Europe seems to have a better remedy to end anti-gay hate crimes that the United States can learn from — a smartphone app that allows people to track, report and mobilize actions against anti-gay hate crimes. The new app, "Bashing," was released last year in Brussels after series of anti-gay incidents pushed Belgium, one of the most liberal and LGBT-friendly countries, to come up with this innovative solution for anti-gay hate crimes.
The slew of anti-gay hate crimes in Belgium include the murder of Ihsane Jarfi. As the second country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003, Belgium immediately became aware of the negative impact of these hate crimes. The app can show the precise location and date of every incident and it allows users to clearly categorize whether it is verbal or physical bully. A "Bashmap" can be created to identify problem areas on Google map that's embedded in the app. One week after the app was released, more than 100 incidents were recorded by officials. Local residents were able to quickly learn that hate crimes usually happened on hectic roads and squares in downtown Brussels.
Bjorn Pius, the co-inventor of the app, said in an interview with the Huffington Post that he never expected the app to become so popular within such a short time. The app quickly became popular in other neighboring countries, and it is still spreading to the rest of the European continent. Incidents in the United States and South America have also been recorded with the app's global reach.
According to the statistics provided by Bashing, the perpetrators are usually young people between the age of 15 and 30. They are usually motivated by their desire to display masculinity and strength. While it is still a challenge to completely curtail the threats imposed by perpetrators, the app has become a social phenomenon to bring government’s attention to issues related to hate crimes. With the help of Bashing, the Belgium government, police, and parliament were able to record specific patterns of violence that was once hard to tackle.
Perhaps government officials in the United States should also start using the interactive feature and power of technology to tackle repetitive anti-gay hate crimes more effectively. Although the app has limited power to completely terminate anti-gay hate crime, the records it provide can still allow government officials and police to have a better idea about how to prevent similar events from happening in the future. This should be the feature of 21st century — combining the power of technology with actual action from ourselves to minimize harms of any kind. We rely on technology to make our lives easier in so many ways, so we should extend its convenience to defend social justice.