In This Article Hate Crime Legislation

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Origins and Definitions of the Term “Hate Crime”
  • Historical Context of Hate Crime Legislation
  • Hate Crime Legislation in the United States and Canada
  • Hate Crime Legislation in Europe
  • Hate Crime Legislation in the Asia-Pacific Region
  • Common Features of Hate Crime Legislation
  • The Issue of Protected Categories
  • The Hate Crime Legislation Debate

Criminology Hate Crime Legislation
Susann Wiedlitzka
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 November 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 September 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0206


Hate crime is a problem in many countries around the world. Scholars define hate crimes as unlawful conduct directed at different target groups, not only including violent acts, but also property damage, harassment and trespassing (see Green, et al. 2001, cited under Origins and Definitions of the Term “Hate Crime”). Perpetrators commit hate crime motivated by prejudice not only against their victim’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or disability, but also against a variety of different target characteristics. One way to better understand hate crime is to explore how governments in different parts of the world address the issue of crimes motivated by hate or prejudice. Targeted laws and policies transformed hate violence from ordinary to extraordinary crime (see Bleich 2007, cited under General Overviews). Western countries moved away from a system of rehabilitation, welfare, and humanitarianism, and moved toward punitive, retributive, and law and order measures (see Mason 2009, cited under Hate Crime Legislation in the Asia-Pacific Region). Several social movements (e.g., the civil rights movement, women’s movement, and LGBT movement) laid the foundation for anti-violence movements and placed the hate crime discourse on the political and legislative agenda. Different countries implemented hate crime legislation in order to condemn crime committed due to prejudice or bias against an individual or group of people, introducing such legislation during different periods in time. The United States emerged as the leader of hate crime policy approaches, implementing legal responses to prejudice and bias in the early 20th century. The United States was also the first country to circulate the term “hate crime” during the 1980s (see Green, et al. 2001, cited under Origins and Definitions of the Term “Hate Crime”). Following such actions in the United States, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region followed suit in implementing their own responses to hate crime. The diversity of hate crime legislation in different countries makes it difficult to combine the legislative contexts under a common framework. Federal and state laws differ globally in their protection of certain categories of victims, as well as utilizing different jurisdictional legislative frameworks. A controversial debate exists around the need for a separate set of hate crime legislation. Scholars dispute the seriousness of the hate crime offense, the possibilities of proving motivational aspects of the hate crime, criminalizing hate, and introducing more severe punishments. They also debate the utilization of the civil versus the criminal code, the inclusion of different protected categories under hate crime legislation, the symbolic character of hate crime, and the social and political impact of hate crime legislation. This bibliography reviews key resources on hate crime legislation, including its historical context, its globalization, and the socio-criminological debate around hate crime legislation.

General Overviews

Scholars have dedicated a number of texts to the topic of hate crime, including some discussion around the legislative aspects that governments have introduced in varying countries. In the United States legislative context, Streissguth 2003 introduces the law of hate crime (chapter 2), referring to federal and state legislation and court cases, as well as providing a detailed chronology of hate crime history in the United States (chapter 3). Gerstenfeld 2013 (chapter 2) summarizes different legislative approaches to hate crime (e.g., penalty enhancement, substantive offense), including a discussion around specialized state laws, additional legislated regulations (i.e., recording of hate crime statistics, law enforcement training), as well as a discussion around the issue of hate speech in hate crime legislation. Levin and McDevitt 1993 discusses the four main categories of federal remedies for hate crime and the reasons for their limited use, as well as different state-level legislation, underlining these legislative frameworks with detailed example cases. Jenness and Grattet 2001 offers a detailed discussion of federal hate crime legislation in the United States, including information on the inclusion of different protected categories and the institutionalization of the law (chapter 3), as well as covering state-based legislation, including the different phrasing of hate motivation, variation in content, and the homogenization and differentiation of hate crime legislation in the United States (chapter 4). The legislative context on the European Continent is very diverse. Bleich 2007 briefly sums up how governments address hate crime in Britain, Germany, and France. In the Asia-Pacific region, McNamara 2002 reviews different legislative frameworks around racial vilification legislation utilized in different states and territories across Australia; some jurisdictions, however, did not address racial vilification until after 2002. Gelber and Stone 2007 is also a comprehensive edited book on anti-vilification legislation in Australia, additionally addressing freedom of speech concerns. On a more global scale, Winterdyk and Antonopoulos 2008 is a book on racist victimization that makes reference to hate crime legislation in multiple countries, including Australia, Canada, England and Wales, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, and the United States. Hall 2013 (chapter 7) examines theoretical and practical issues around hate crime legislation and law enforcement, discussing the United States and Britain. Gerstenfeld 2013 (chapter 8 and appendix A) draws attention to the issue of hate crime around the world, including a discussion of hate crime and legislative frameworks in five countries (Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Croatia). Significant scholarship on hate crimes and hate crime legislation in Africa is still outstanding, and a substantial exploration of the topic is necessary.

  • Bleich, Erik. 2007. Hate crime policy in Western Europe: Responding to racist violence in Britain, Germany, and France. American Behavioral Scientist 51.2: 149–165.

    DOI: 10.1177/0002764207306047E-mail Citation »

    Discusses racist violence and the responses and policies implemented to tackle hate crime in three western European countries: Britain, Germany, and France.

  • Gelber, Katharine, and Adrienne Stone, eds. 2007. Hate speech and freedom of speech in Australia. Sydney: Federation Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive edited volume on the questions and developments around anti-vilification legislation in Australia, including background information, practical implications, and human rights concerns. Suitable for anyone with a hate crime law focus.

  • Gerstenfeld, Phyllis B. 2013. Hate crimes: Causes, controls, and controversies. 3d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    E-mail Citation »

    This is a comprehensive interdisciplinary textbook on the topic of hate crime and is useful for both undergraduate and graduate students. It is the third edition of the original publication (2003), including suggested readings at the end of each chapter, as well as In Focus boxes and Narrative Portraits.

  • Hall, Nathan. 2013. Hate Crime. 2d ed. Crime and Society Series. New York: Routledge.

    E-mail Citation »

    Cross-disciplinary accumulation of topics, including issues and theoretical perspectives around hate crime law and law enforcement, exploration of hate crime responses, and challenges for hate crime legislation. This second edition of the original publication (2005) is suitable for academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students, criminal justice practitioners, and policymakers.

  • Jenness, Valerie, and Ryken Grattet. 2001. Making hate a crime: From social movement to law enforcement. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    E-mail Citation »

    Provides a detailed account of the emergence and evolvement of hate crime legislation in the US context, including comprehensive chapters on federal and state-based legislation. Suitable for students and researchers interested in US-based hate crime legislation.

  • Levin, Jack, and Jack McDevitt. 1993. Hate crimes: The rising tide of bigotry and bloodshed. New York and London: Plenum.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4899-6108-2E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive account of the hate crime problem, covering a typology of hate offenses and effective responses to combat hate crime. Very detailed examples used throughout the book. Suitable for anyone interested in the issue of hate crime in the United States.

  • McNamara, Luke. 2002. Regulating racism: Racial vilification laws in Australia. Sydney: Institute of Criminology, Univ. of Sydney.

    E-mail Citation »

    Topical examination of racial vilification legislation in Australia. It includes the historical background, the operation of racial vilification laws up until 2002, and the role and limits of Australian hate crime legislation.

  • Streissguth, Thomas. 2003. Hate crimes. Library in a Book. New York: Facts on File.

    E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive introduction to hate crime literature in the American context. Provides students and researchers with additional materials, such as bibliographical listings and a fully annotated bibliography. Revised edition published in 2009.

  • Winterdyk, John, and Georgios Antonopoulos, eds. 2008. Racist victimization: International reflections and perspectives. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

    E-mail Citation »

    This is a broad-ranging edited volume covering racist victimization in an international comparative context. Contributors address the historical background, the legal system, and the extent of and response to hate crime in Australia, Canada, England and Wales, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, and the United States.

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