What is hate speech?

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

All forms of intolerant expressions are often put together under an often used label: “hate speech”. However, this broadly used phrase does not have a definition in international or domestic law.

ILGA-Europe considers that all manifestations of intolerance and prejudice targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people are per se reasons to combat prejudice, to promote dialogue, education and mutual respect and to achieve full social inclusion.

The term is usually used to refer to expression that is abusive, insulting, intimidating or harassing and/or which incites to violence, hatred or discrimination against groups identified by a specific set of characteristics. For example, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers has indicated that the term “hate speech” includes:

[A]ll forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination and hostility towards minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin.

The lack of a uniform definition of “hate speech” is also reflected in domestic legislation. In many States, prohibitions are often formulated in impermissibly broad terms. However, as this policy paper illustrates, it is only in very narrow circumstances that States are required by international human rights law to prohibit the most severe forms of “hate speech” – the advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to hostility, discrimination or violence. Any restrictions on “hate speech”, including incitement, must respect the right to freedom of expression.

ILGA-Europe usually refers LGBTI-phobic hate speech as bias motivated speech as it is a more precise definition as it underlines the bias as the main reason for the violence or speech.

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