Saeima committee rejects defining hate crime against sexual minorities

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A majority of the Saeima Criminal Policy Sub-Committee on Tuesday, May 11, rejected proposals to define hate crimes directed against sexual orientation more precisely in the law. The proposal to count crime against sexual orientation as an aggravating circumstance was also rejected.

The criminal law contains articles on encouraging national, ethnic and racial hatred” and encouraging social hatred and intolerance”. But hate crimes are not legally linked to sexual orientation. Saeima deputy Andrejs Judins (New Unity) has proposed to correct it.

“We understand that a person has multiple identities: nationality, religious affiliation. Sexual orientation, too. And if there is a hateful action against someone, there should not be a split that one hate is more serious than the other. Both hostile actions are harmful. They hurt people. And then there has to be one standard,” the MP said.

In addition, the Member proposed to define a crime against sexual orientation as an aggravating circumstance. The members of the sub-committee rejected it, but the proposal will still have to be decided by the Saeima Legal Committee. According to Judins, this could mean that the proposal would remain “hanging in the air.”

Judins' proposals were sharply criticized by Juris Rancāns (New Conservative Party), member of the sub-committee. He questioned the validity of the proposals. He said that there was hysteria in society in relation to hate crimes because of sexual orientation.

“These proposals by Mr Judins do not meet any quality criteria for legislation that we have talked about. Mr Judins' proposals were based on assumptions, feelings and prejudices spread in mass media against Latvia, against the part of Latvia's conservative society, against Latvia as a terribly homophobic country, which is absolutely untrue. Because no facts that could confirm all these assumptions, prejudices and statements was submitted,” Rancāns said.

Deputy Vita Tērauda (Development/For) expressed dissatisfaction at Members' reluctance to listen to and address societal problems.

“The vote was not a surprise. At the same time, it is difficult to see so many Members pretending not to see such crimes happening in our society. Pretending not to hear the Ombudsman warning about hate speech events that are rising in Latvia,” said the deputy.

The Development/For! faction has also tabled similar but far more extensive amendments to the Criminal Law. For example, it is proposed to extend the concept of violence to the understanding of both physical and verbal and emotional violence. The Saeima has passed these amendments to the Legal Affairs Committee. 

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