Wednesday, April 16, 2008

WNYC highlights homophobia in Dancehall

The debate over homophobic lyrics in Jamaican Dancehall music has raged for years with British activist Peter Tatchell, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and other organizations holding protests and other actions to draw attention to this issue. And WNYC, the city's National Public Radio affiliate, highlighted these efforts and the advocacy surrounding the Reggae Compassionate Act this morning.

A fair argument can be made that indigenous music is a result of the society from which it comes. LGBT Jamaicans face widespread homophobia, violence and even death in their country as Amnesty International and other international human rights organizations have repeatedly documented. Dancehall artists who see no problem including homophobic lyrics in their music arguably perpetuate this mistreatment against their LGBT brothers and sisters on the island.

The issue of free speech is always a concern, and one that must be taken very seriously in any debate over music and other forms of artistic expression. But the question remains, however, over whether one person's free speech infringes upon the rights of another to live their live without fear, the threat of violence or even death. Free speech is not a license to perpetuate hate. And Dancehall artists, like others from around the world, have a responsibility to their fans, themselves and the countries they claim to represent to examine the impact their lyrics have, and the unfortunate consequences they arguably have against their LGBT countrymen. The alternative is simply unacceptable.

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