Talking with Tatchell – Archive

Jamaica – homophobia, murder music and free speech

9 August 2007

Is Jamaica the most homophobic country in the world? Does reggae/dancehall “murder music” contribute to anti-gay violence? 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.

Peter Tatchell writes:

Eight leading Jamaican reggae/dancehall stars, including Buju Banton and Beenie Man, have sung songs openly advocating, encouraging and glorifying the murder of queers.

See their homophobic “murder music” lyrics here:

Are these artists merely reflecting homophobia or helping create it?

Many gay and straight Jamaicans argue that lyrics urging the killing of queers may not create homophobia but they certainly help legitimate and encourage it. When homophobic violence is extolled by big-name reggae super stars it fuels and reinforces anti-gay hatred. It encourages some young men to believe that it is cool and acceptable to bash lesbian and gay people.

These murder music lyrics stir up homophobic hatred and violence, in the same way that the BNP’s 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 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?

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 homophobia that is terrorising lesbian and gay Jamaicans and wrecking their lives.

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