Recent waves of highly visible and mediatised anti-LGBT attacks have shocked the Spanish news and politics. Politicians and public administrations have been expected to condemn or comment on the physical and verbal attacks as they were broadcasted via social media and more conventional media, and as the tempo of news cycles and that of police investigations and reports clashed and conflicted. After the shocking new development of the supposed group attack in Malasaña, Madrid on September the 5th and its contrast to less visible incidents and attacks in Toledo, Castelló, Melilla, Sant Celoni, and València in the immediate days, anti-LGBT attacks and their subsequent responses are still under the spotlight. Anti-LGBT attacks and discrimination, frequently understood under the concept of hate crimes, act as a measurement of a country and even region’s progressiveness and social inclusiveness. The political and legal responses, on the other hand, also act as a comparison tool between public institutions, political parties, and other organisations.
Both the Malasaña case and the brutal murder of Samuel Luiz in A Coruña on July the 3rd have brought to the forefront the difficult relation between the social expectations of police investigations and officers, conventional media, and the fast responses of social media. Police officers, just as other public institutions, are seldom trusted by victims of anti-LGBT attacks, harassment, and discrimination, as stated by surveys such as that of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency. The feeling that a formal complaint or report would not change anything, the expectation of mistreatment or a secondary victimisation, or the feeling that dealing with the incident on one’s own will be more useful are among the main reasons. This contrasts with the public and legal mandate of administrations and police forces to combat discrimination according to both Spain-wide generic laws and to specific LGBT and trans laws in many Autonomous Communities. The lack of public funding for these laws’ instruments and provisions may be to blame for their apparent ineffectiveness.
However, recent public debates sparked by publications such as Alianzas rebeldes: Un feminismo más allá de la identidad (coordinated by Clara Serra, Cristina Garaizábal and Laura Macaya, and published by Bellaterra Edicions) have shifted at least part of the conversation towards the adequacy, or lack thereof, of punitive or punish-centric solutions. Both the existing regional LGBT laws and the foreseeable Spain-wide LGBT and trans law may focus on administrative sanctions or fines as the main correction tool, as a punitive response to those behaviours understood as anti-LGBT or LGBTphobic. Similarly, the direct aftermath of high-profile cases such as those of A Coruña and Madrid resurrected debates on social media that went beyond self-defence and reached attack-, retribution-, and punishment-based responses to anti-LGBT attacks and incidents. These views, as well as a focus on the actual perpetrators as antisocial or peripheral individuals, may shift the public debate away from more societal responses to anti-LGBT prejudice, as well as from broader or more structural understandings of their origins and explanation.
Comprehensive education has been argued for as a more effective and radical solution, as it would tackle not simply the problem’s offshoot but its roots. Education could also be a wider tool for a societal cultural shift beyond a punitive approach to justice. Restorative justice may be an additional understanding of how responsibility, compensation, and reparation are allocated and distributed. A restorative approach may be particularly useful for anti-LGBT prejudices and attacks as they may include a wider range of participants beyond the direct victim and offender, a fact likely to positively affect such a collective phenomenon as anti-LGBT incidents. Beyond these possible societal or collective benefits, a restorative approach to justice may also be a more satisfactory experience of justice for victims as they become the centre of the potential processes, as opposed to procedural or traditional trials.