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Nov 12, 2007 News: Jamaica - Homophobia, Murder Music and Free Speech
By Peter Tatchell

(UK) - Is Jamaica is the most homophobic country in the world? Does Jamaican reggae/dancehall murder music contribute to anti-Gay violence? Should concerts by murder music singers be cancelled? Stop Murder Music campaigners, Dennis Carney of the Black Gay Men’s Advisory Group, and Brett Lock of the Gay human rights group OutRage!, discuss with Peter Tatchell on doughty.gdbtv.com.

Eight leading Jamaican reggae/dancehall stars, including Buju Banton, Bounty Killa and Beenie Man, have released songs openly advocating, encouraging and glorifying the murder of queers. They have never apologised or expressed a word of regret. On the contrary, they have defended their exhortations to “kill queers.”

See their homophobic “murder music” lyrics on: www.petertatchell.net

Are these artists merely reflecting homophobic violence or helping create it?

This issue is not about mere homophobia. It concerns incitement to murder.

Many Gay and straight Jamaicans argue that lyrics urging the killing of queers may not create homophobia and queer-bashing attacks, but that these lyrics do help legitimate and encourage them. When homophobic violence is extolled by big-name reggae super stars it fuels and reinforces anti-Gay hatred. This hatred is the precondition of, and the gateway to, homophobic discrimination, harassment and violence.

The murder music of these reggae icons leads some young men to believe that it is cool and acceptable to bash Lesbian and Gay people. It gives them licence. It feeds their homophobic machismo.

LGBT Jamaicans argue that murder music lyrics stir up homophobic hatred and violence, in the same way that racist incitements stir up racial hatred and violence.

Can it ever be acceptable or legitimate to subject other people to violent threats and intimidation? Are homophobic incitements any less worthy of condemnation and opposition than racist ones?

Critics of the Stop Murder Music campaign claim it is an attack on freedom of expression. They protest: What about free speech? But since when has free speech included the right to incite the murder of other human beings?

Do the defenders of homophobic murder music also defend the right of white racists to incite the murder of black people? No, of course, they don’t. They rightly condemn even the slightest prejudice against the black community. So why the double standards when it comes to homophobic bigotry and incitements to murder?

The murder music singers are not the only culprits. The Jamaican government and police are notorious for their inaction against homophobic violence. According to Jamaican law, inciting violence and murder is a criminal offence. Why aren’t these artists being prosecuted?

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch report that homophobic violence is a major problem in Jamaica. This is corroborated by Jamaican human rights groups such as Jamaicans for Justice, Families Against State Terrorism, Jamaica AIDS Support, and the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights.

All these respected bodies accuse the Jamaican government and police of colluding with queer-bashing attacks, and of failing to protect the Gay victims of mob violence.

Ending murder music will not, of itself, end anti-Gay violence. But it can contribute to deescalating the culture of homophobic threats and violence that is terrorising Lesbian and Gay Jamaicans and wrecking their lives.

Talking With Tatchell is broadcast every Friday night at 8.30pm on the internet TV channel, www.18doughtystreet.com

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