Europeans think hate crimes against LGBT people hurt more, new research finds

Equality Parade in Warsaw. Credits: Lambda Warsaw

PL: Ten artykuł jest w języku angielskim. Polskie tłumaczenie fragmentu raportu dotyczącego Polski opublikujemy wkrótce.

  • 54 per cent of the population in 10 EU member states believe that lesbians, gay men and bisexual people avoid holding hands with a same-sex partner on the street for fear of being attacked.
  • 55 per cent of respondents think that transgender persons avoid expressing their gender identity through their physical appearance and clothes for the same reason.
  • A similar number believe that hate crimes have more severe consequences than other crimes.
  • Six in ten respondents believe that crimes motivated by bias based on sexual orientation should be punished more severely.

Fear and consequences of hate crime

The survey, commissioned by the Polish LGBT organisation Lambda Warsaw on behalf of the Call It Hate project consortium, asked respondents in 10 EU states to say if they agree or disagree with three statements about the direct and indirect consequences of hate crimes for LGBT people.

D2. Please state to what extent you agree or disagree with each of the following statements. Source: Call It Hate.

54 per cent of respondents in the 10 countries included in the research believe that lesbians, gay men and bisexual people avoid holding hands in public with a same-sex partner for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed. Slightly more (55 per cent) think that transgender people avoid expressing their gender identity through their physical appearance and clothes for the same reason. A similar number think that, when people are victimised because of something about themselves that they cannot change, like their sexual orientation or gender identity, the effects on them are worse than if they had been victimised for another reason.

At the country level there is a visible diversity of opinions on all three statements.

D2. Please state to what extent you agree or disagree with each of the following statements: Transgender people avoid expressing their gender identity through their physical appearance and clothes for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed – country comparison. Source: Call It Hate.

D2. Please state to what extent you agree or disagree with each of the following statements: Lesbians, gay men and bisexual people avoid holding hands in public with a same-sex partner for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed – country comparison. Source: Call It Hate.

Respondents in Poland and Slovenia seem to be most aware of the effects the fear of victimisation has on LGBT people. On the other end of the spectrum, respondents in Hungary and Belgium are least likely to agree with the given statements.

D2. Please state to what extent you agree or disagree with each of the following statements: When people are victimised because of something about themselves that they cannot change, like their sexual orientation or gender identity, the effects on them are worse than if they had been victimised for another reason – country comparison. Source: Call It Hate.

Considering the consequences, respondents in Lithuania most readily agree that hate crimes hurt more than other crimes – 69 per cent of respondents think so. On the other end of the scale, less than half (46 per cent) of Bulgarians agree with the statement.

Hate crime laws

The survey polled the respondents’s support for higher penalties for hate crimes. As a reference case, the research asked about a common crime motivated by financial gain (e.g., robbery, pickpocketing).

 

  Disability Financial gain Race or colour National or ethnic origin Gender Sexual orientation Religion Transgender status
Croatia 83.2% 80.7% 79.8% 78.1% 74.7% 74.8% 76.3% 72.4%
Italy 78.2% 68.8% 72.7% 70.1% 70.2% 71.3% 68.2% 69.7%
Slovenia 79.2% 68.3% 69.3% 64.3% 67.8% 65.8% 65.5% 61.5%
Belgium 72.2% 67.1% 67.0% 64.0% 67.0% 65.6% 62.6% 65.8%
Ireland 67.4% 61.6% 66.4% 65.4% 63.7% 64.4% 61.5% 62.9%
Poland 72.0% 67.1% 64.9% 64.9% 61.3% 59.7% 61.7% 56.8%
Bulgaria 72.4% 78.7% 58.6% 60.5% 57.8% 49.9% 57.9% 46.1%
Lithuania 68.0% 69.5% 56.5% 53.0% 53.6% 49.8% 51.3% 50.8%
UK 62.0% 52.4% 56.8% 55.3% 55.2% 55.0% 52.6% 53.1%
Hungary 65.7% 65.0% 53.4% 51.6% 55.5% 52.2% 49.8% 46.8%
All countries 71.3% 67.1% 64.3% 62.7% 62.4% 60.8% 60.5% 58.7%

According to respondents, all types of crimes included in the question should carry a higher sentence. In particular, at least half of the respondents believe that crimes motivated by financial gain (i.e. non-heinous crimes) should be sentenced more harshly. More respondents (at least 62 per cent in the UK) think that crimes motivated by bias based on disability should carry a harsher punishment. With respect to all other hate crime strands, respondents expressed less support for elevated sentencing than in the reference case. In this group, the highest level of support for elevated sentences was recorded for racist (between 53.4 per cent in Hungary and 79.8 per cent in Croatia) and xenophobic crimes (between 51.6 per cent in Hungary and 78.1 per cent in Croatia). Respondents agree with higher sentencing for crimes related to sexual orientation most frequently in Croatia (74.8 per cent) and least frequently in Hungary (52.2 per cent). The support for recognising the transgender status as a protected ground was slightly lower.

– We can conclude that, while many Europeans do observe the additional harms caused by hate crime, as well as its societal consequences, like the fear it generates, it does not necessarily mean that they automatically support higher penalties for bias-motivated violence – said the principal investigator in the research, Dr Piotr Godzisz from Lambda Warsaw. – From the point of view of policymakers and campaigners there is still a lot to do in terms of not just enforcing the hate crime legislation, but also making sure that citizens understand what it stands for and why it’s there.

The survey was carried out on representative samples of societies in 10 EU states (Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom) with varying levels of social acceptance of LGBT people and different legal approaches to hate crimes. The fieldwork was conducted in 2018 by an international consortium of polling agencies managed by Kantar Poland. Significant differences at the level of 5 per cent.

The international research project Call It Hate is led by the University of Brescia (Italy) and Lambda Warsaw (Poland). It is co-funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship programme 2014-2020.

The whole report Awareness of Anti-LGBT Hate Crime in the European Union may be downloaded from the Call It Hate project website.