They said we'd be artistically free, got to sign a bit of paper....


I see there has been a minor hoo-hah about the 'Reggae Compassionate Act' with two of the the signatories claiming that they did not in fact sign it.

For those of you not familiar with the act. It is a document signed by various reggae artists who've been in hot water over violent anti-gay lyrics in their music.

Am I alone in wondering what the point of such a document is? The artists were facing boycotts, loss of contracts, protests and the cancellation of live performances, could it be that they would have signed anything to protect their lucrative careers?

I am certainly not against the right of people to protest against the artists concerned. If one is going to make inflammatory statements against a particular group then they should be ready to take the consequences, as indeed should the companies that sponsor them. Unless of course one is displaying hatred and aggression towards woman in which case they can be assured a of loyal female following and praise for their daring lyrics. Which is fine by me art is one thing, morality another. Unless someone is in breaching of existing laws regarding incitement to violence then I couldn't really care less what they get up to. Incidentally I'd be willing to bet that at least one anti-gay reggae artist is, if not a practicing homosexual, at least gay in their sexual orientation. One can protest too much.

There is something a little naive in the belief that by getting a few artists to sign a piece of paper under threat of boycotts and so on that attacks on homosexuals in Jamaica will stop or even be reduced. Peter Tatchell describes the artists concerned as '...unrepentant homophobic performers are the moral equivalent of neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan'. A fair point but would anyone take seriously neo-Nazis or Klan members signing a document renouncing their beliefs under threat of loss of earnings. Call me cynical but I'd suspect their motives.

Supporters of this campaign have quite rightly pointed to the anti-gay violence in Jamaica as part of the reason for this campaign. However it should be noted that homosexual acts are still illegal in Jamaica. Something that makes gays more vulnerable than anything any reggae artist could come up with. Would the time money and energy devoted to this not be better spent supporting J-Flag who are dedicated to transforming the attitudes of all of Jamaican society towards gays not just encouraging pragmatic self-censorship amongst Jamaican musicians?

It is also worth noting that Jamaican society as a whole is extremely violent. As I'm led to understand that all human life is considered to be of value, would it not be worthwhile for campaigners against anti-gay violence to offer their assistance to the wider campaigns against violence and gun culture? After all it is perfectly possible to dislike or even feel repelled by homosexuals without resorting to violence. Surely a campaign against violence as a means of furthering moral, political or personal aims would do more good than a few insincere musicians signing a bit of paper.

I don't claim to speak for my own country let alone Jamaica. It is idealistic but a world where when can go about one's business without fear of violence strikes me as a pretty universal and desirable aim and Jamaicans are as deserving of the quiet life as the rest of us. If hearing some repulsive, anti gay rant on a reggae record is the worst you have to contend with then you're comparatively lucky. 47% of Jamaican women describe their first sexual encounter as 'forced' or 'somewhat forced' or what about this poor woman who made the mistake of reporting an abduction and gang rape to the Jamaican authorities. Or is sexual violence against women just business as usual?



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