EUROPE/NORTH AMERICA

Anti-Gay Violence on the Rise in Europe and North America

 

New report offers ten-point plan for reducing hate crimes
 

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■ A Russian Orthodox priest blesses a fascist skinhead prior to an anti-gay demonstration in Moscow in 2006.
 

NEW YORK, June 6, 2007  –  A new survey of hate crimes in Europe by a leading human rights organization finds a rising level of crimes committed against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, even as governments generally fail to monitor or report those crimes.

The report was released today by Human Rights First at a meeting on combating discrimination held in Bucharest, Romania by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

“The growing public presence of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community in many countries has resulted in a violent backlash,” said Maureen Byrnes, executive director of Human Rights First.

“These crimes often go unreported because the bias and stigma against these groups remain high and many governments fail to offer sufficient protections for victims of anti-gay crime.”

Human Rights First’s 2007 Hate Crime Survey is the most recent report which examines hate-driven violence in the region from the Russian Federation and the Central Asian states across Europe to North America (the countries of the 56-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe).

The survey includes companion reports on anti-Semitism and Islam phobia and spotlights certain countries in greater detail. For example:

  • In February 2006, a group of boys confessed to murdering a Brazilian transgender woman living in isolation in Portugal.
  • Also in February 2006, an 18-year-old male wounded three people with a hatchet and a handgun at a gay bar in the United States.
  • In March 2006, several people entered a private party in Croatia organized by a gay and lesbian group, attacking victims with glass bottles.

“In countries in which LGBT people have become more visible, their increased public presence has in some cases brought with it a rise in homophobic rhetoric and a violent backlash” the report finds.

“Such was the case when gay pride events were held in five eastern European cities during the spring and summer of 2006.”

“Only ten countries in Europe and North America currently have laws which enable a sexual orientation bias to be considered an aggravating circumstance in the commission of a crime,” the study continues.

“Even fewer – just Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States – have made a commitment to monitor such attacks in their official reporting on hate crimes.  Leaders of the gay communities in many countries charge that there is a serious underreporting of these crimes, due in part to anti-gay prejudices – both real and perceived – on the part of the police.

“NGOs in a number of countries have sought to fill the information void with data collection of their own.”

Although countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden and the United States are improving policies for the reporting of anti-gay crimes, the widespread lack of data on these crimes indicates that underreporting is still a major problem.

Among other recommendations in its survey, Human Rights First urges governments to adopt stricter laws, provide more resources to law enforcement and establish official systems to monitor and report hate crimes on a regular basis.

To view the full report, including all 10 recommendations for governments, please visit http://www.humanrightsfirst.org. For the companion report, please click here.

Posted: 7 June 2007 at 22:30 UK time

 

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