Hate crimes are not new to Europe, the United States, Russia, and many other parts of the world. They are described as the offenses related to a specific aspect of a victim’s identity – nation, race, sexual orientation or sexual identity, skin color, religion, or a disability. Rooting in the lack of understanding or education, the offenses cause irreparable damage to millions of people. Currently, the diverse movements fight for the framing of adequate legislation while celebrities advocate for the promotion of rights for each minority existing. In this paper, the notion of hate crimes and the extent to which those who violate one’s right for a secure and healthy life may be restricted and punished will be contemplated.
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Although this kind of crime is spread widely, not each country elaborated on the particular legislation to prosecute the offenders. The term still has to be clarified and appropriately defined before the corresponding law adoption. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) describes hate crime as “a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias” (FBI, Hate Crimes, 2020). The Mattew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act clarifies the “bias,” mentioned in the FBI’s definition. According to the Act, the hate crime is considered to be a “willfully causing bodily injury” inflicted upon an individual due to their religion, national origin, race, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation (Treviño, 2018, p. 400). Therefore, the hate offense is committed by a person holding hostility and/or prejudice towards another individual who, according to the offender, possesses inappropriate physical, psychological, or national features.
Crimes based on hatred are spread commonly in the United States, Russia, Europe, and many other parts of the world. In the US, the Afro-American representatives, who were ruthlessly lynched in the 19th century, now are subjected to numerous murders and lasting violence. Previously, the people determined to take one’s life or inflict damage to one’s health, intended to demonstrate the superiority of the white population. In the middle of the 20th century, they moved against Catholics, too. Nowadays, the hate violence against the LGBTQ+ community and Muslim people is included in the ‘hate list’ (Maher et al., 2015). In Europe, primarily, immigrants and LGBTQ+ members are subjected to bias-motivated violence. Russia is no exception for the crimes based on hostility towards homosexuality, nationality, or skin color.
Then, the dilemma of the specific attributes of the hate crime arises. Acts of direct violence always imply negative emotional responses toward a person being violated. Still, the victim might possess any of the mentioned features which might not have been the offender’s reason to commit a crime against them. A negative emotional response in the case of hate crime could be defined as anger and hatred. Anger is believed to be a transitory emotional state, while hatred is a persistent state of mind (Treviño, 2018). Hence, the permanent opinion on an issue of one’s “wrongness” might lead to a negative emotional state of mind and, thus, pave the way for future violence. Thus, hostility and non-acceptance of the individual’s specific features manifested in hatred towards the person, and the following crime commitment can be defined as “hate violence” or “hate crime.”
Whether offenders of such crimes should be punished more severely than others or not remains a controversial issue. In its core, hate offenses root in the same negative feelings as any other violation. Still, the difference exists and causes the development of the aggressive environment for the particular groups of the population, which should be considered while framing the legislation. For instance, gender-bias crimes cause women to be constantly concerned about their vulnerability and a potential victim status (Maher et al., 2015). With the extension of media, transmitting data, news, and opinions, the fear of gender-based violence is widely spread worldwide, making women feel unsafe everywhere. Having access to openly shared opinions, sometimes rather radical, those who are inclined to cruelty are being informed that this type of damage can be inflicted on people. These opinions, therefore, encourage aggressive surroundings for a particular range of victims. Forming an unfavorable environment for minorities makes hate crimes an outrageous act of violence, exceptional in terms of persecution.
Thus, the author of the current study considers bias-motivated crimes to be sentenced more severely than others. The hate violence undermines the psychological stability of certain groups of the population, making the environment in a specific area impossible for them. Hence, people of a particular nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or skin color, cannot move to the other cities or are feared to, or cannot live openly and express themselves fully. The Afro-American public is subjected to constant violence, being put in the position of a victim (Treviño, 2018). People attracted to the representatives of their own gender are subjected, in turn, to rape, murders, or bullying. There is no need to say that currently, Muslim people are looked upon with disgust and fear, which can then be followed by acts of violence. The spreading of these crimes creates insupportable surroundings in many places and provokes further development of hatred, which makes bias-motivated offenses especially important for severe punishment.
At the moment, crimes related to one’s national identity, sexual orientation, gender, or disability, remain permanent. A negative emotional response provoked by the lack of education causes tones of violence towards innocent people happened to be born with a specific trait or in a particular place. The appropriate laws are currently not adopted commonly due to the inaccuracy of the definition and attributes of such crimes. In the countries with the framed legislation, the severity of prosecution is still arguable. Some might say that the sentencing should not be stricter, while others insist on the more severe punishment for the bias-motivated violence.
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Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). (n.d.). Hate Crimes.
Maher, J., McCulloch, J., & M., Gail. (2015). Punishing gendered violence as hate crime: Aggravated sentences as a means of recognising hate as motivation for violent crimes against women. Australian Feminist Law Journal, 41(1), 177-193. doi:10.1080/13200968.2015.1040148
Treviño, A. J. (2018). The Cambridge handbook of social problems. Cambridge University Press.