The Brexit vote to leave the EU has been accompanied by a striking rise in hate crimes in the UK. In light of this, this year’s National Hate Crime Awareness week presents itself as more important than ever to fight back against this division. Hate crime is defined as ‘any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic’. There are five recognised categories of hate crimes: motivated by either race or ethnicity, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, or transgender identity. However, there is currently a legal review underway that could see the introduction of misogyny as a new category of hate.
Hate crimes have been on the rise in the past few years, especially since the Brexit campaign. The latest terrorist attacks have also been an important factor intensifying hate crime in the UK, as some people have wrongfully and unfairly linked the violent actions of ISIS with Muslims living in the UK. A shocking increase of 123% was seen between 2012/13 and 2017/18, with 94,098 crimes recorded in 2017/18, the bulk of these crimes being racially motivated (76% in 2017/18). These were followed by hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation (12%), religiously-based (9%), disability (8%), and transgender identity (2%); however, the biggest rise was in religiously motivated hate crimes, which more than doubled, according to data. The total sum of these percentages is 107 because some of these crimes have more than one motivating factor.
It is believed that the Brexit campaign, the referendum itself, and the current political discourse are adding fuel to the fire when it comes to the rising levels of hate crime. The xenophobic rhetoric that has become normalised in the political discourse since the Brexit campaign, with the latest example being Boris Johnson’s Islamophobic comments about the burka, is helping to reinforce existing stereotypes about minority communities and immigrants in the UK. It has been because of this change in discourse that some individuals are now feeling legitimised to express their feelings of hate, while at the same time stoking hatred in the minds of others.
Some examples of these hateful acts include the case of a Polish woman being attacked in the street for speaking Polish, a Muslim women being dragged along the floor by her hijab, and two Muslim cousins being sprayed with acid. Stereotypes are very dangerous because they stigmatise entire communities based on false premises, motivating their exclusion and marginalisation. When these stereotypes are legitimised by figures of power, such as politicians, the results can be horrifying, as has proven to be the case in the UK. Politicians should then pay special attention to their words if we are to reduce the growing trend in hate offences.
Hate crimes are a growing problem in our society and action must be taken to control this situation. Steps are being taken, with misogyny potentially becoming classed as a hate crime, which is welcome news as at JAN Trust we have seen first-hand the discrimination that women face because of their gender. At JAN Trust, we believe in encouraging respect and acceptance within communities and embracing diversity. That is why we raise awareness to prevent hate crime, particularly against refugee, asylum-seeking and Muslim women. Visit our website saynotohatecrime.org to find out more about the work we do to tackle hate crime. We must continue to work together to put an end to hatred!