Jamaican stars agree to tone down anti-gay sentiment

Jamaican stars agree to tone down anti-gay sentiment

Beenie ManReggae stars sign charter against homophobia

Remember all the fuss about the anti-gay songs coming from Jamaica? A step forward has been taken, with three of the best-known performers – Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton – actually signing a charter to renounce homophobia and condemn violence against gays. The “Reggae Compassion Act” now hopes to get the support of the other main “offenders”, such as Bounty Killa, Elephant Man and Buju Banton, to come on board. But what the smurf is a the Reggae Compassion Act?

The Reggae Compassion Act

The Reggae Compassion Act is an initiative brokered by a series of promoters in Europe following the very vocal and effective campaign called Stop Murder Music. This body, spearheaded by Peter Tatchell, of the British gay human rights group OutRage, had been causing a large number of concerts to be cancelled across Europe and the US. They argued that by promoting homophobic lyrics, Dancehall was encouraging anti-gay violence – notably in Jamaica itself. It has been estimated that some $5 million dollars in lost revenue was created for the singers in question.

The Act is an attempt to put a positive side to the issue. “The singers’ rejection of homophobia and sexism is an important milestone. We rejoice at their new commitment to music without prejudice,” said Tatchell. “This deal will have a huge, positive impact in Jamaica and the Caribbean. The media coverage will generate public awareness and debate, breaking down ignorance and undermining homophobia. Having these major reggae stars renounce homophobia will influence their fans and the wider public to rethink bigoted attitudes. The beneficial effect on young black straight men will be immense,” he said.

It’s interesting to compare this issue with the current furore engulfing American rap and Hip-Hop. Would boycotts have a greater impact on artists? Is that something desirable or would it be a witch hunt? Your thoughts are welcome.

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