social media that is used to describe a privileged white woman who acts in a pushy, entitled or demanding manner and uses her privilege to police other people’s behaviour and get her way.

The prime minister’s comments come amid a consultation period over proposed changes to New Zealand’s hate speech laws that would move the crime from a human rights offence to a criminal offence.

Currently the maximum penalty for hate speech in the country is a $7,000 fine and up to three months’ imprisonment. The proposed changes would increase this to a $50,000 fine and three years’ imprisonment. The changes would also look to protect gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and disability, which the government says are not adequately covered by the existing law.

The desire to enhance the law comes after findings from a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch mosque attack found that the country’s hate speech laws were weak deterrents for people targeting religious and other minority groups. In the attack, a white supremacist killed 51 Muslims in Christchurch on 15 March 2019.

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