- abOut Mgrm
Your columnist Claire Bonello (February 5) writes that all crimes are hate crimes and concludes that extending hate crime legislation to the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression is unwarranted.
The Malta Gay Rights Movement strongly disagrees with this and argues that hate-motivated crime against an individual because of their belonging to a category of people deserves stronger punishment because its effect goes beyond the victims concerned.
When a woman is beaten up because she is black then the effect is felt by all black women in that community since the attack is not personal but based on the woman’s belonging to a particular group. Therefore, any black woman could become a target.
When a couple of teenagers who identify themselves as lesbians are attacked because of their sexual orientation, this makes all of the LGBT community think twice about holding hands in public and making their relationship known. The message such arbitrary violence sends is that it is not safe to be out in public.
Hate crime legislation sends a strong message that such violence is condemned by society and will have serious consequences. If this makes people think twice about using homophobic terms such as pufta then this is an added benefit.
We find it deplorable that the use of such derogatory language can in any way be justified on the basis that it is a generic insult and should therefore go unpunished.
How can we expect young people in schools to come to terms with their LGBT identities when the worst insult their peers can use is pufta? How does it help them to feel safe if such homophobic slurs go unchallenged?
Dr Bonello’s use of the term ‘ghetto’ is also particularly unfortunate. One of the main causes of insularity and lack of societal acceptance is the pervasive invisibility of LGBT citizens. The purposes of hate crime legislation, legislation that has already been adopted in a large number of EU countries, is to empower such individuals to ‘come out’ not only to their immediate peer group but to a wider society, a society that has set clear markers as to their worth as fellow citizens.
This would imply more, not less, integration, and it is significant that such legislation is actively backed by the families of LGBT people.
by Gabi Calleja, Co-ordinator, MGRM, Mosta