We Welcome Some Dancehall Singers Renouncing Homophobia

Dear Editor,
 
SASOD welcomes the move by three Jamaican dancehall singers to sign the Reggae Compassionate Act renouncing homophobia and condemning violence against lesbians and gay men. Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton had previously released anti-gay hate songs, including incitements to murder lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. They have now signed up to the Reggae Compassionate Act, in a deal brokered with top reggae promoters and Stop Murder Music activists. The agreement follows the three-year-long Stop Murder Music campaign, which resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of the singers' concerts and sponsorship deals, causing them income losses estimated in excess of five million US dollars.
 
In a letter dated December 2, 2005, SASOD has requested that the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) intervene as part of its mandate to "encourage and create respect for religious, cultural and other forms of diversity in a plural society" under Article 212D paragraph (f) of the Constitution of Guyana after Beenie Man's July 29, 2005 concert at the National Park, a state-owned premises, where he urged his audience to kill and maim all gay and lesbian people.
SASOD has received one inadequate response with no hearing or any form of redress.
 
"The singers' rejection of homophobia and sexism is an important milestone. We rejoice at their new commitment to music without prejudice," said Peter Tatchell of UK-based queer human rights group, OutRage! This view is mirrored by fellow Stop Murder Music campaigner, Dennis L Carney, Vice-Chair of the Black Gay Men's Advisory Group (BGMAG) in London. Mr Carney is of Jamaican descent, and played a leading role in negotiating the Reggae Compassionate Act.
 
In the Reggae Compas-sionate Act the three singers pledge to:
 
"respect and uphold the rights of all individuals to live without fear of hatred and violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender."
"there's no space in the music community for hatred and prejudice, including no place for racism, violence, sexism or homophobia."
"we agree to not make statements or perform songs that incite hatred or violence against anyone from any community"
 
In this declaration the artists promise to not sing lyrics or make public statements, in Jamaica or anywhere else in the world, that incite prejudice, hatred or violence against lesbian and gay people. The Reggae Compassion-ate Act applies worldwide. If any of the three singers break this agreement anywhere in the world, the Stop Murder Music campaign will resume against them. At least five of the murder music artists - Elephant Man, TOK, Bounty Killa, Vybz Kartel and Buju Banton - have not signed the Reggae Compassionate Act. The campaign against them continues. These singers have incited the murder of lesbians and gays. They should not be rewarded with concerts or sponsorship deals.
 
SASOD has also condemned the violent, homophobic and sexist lyrics of TOK at the February 14, 2007, Valentine's Day launch event for Digicel in Guyana, also held at the National Park. "These unrepentant homophobic performers are the moral equivalent of neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan," said Tatchell. His views are echoed by Gareth Williams, Co-Chair of the Jamaican gay human rights group, J-Flag. "This statement against homophobia and violence is a move in the right direction," he said. The Stop Murder Music campaign consists of more than 60 organisations in over a dozen countries in Europe, North America and the Caribbean. It is led by a triumvirate consisting of the Jamaican gay human rights group, J-Flag and, in the UK, the Black Gay Mens Advisory Group and queer human rights group, OutRage! The Stop Murder Music campaign won the Best Advocacy Award at the recent Black Lesbian and Gay Community Awards 2007 ceremony in London.
 
Yours faithfully,
Members of SASOD.
Tags: HomophobiaViolence Against LGBT PersonsDiscriminationDancehallOffensive Lyrics