What is hate crime?

Read in this section how ILGA-Europe understands and define hate crime and related terms...

Hate crimes are offences that are motivated by hate or by bias against a particular group of people. This could be based, inter alia, on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age or disability. Also called bias crime.

Anti-LGBTI hate crimes are those in which victims are chosen because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

  • This kind of crimes may include property crimes (like robbery), threats, harassment, intimidation or actual acts of physical violence such as physical assault, battery, sexual assault, rape, torture, attempted murder, or murder.
  • These actions may be caused by cultural, religious, or political mores and biases, though the extent to which these groups influence violence against LGBT individuals is an ongoing matter of debate.
  • People who are merely perceived to be LGBTI (but who are actually not) may also be targeted.

What is the difference between a hate crime and any other crime?

  • Hate crimes are unique because they have a social connotation in their aim and consequences: they intend to send messages to entire groups - as well as to their families and other supporters - that they are unwelcome and unsafe in particular communities. For example many LGBTI hate crimes are comitted by young people who often believe that they have societal permission to engage in homophobic violence commit most anti-LGBTI hate crimes.
  • What sets hate crimes apart from other acts of violence is the psychological damage that they leave behind. Although any type of victimisation carries with it psychological consequences, certain types of emotional reactions are more frequent among survivors of hate crimes. These feelings include depression, anxiety, fear, stress and anger.

Hate crimes under-reported

As many reports and surveys are confirm, sunch as the report Crime and prejudice and OSCE annual hate crime report 2009, survivors of hate crimes are less likely than victims of other types of violence to report attacks against them to the police.

Reasons for not reporting include

  • Lack of confidence in the police
    • Minority groups, including LGBT communities, have historically had strained relations with law enforcement and fear that crimes against them will not be taken seriously or that the police reaction will be unsympathetic or hostile. As Amnesty International outlines in many countries exist what is called Institutionalised prejudice; that means that lesbians, bisexuals, gay men and transgendered people who come into contact with the law for other reasons may be targeted for abuse, in particular rape and other sexual violence.
  • Anticipated negative reaction
  • Fear of being charged with an offence for e.g. public sexual activity
  • Fear of being exposed
    • Victims of anti-LGBTI hate crimes may also be concerned that reporting attacks against them may expose them to increased risk by being exposed to families and communities as a sexual minority.
  • Concern about revenge attacks or fear of retribution
    • One of the main reasons for not reporting is to avoid the risk of what is called "secondary victimisation" usually occurring during the post persecution period.
  • Acceptance of violence and abuse
    • Many hate crime survivors suffer the trauma of victimization in silence rather than to expose themselves to these forms of "secondary victimisation."


23 out of the 49 European countries have specific legal provisions making it an aggravating factor if crimes are committed with a homophobic and biphobic motive. Only 11 out of 49 European countries (including Scotland (in the United Kingdom) and some regions in Spain) have a similar legal provision regarding gender identity. Even in these countries assaults and violent attacks against individuals are frequently unreported, undocumented and therefore often unpunished.

European countries need to facilitate effective measures for reporting and data collection to ensure effective protection, which have been recommended by the Committee of Ministers Recommendation of the Council of Europe (March 2010).

Stay informed
For media
You are here: Home > Issues we work on > Hate crime & hate speech > What is hate crime?