National Library of New Zealand
Harvested by the National Library of New Zealand on: Apr 11 2015 at 18:26:36 GMT
Search boxes and external links may not function. Having trouble viewing this page? Click here
Close Minimize Help
Wayback Machine
GayNZ Logo & Link
Sunday 12 April 2015

Hate crime: What action is society going to take?

Posted in: Features
By Diane Sparkes - 12th March 2013

The process of denying another's right to be who they are and creating fear by actions of verbal or physical assault is an offence against the very core of any civilised society.

It cannot and must not go on without serious consequences; failure to ignore this issue places the basic fabric of society at risk.

Hate is an element within society that wherever it exists some individual will become a lesser person, and the perpetrator of the hate will take control of not only the victim but those close to them. There will therefore be not just one victim but many others who will be affected to varying degrees.

It is for this reason it must not be tolerated.

The power of control over another person or person’s feeds the perpetrators needs and in their eyes demonstrates them as greater beings.

This process is not uncommon, in fact history relates the many that have succeeded in obtaining total control of their subjects, but the result on society as a whole is never a positive one.

There can be no defence against a crime of hate, it is insidious in our society and it is societies purpose to let the whole of society know that it will not be tolerated.

Whenever a person makes a decision to assault verbally or physically, a person intentionally because they are different, of how they identify, a down fall of society itself can be the only result.

Many countries overseas have recognised this and have brought into their laws the Crime of Hate, some like the UK; last year even raised the maximum penalty for hate crime from 15 years to 30 years.

The reality is that worldwide; hate crime is increasing and must be stopped.

Is there any reason to think New Zealand is any different, certainly the numbers will be less because of population differences but that does not mean it does not exist. Many police diversity liaison officers (DLO) will tell you crimes that are hate oriented are definitely out there. Sadly for the rest of society, because statistics on these crimes are not collected specifically, society actually does not know whether it is a major issue or not and neither do those who make our laws.

This kind of chicken and egg situation, of tell us the statistics and we will do something is so stupid if statistics are not collected. This is the first step in finding out, but of course it does have a cost, something our politicians are reluctant to do at this time, but we are talking of the safety of the society we live in! Can anyone explain why that should stop a law being introduced anyway? After all if there if there no occasions to use it nothing is lost.

More than that it would mean no hate crime in this country; a first to be proud of, however I believe that would never happen.

This brings to mind the thought that while this country is proud to have positive results on the world stage (votes for women) there are other statistics very much in question, (youth suicide as an example).

The responsibility for being involved in certain worldwide statistics is the duty of those whose duty it is to create our laws, is this law being rejected because of the uncertainty of just where we would stand on hate crime? While such a legislative crime does not exist there can be no statistics and no ranking can be made, (head in the sand stuff).

One statistic that New Zealand rates highly in (actually #1) is youth suicide (a sad reflection on our society), that's right we have the highest rate of youth suicide in the world.

Work on this fact is being taken up by many organisations', but they are all hampered by the serious lack of funding, however they have identified that bullying seems to be prevalent in many cases, a factor also found in overseas cases.

Bullying is another form of hate (not accepting another for who they are or how they identify), accepting that being the case, can we really say hate crimes don't exist.

On another line of thought, bullying seems to start mainly in the school years. But think about this!, little bullies (if not stopped) grow up to be big bullies don't they, and when they bully someone in our society for being different, like being Gay, being Lesbian, transgender or even disabled. That is a crime with a bias against, what the victim stands for or how they present themselves, in many countries that is a "Hate Crime" and carries penalties greater than that for a crime without the hate bias.

Not in New Zealand.

This one surprised me, I just mentioned the disabled; sadly, that rates in the (2011-2012) UK hate crime figures at 4% of a total of 44,000, closely followed by sexual orientation at 10% with the largest rate for race.

Although the figures for Transgender hate crimes are relatively low at 1%, the most likely answer for that is the reluctance of many who are transgender that do not wish to be identified as such, and keep quiet. It is also important to understand that the greatest number of transgender people who are included in these statistics will be those who have transitioned to female, (crimes against women). While this figure (1%) might seem insignificant; it is, Unless you are the victim.

Regardless of the figures in New Zealand we like to believe we are a safe country to live in, however at a recent meeting I attended on the problems facing the Auckland K’road community, the violence is increasing with a great majority being those in the LGB&T groups, the marginalised in our communities.

Sorry to say Hate Crime is definitely a NZ issue, getting our politicians to admit it is another thing, but maybe most think that is OK after all we have been discriminated against forever, so what does it matter. But is that what our society finds acceptable, I certainly don’t, neither does my family and I should know, I am currently trying to have the police take appropriate action against someone who has assaulted me because of who I am, a 72 year old trans woman, no other reason.

But in fairness to the police their hands are tied because we/they have no appropriate law of Hate Crime on our statutes. Stupidly the Sentencing Act does include and make some allowance for hate crime to be considered at the time of sentence, but is not that a little like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff!

Creating in law, a Crime of Hate, in my mind is like the fence at the top of the cliff, it is there to warn everyone of the danger and consequences of venturing further.

My plea to all who believe this issue is worth fighting for; please write with your story if you have one, your MP and the Minister of Justice or both. It is just possible this omission from our laws is a result of the general feeling that NZ is a safe place to be. At the recent big day out festival I asked the leader of the opposition Hon. David Shearer if he was aware this law did not exist, surprisingly he was not!

Cannot say of our PM; Hon. John Key.  

Diane Sparkes - 12th March 2013

   Bookmark and Share