Violence and destruction

Two perpetrators beat up a gay man and leave him for dead, a man commits vandalism and writes anti-Semitic slogans in a Jewish neighbourhood, a man insults and beats an African healthcare aide, …

    These are examples of hate crimes which - in addition to discrimination (unfavourable treatment based on a protected characteristic) and hate speech (inciting hate, violence or discrimination) - are also prohibited by the antidiscrimination laws.

    A hate crime is made up of two parts:

    • An offence is committed, such as arson, vandalism, assault, harassment, molestation or rape, …
    • And, in addition, there is a hateful motive (in legal terms this is known as a reprehensible motive). This means that the perpetrator specifically chooses the victim because he or she belongs to certain group with one or more protected characteristics. The perpetrator is thus acting out of hatred, contempt or hostility towards that person or group.

    If it is determined to be a hate crime, then the judge can (and sometimes: must) impose a harsher penalty. In committing a hate crime, the perpetrator’s intention is often not only to target a single individual, but to intimidate and destabilise an entire group. The perpetrator is therefore sending a message that - in his or her view - certain people are undesirable in our society.

    How do you prove a reprehensible motive?

    The fact that a victim belongs to a certain group does not in itself prove the reprehensible motive. The perpetrator’s motivation is important. A judge will have to determine whether this reprehensible motive has been proven, and the perpetrator must therefore be given a harsher penalty. In other words, the judge must try to answer the question:

    “Can it be demonstrated that the perpetrator was motivated by contempt, hatred or hostility towards the victim, and this was on the grounds of one of the protected criteria?”

    With hate crimes, it does not in fact matter whether the victim actually possesses the protected characteristic. For example, if the perpetrators attack someone because they think that he is gay (even if he is not), then this also constitutes a hate crime.


    • A man beat up his gay neighbour after a dispute between them had escalated. However, the judge determined that a reprehensible motive could not be demonstrated. After all, it could not be proven that the perpetrator chose his victim because he was gay.
    • Some youths beat up two men who had been walking down the street hand-in-hand, targeting them with homophobic insults. The judge ruled that the reprehensible motive was effectively proven.   

    Are all crimes with a reprehensible motive subject to a harsher penalty?

    No. A harsher penalty based on a reprehensible motive is applied for some crimes, but not all.

    That is why Unia is calling for there to be provisions for these harsher penalties for other crimes. More information on this is available in our evaluation of the antidiscrimination laws.

    Have you personally witnessed or experienced a hate crime?

    Then be sure to report it to the police and to us! Read more.