Bioethics Blogs

Just Another Dead Body? Why Hate Crimes Deserve Special Recognition

Gonzalo Zurita Balderas argues that hate crimes need to be recognized in Mexico.


On June 26, 2015, police officers in Chihuahua, Mexico found a corpse wrapped in a Mexican flag. While the cause of death was eventually determined to be suffocation, there were several stab wounds inflicted prior to the time of death, as well as several gunshot wounds to the face. The body was strategically positioned with hands tied together holding an object that resembled a phallus. The murder victim was dressed as a woman; however, when the authorities carried out the autopsy they found a significant fact: the victim had male genitalia.

How this crime should be designated has generated some controversy. Some local newspapers and even authorities have suggested that this was a crime of passion. Crimes of passion are criminals act prompted by a sudden emotion, such as anger. Perpetrators of crimes of passion often claim to be outside of themselves with no control over their acts. This particular state of mind might otherwise be understood as an emotional experience in which persons lose control over their reflective capacity while performing (often violent) acts. This altered state can be caused by drug abuse or verbal provocations; however, prejudice does not play a central role.

By contrast, LGBT activists have argued that the crime in question was a hate crime. Hate crimes are criminal acts motivated by bias or prejudice against an individual or individuals of a specific marginalized group. Victims of hate crimes are targeted because of the traits that identify them as part of the group in question.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.