Humza Yousaf on misogyny, structural bias and how Brexit brings Scotland closer to IndyRef2 3 years ago

Humza Yousaf on misogyny, structural bias and how Brexit brings Scotland closer to IndyRef2

The tenacious cabinet secretary speaks to JOE

"We have to stand up and be counted in the fight against misogyny. Every single man here and every single man listening, we have to be allies."

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Humza Yousaf opened the SNP’s conference with a speech. He is the cabinet secretary for justice in the Scottish government and covered police wages, Glasgow’s public health approach to violent crime and digs at the Labour Party. But it was a line about considering misogyny as a hate crime that got hacks in the media room fretting.

"How would that work? A hate crime? Think about the definition in a legal setting."

They lamented how the party was seemingly in a contest with itself to push the limits of how "right on" it could get.

That’s not the impression provided in person. A robust handshake combined with laconic determination indicate nothing less than a total belief in mission which, in this instance, is combatting prejudice and discrimination.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 07: Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, makes his keynote speech at the 84th annual SNP conference at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre on October 7, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. Members will gather in Glasgow for the three day conference which will conclude on Tuesday with a keynote speech by the party leader. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) Humza Yousaf opens SNP conference ion Glasgow with his keynote speech (Credit:Jeff J Mitchell)
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The 33-year-old Glaswegian of Pakistani heritage tells me that one of the most formative experiences of his life was to sit down with female family members and ask them about their lived experiences of misogyny. "If you’re a man, just sit down with your female family members for half an hour. Ask them, 'how many times has your appearance been commented on? Have you ever been groped? Have you ever been grabbed? Have you ever been the victim of sexual assault?'"

"As men, we’ve got a role to play. This is not a fight just for women."

Yousaf says that simple conversation can then be  implemented in day-to-day behaviour. "Don’t disrespect women and don’t disrespect the women that come forward to tell their stories."

"How the hell do you know if they’re lying? Don’t deny them their truth."

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"Reflect on your life and ask 'Are there things that I need to do to make sure that we have equality, from equal pay right the way through to equal access to institutions?'"

"Look, where ever there are women, let’s make sure we're supporting them. As men, we’ve benefitted from this patriarchy not for decades mate, millennia frankly."

He argues sexism is an institutionalised problem "ingrained" into men through patriarchy. Yousaf, who became the youngest-ever SNP MSP when he was elected at the age of 25, firmly believes in structural biases and accepts personal responsibility for confronting them.

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After a Labour councillor made racists remarks about him in March, Yousaf said Jeremy Corbyn’s response was inadequate and amounted to "duplicitous hypocrisy" symptomatic of those structural prejudices.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 07: Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, makes his keynote speech at the 84th annual SNP conference at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre on October 7, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. Members will gather in Glasgow for the three day conference which will conclude on Tuesday with a keynote speech by the party leader. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) The cabinet secretary for justice told JOE Brexit brings Scotland closer to a second independence referendum  (Credit: Jeff J Mitchell)

Yousaf has a bite, and can get under the skin. One delegate here in Glasgow tells me how they were irked by the justice secretary when he was needlessly dismissive of a discussion about Catalan independence. It’s an abrasiveness that makes him the sort of character you’d want on your team, or in your cabinet.

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"When’s a second independence referendum going to happen?"

"You’ll notice I don’t have my jacket on, so I haven’t got my crystal ball with me."

"What sort of impact will Brexit have on the independence movement?"

"How long have you got?"

"It’s ironic that during the 2014 campaign Scottish voters were told the only way they would stay a part of the EU was if they voted 'no'..."

"It’s more than ironic. It’s down right deceitful."

After a brief pause Humza unleashes: "It’s as deceitful as that stupid bus - it’s a downright lie. Those politicians, if they had a shred of decency they would resign. Every single one of them that took part in that lie, if they had a shred of decency or honour about them, they would resign." Showing that justice furnace burning in his engine room. "But there's a poll out today, support for an independence referendum increases in light of Brexit."

He talks about how his sister's newborn, making him an uncle for the first time, is a source of inspiration. "You hold this wee bundle of joy, and realise, everything I’m doing, I’m doing it for you. Whether it’s Brexit or a Scottish independence referendum, it’s their future more than anybody else's."

It’s a strong point. Particularly at this SNP conference, bristling as it is with teenagers. As is the case with the Brexit result, the independence referendum outcome in 2014 would be reversed if over 60s were not allowed to vote. Which is something else to irritate those same reporters.