British activists seek arrests for antigay reggae music
September 20 2003 12:00 AM ET
Three reggae stars nominated for a Music of Black Origin (MOBO) award may be arrested at the awards ceremony in London next week because the lyrics of their songs allegedly incite listeners to murder gays and lesbians, The [London] Guardian reports. Gay rights activists have presented Scotland Yard's hate-crimes unit with a dossier of evidence against Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, and Elephant Man, three of the biggest stars of the Jamaican dancehall scene, which is notorious for its
homophobic lyrics. The activists charge that all three artists have recorded songs that denigrate gay men and advocate antigay violence, including the burning of gay men and lesbians.
The gay rights group OutRage! is calling for their prosecution in light of the Crown Prosecution Service's crackdown on threatening behavior toward gay men and lesbians and an initiative by the police to encourage gays to report abuse and harassment. U.K. attorney general Lord Goldsmith confirmed that the public order laws could be used to charge singers who incite violence against gays. OutRage! leader Peter Tatchell, who was beaten by angry reggae fans when he protested the lyrics of two of the singers outside last year's MOBO event, said, "My request for a prosecution will test whether the police and prosecutors are sincere in their pledge to get tough with homophobic hate crimes." Any charges could have severe repercussions for the singers and their record companies, he said, and music shops would be likely to face court orders to withdraw offending discs.
But a MOBO spokesperson said the offensive songs were recorded at least two years ago and are not included in this year's nominations. Chris Wells, editor of London-based black music magazine Echoes, said OutRage! might be shooting itself in the foot by picking a fight with singers whose work would normally go unnoticed by mainstream audiences: "You are never going to stop this no matter what you do, because Jamaica is a very religious society, and, unfortunately, for all sorts of reasons, homophobia is deep there."
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