A hate crime is defined as ‘Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.’
A hate incident is any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Monday released its annual Hate Crimes Statistics report, 2019, which says that last year more than 7,000 criminal incidents and over 8,500 related offences were motivated by bias towards race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, and disability, gender and gender identity. Hate crime incidents recorded in 2019 are the highest recorded in more than a decade, according to the report.
The report is compiled by the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) programme, which relied on 2019 data provided by over 15,500 law enforcement agencies across the US on offences, victims, offenders and locations of hate crimes.
Types of hate crime:
Hate crime can fall into one of three main types: physical assault, verbal abuse and incitement to hatred.
Physical assault of any kind is an offence.
Depending on the level of the violence used, a perpetrator may be charged with common assault, actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm.
Verbal abuse, threats or name-calling can be a common and extremely unpleasant experience for minority groups.
Victims of verbal abuse are often unclear whether an offence has been committed or believe there is little they can do.
Incitement to hatred
The offence of incitement to hatred occurs when someone acts in a way that is threatening and intended to stir up hatred. That could be in words, pictures, videos, music, and includes information posted on websites.
Hate content may include:
- messages calling for violence against a specific person or group
- web pages that show pictures, videos or descriptions of violence against anyone due to their perceived differences
- Chat forums where people ask other people to commit hate crimes against a specific person or group.
Hate Crimes in India:
- Studies of hate crimes in India show that they have steadily risen over the past five years. Amnesty International India documented 721 such incidents between 2015 and 2018.
- Last year alone, it tracked 218 hate crimes, 142 of which were against Dalits, 50 against Muslims, 40 against women, and eight each against Christians, Adivasis, and transgender.
- The more common hate crimes, they found, were honour killings — that have sadly occurred for decades — and ‘cow-related violence’, that was rare earlier but has become more frequent over the past five years.
Measures to fight hate crime:
- One of the policy issues that is high on the administration’s list is dealing with incitement to violence through social media.
- But the focus is on hate in relation to terrorism, and it is unclear whether government policy will extend to cover hate crime.
- The digital media is not the only offender.
- In fact, there are several obvious steps which would be easier to take and yield more immediate results than regulation of the digital media.
- Parliament could enact an omnibus act against hate crime, and the Home Minister could set benchmarks for policemen and administrators to deal with hate crime.
- The legislature and political parties could suspend or dismiss members who are implicated in hate crimes or practise hate speech.
- The electronic and print media could stop showing or publishing hateful comments and threats.
- Priests could preach the values of tolerance and respect that are common to all religions and schools could revitalise courses on the directive principles of our Constitution.
For a demographically diverse country such as India, hate crimes — including crimes of contempt — are a disaster. Each of our religious and caste community’s number in the millions, and crimes that are directed against any of these groups could result in a magnitude of disaffection that impels violence, even terrorism. Far less diverse countries than India are already suffering the result of hate ‘moving into the mainstream’, as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently highlighted. We can still contain its spread if we act resolutely.