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I'm writing to express my concern about the rising tendency of bias-related violence in the US against women and homosexuals. Analysts have noted that bias-related violence against homosexuals has continued to increase in America, with female victims describing their attackers as young males acting in groups who select and assault easy targets. (Belknap, 2014). These incidents imply that the perpetrators possess a deep hatred and anger for their victims. Such violations have been labeled as political terrorism that targets all homosexual men and lesbians, according to activists. In addition, commentators have suggested other antigay violence motives to include; proving heterosexuality purging secret gay and lesbians’ desires and male bonding. The letter will explain the dynamics involved in hidden anti-gay violence and perhaps include several suggestions that may address these concerns. In covering these issues, the letter will integrate the book “Eight Bullets” by Claudia Brenner with the issues and research covered in the course material.
The Book: Eight Bullets by Claudia Brenner
In this book, Brenner & Ashley, (1995) narrates her experience in a horrific shooting attack that left Rebecca Wight, her twenty year old partner, dead and her being seriously wounded. The books outlines the victim’s story of surviving anti-gay violence on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania in a profoundly personal, emotionally enthralling and political energizing account of the occurrences in the attack and the aftermath therein. The book outlines her path to recovery and activism.
Homosexuals and women are frequent victims of hate crimes in America. Miller notes the limitations of criminal justice laws and regulations which seem to ignore their impact on individuals who vary by sexual orientation, race among others (Miller, 1998). It is important to note that this case in not only seen in developed countries but also developing countries. For instance, in the Middle Eastern countries, there are harsh laws meted to those that are found to practice homosexuality and lesbianism. Study reveals that homosexuals are six times more likely to be physically assaulted as Hispanics and Jews in the country and twice as likely as black Americans. Analysts suggest that the violence is frequently motivated by heterosexism and homophobia-giving rise to the most identified culturally legitimated and violent and type of hate crime in America. For example, the shooter in the mentioned book had tremendous hate for homosexuals and women and after he saw the couple enjoying themselves, he began shooting at them without second thought.
Many victims fear reporting verbal or physical harassment against their perpetrators to the relevant authorities for the fear of being subjected to secondary victimization at the hands of the authorities or other people who identify their sexual orientation, subjecting them to additional secondary victimization. Research shows that out of the an average two-thirds of homosexual victims of non-bias crimes reported on the incidents, only a third of the victims reported the incidents to the authorities. Miller notes that feminists have risen with the hope of a social change that will facilitate social control and commitments to education, treatment and prevention (Miller, 1998).
The structural violence against women and homosexuals is a consequence of heterosexism. Psychological heterosexism manifests in individuals behaviors and attitudes while cultural heterosexism manifest in societal customs and institutions to include the legal system and religion. Research shows that in various jurisdictions, gay men and lesbians have no legal resource whenever they are discriminated against. In addition, some laws are themselves discriminatory against the victims. For instance, the U.S laws have facilitated legalized violence against gay men and women. Historically, sodomy laws made same sex relationships punishable by death penalty. While such provisions were removed, several states still struggle to legalize same-gender sexual acts. In the case Bowers v. Hardwick, 1986, the Supreme Court upheld the right of state governments to prosecute individuals for practicing in consensual sexual acts even in the privacy of their own homes. Homosexual individuals were also prohibited from disclosing their sexual orientation in other places such as the military. Such individuals were denied some governments benefits such as family health insurance arrangements and hospital visiting rights as they were not legally identified as family members.
Historical Context of Homosexuality
Many historical commentators outline that sufficient evidence on homosexual activity exists despite the community accepting such relationships or persecuting them as well in every documented culture. In the United States, the gay rights movement has seen tremendous progress over the past few decades. Legislations prohibiting homosexual activity have been removed with LGBT being allowed to openly serve in the military. In addition, the law now recognizes same sex marriages and adoption in all the States. However, this has been a long bumpy road for individuals advocating for gay rights who continue to advocate for equal housing, employment and transgender rights. It is just recently that people have become to accept this group albeit stiff resistance. The extensive campaigns for acceptance have seen this group be represented in various forums such movies. It has gotten to a point where companies that discriminate against the LGBT group end up facing the wrath of the public through boycotts and extensive law suits.
In the United States, Henry Gerber founded the first organization on gay rights in 1924. The small organization published several issues of the first hay-interest newsletter “friendship and freedom”. The group was however disbanded in 1925 after constant police raids. However, today, the Federal government proclaimed Gerber’s House a national historical landmark. Over the next few years, the gay rights movement continued to stagnate with various LGBT individuals across the globe coming into spotlight a few times. In one incidence, Radcliffe, an English author and poet stirred up controversy after she published a lesbian themed novel, “The Well of Loneliness” in 1928. Similarly, during the Second World War, the Nazis gathered gay men in camps and branded them with the infamous pink triangle badge given also to sexual predators. The historical context has seen numerous straggles such as in the homophile years and the Mattachine society, among others. Illinois was the first state to strike out anti-sodomy laws in 1961, which discriminated against homosexuality. In the 1970s, there was an increased visibility and activism of LGBT with numerous progresses in various fronts. However, the AIDS outbreak in the 1980s and 1990s dominated the struggles for homosexual rights. A report was published stating disease occurrences among five homosexual men. Other developments included the DADT policy, the DOMA and the Mathew Shepard Act.
Treatment and Response
Belknap suggests that dealing with anti-gay and women violence is especially challenging given that the norm is not accepted within the society anonymously (Belknap, 2014). There is a fear of tainting the image of the community that openly supports women and homosexual activities. Certain individuals therefore have legitimate fears of having looked down upon by others. Gender role expectations have additionally made this task more challenging with various gender related factors claiming dominance within these relationships. However, while these developments are still at their infancy, researchers suggest that gender role expectations and assumption have little or no influence on the treatment of the victims and offenders by the criminal justice system. However, gay men and women are seen to get discouraged from reporting violations given the infamous relationship with law enforcement agencies.
Religion and Homosexuality
Individual freedom exists as the central principle in the American way of life. However, numerous religious right pressure groups fail to support the notion on personal choice. As a result, religious hostility towards women and LGBT has been evident for many years. Various religious groups have strongly criticized LGBT relationships with others using significant resources to gain dominion over the government. Numerous religious organizations seek to impose their religious line of thoughts on all citizens. As a result, a victim’s religious background has significant effect on response and treatment of their treatment. When individuals disclose their sexual status as being a homosexual, they are likely to face a lot of discrimination and stigmatization. For example in the book eight bullets, certain religious organizations were hesitant to speak out on the attack since they believed that their relationship was immoral and a disgrace to the society.
While various human rights activists continue to wage, war against biased violence on homosexuality, additional efforts are still relevant, both on the institutional and personal framework. The government should increase its efforts on issuing public statements that condemn the use of hate speech in reference to homosexuals and their health and lifestyle. There is need to recognize publicly the gravity and scope of anti-gay violence in America and additionally commit to mitigating steps to end such treatments. The various legislations that touch on such relationships should be amended to cope up with the changing trends on homosexuality and further align to those developed by the international community. Additional legislations should perhaps be enacted to protect the rights of all stakeholders including the children against discrimination in public services. The government should establish an identity on sexual orientation and gender protected category against violence and discrimination in various provisions of U.S civil and criminal laws. With regard to the involvement of religious groups in discrimination, relevant legislations should be implemented to mitigate this issue limiting their involvement in government affairs in protecting the LGBT.
Finally, the government should instruct relevant law enforcement agencies to collect sufficient data on homophobic and heterosexual crimes and make sufficient improvements on the dispensation of justice. Law enforcement officials engaging or promoting such biased discrimination should be held accountable and disciplined accordingly. Persons of the LGBT group have same human rights just like the rest, therefore crime against them is a violation of their human rights. It is certain to note that many people are known to be resistant to change be it in organizations and personal life. It takes time before change is fully effected and it is expected that there is always resistance to any change. The violence that persons from this group experienced in the earlier times has certainly reduced but that doesn’t mean that the pockets of violence they experience today is justified. However of importance to note is that giant steps have been made in the US but not in the developing countries. It remains to be seen whether the steps made in the US laws will be replicated in other countries.
With this few remarks, I hope the letter will be of significance in addressing these issues presented. I look forward to hearing from you.
Belknap, J. (2014). The invisible woman: Gender, crime, and justice. Nelson Education.
Brenner, C., & Ashley, H. (1995). Eight bullets: One woman's story of surviving anti-gay violence. Ithaca, NY: Firebrand Books. Sage Publications.
Miller, S. L. (Ed.). (1998). Crime control and women: Feminist implications of criminal justice. Sage Publications.
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