7th Conference of European Ministers responsible for Youth 
23-24 September 2005 - Budapest, Hungary 

“Human dignity and social cohesion: youth policy responses to violence”

Vesna Leskosek (Slovenia)

Hate speech is considered as one of the most powerful means of discrimination, especially because it is hard to define and even harder to investigate and prosecute. It is based on the belief that some people are inferior because they belong to a certain group. The main goal of hate speech is to dehumanise those that are targeted by it. The power of an outspoken word of hate has fatal implications. It results in social exclusion not just from one sphere of the welfare triangle (market, state, civil society) but often from all three of them. Hate speech is constitutional part of all sorts of discrimination: racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, anti-gypsism, etc.

Hate speech is especially dangerous because it gives legitimacy to other actions of hatred, like physical attacks or institutional violence. Some of the acts of discrimination are hidden and hard to recognise as such but are based on prejudices against certain person or a group of people. For example Roma people often can not find the job, because employers are convinced that Roma are lazy and thieves. Women can not enter the politics because they are seen primarily as housewives and mothers. Disabled can not enter higher education because they are seen as intellectually incapable to learn or homosexuals hardly find job as teachers because they are seen as dangerous to children.

Hate speech has the most power when it comes from the places of authority, like parliaments, political parties, governments, universities, churches and similar. These are the places that construct our everyday reality and frame our choices and opportunities. On the international level we experienced few cases of hate speech that ended with withdrawal of the candidate from the position. On the national level we are experiencing extreme forms of hate speech without any consequences at all although the impact on the targeted groups is frightening.

The main issues for the youth policy against hate speech as an act of violence are following:

- Responsibility of the individuals or public authorities for the use of hate speech
- Clear definition, that will give better grounds for the prosecution
- Treatment of the hate speech as a crime and changes in the national legislations that will support that
- Examples of the non-discriminatory political campaigns that will contribute to the cultural changes
- Presenting the results of the hate speech and so contributing to greater awareness of the effects
- Support and public advocacy for the groups that are targeted by the hate speech – to enable better self-representation