19 July, 2014

When hate turns friends into murders

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Category: European Action Day
Gubaz Koberidze
12 pm

Hatecrime-3[1]Written by: Eirik Rise

What I am about to tell you is a gruesome story about a 23 year old who fell victim to homophobic violence in an unimaginable cruel manner. I don’t even like to tell you this story. But sometimes strong stories is what we need in order to open our eyes and understand why we need to work to improve our societies and protect Human Rights for all. This story is a story about why hate crime pose such a threat to the Human Rights of all people.

Three friends in their twenties were drinking together. Being friends it can’t have been the first time they were together, you could imagine them feeling safe, confident on each other. As the level of alcohol rose, the barriers lowered. Perhaps it was one of those moments when you felt like you could say anything to each other. Perhaps you were even challenged to share something personal.

No matter how it came out, at some point one of them, a 23 year old, managed to tell the other that he was gay. This was when it became insane. And the insanity was not him being gay, but their reaction. What was three friends drinking together turned into an act of pure cruelty. Those who had been his friends turned against him, and not only that, they violated him in a most degrading way.

The act can only be described as torture. He was raped with bottles. He has his genitals mutilated. And to end it all, he had his head squashed with a 20 kg heavy rock.

This is where you might think it ended, but the crime wasn’t just in the actions in themselves, but in the lack of recognising and bringing justice to the fact that homophobia lead to the killing of a person in a way unimaginable to a democratic and Human Rights based society.

Afterwards the perpetrators defended themselves by claiming homophobia. They couldn’t help themselves; it was him being gay that was to blame. This taking place in Russia, one of the most homophobic societies in Europe, the line of defense was not only acceptable, but met with understanding.

The parents of the victim didn’t either accept their sons’ sexuality. Perhaps out of fear of the homophobia of others. Or perhaps they failed to accept it themselves. Russia has no hate crime legislation. They don’t recognize the need of protecting minorities from hate crime.

The victim will not receive justice in a society where homophobia is institutionalized. Imagine a trial where the sympathy goes to the perpetrators, not the victim. The homophobia leading to the horrible crime would not be challenged. Imagine his funeral where his sexuality was not spoken of, but hushed down.

The online comment fields reinforced this. People were saying the victim deserved it. And not just him, all gay people should be killed. What kind of signal does that send to LGBT-people in Russia? What kind of signal does that send to society in large?

When the local LGBT-association wished to have a public commemoration in the victims’ memory, they were denied by the authorities. They were not allowed to use their freedom of assembly to give the victim the slightest justice he would not get anywhere else.

This is the problem of hate crime. The hate and the anger of the perpetrator didn’t just make them harm the victim, to them it justified torturing a person in a way that completely derive that person of their Human Dignity. The fact is that doing so even was the intention of the crime.

Secondly it didn’t just terrorize the victim; it shook terror into the minds of all LGBT-people who once again got reinforced that they, for just being who they are, can provoke violence and torture in the worst inhumane way imaginable.

That’s why we need to address hate crime and see the consequences of the hate speech that is making young people believe that they have societal permission to engage in homophobic and transphobic violence – and hate crime in general.

Laws must protect the people in the society where we live and we need to make sure that society is inclusive of all its citizens and that the norms in society does not decide who is equal to the law or not. All people must be equal to the law.

That’s why we need that all states ensure to have an active legislation on hate crime that protects minorities and sends a signal to society that hate is no justification for violence. And that states commemorate and support civil society in commemorating the victims of hate crime.

Infographics on homophobic and transphobic hate crime: www.freetoexpress.me/hatecrime






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