Three of the world’s top reggae / dancehall singers have renounced homophobia and condemned violence against lesbians and gay men, although questions remain about their sincerity.
Beenie Man (left), Sizzla and Capleton had previously released anti-gay hate songs, including incitements to murder lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. They have now signed 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 many of the singers’ concerts and sponsorship deals.
“The Reggae Compassionate Act is a big breakthrough,” said Peter Tatchell, of the British gay human rights group OutRage!. Tatchell is coordinator of the worldwide Stop Murder Music campaign and helped negotiate the deal with the three singers.
“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,” said Tatchell.
In the Reggae Compassionate 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”
There is some concern some of the singers have only signed the Reggae Compassionate Act for business and commercial reasons and not because they genuinely believe that homophobic hatred and violence are wrong. It’s been estimated that the three artists have lost in excess of $5 million as a result of the campaign against them.
Tatchell says, however, that Stop Murder Music will keep a close watch on the artists: “If any of the three singers break this agreement anywhere in the world, we will resume the campaign against them.”
Five other homophobic reggae artists – Elephant Man, TOK, Bounty Killa, Vybz Kartel and Buju Banton – have not signed the declaration and Tatchell says that Stop Murder Music will continue to campaign against them.
“The Stop Murder Music campaign urges organisations worldwide to intensify the campaign to cancel these five singers’ concerts and their record, sponsorship and advertising deals. These artists have openly encouraged the murder of lesbians and gay men,” explains Tatchell.