British Gays Aim For New Laws Against Murder Music
Rap and reggae artists who use their song lyrics to incite people to kill and maim homosexuals face stiffer penalties under a new clampdown on homophobic crime.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
In a week where black music culture has been blamed for rising gun violence, the Government is now planning a crackdown on lyrics that encourage attacks on gays. The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, wants judges to impose custodial sentences on offenders found guilty of stirring up hatred against the gay community.
New laws are being considered that would make incitement to kill or maim homosexuals illegal, bringing homophobia in line with race crimes. The proposals will be debated this month when Lord Avebury's private member's bill is heard by the Attorney General. The measure is understood to have Government support.
In a letter to the Liberal peer, the Attorney General has said he will clamp down on lenient sentences handed out by judges in cases of homophobia. "If the occasion arises when I should refer a sentence for review involving homophobia then I will so refer," he states. He says that the writers of homophobic lyrics have been prosecuted under existing race hate laws, but only infrequently.
"It is an important step in raising the confidence of [the gay community] that the criminal justice system treats them fairly and equally, so that people will report crime and support prosecutions."
Gay rights campaigners are concerned about the increase in attacks and threats of violence against homosexuals, which they say has been fuelled by rap groups and Jamaican reggae artists releasing "homophobic anthems" urging people to burn, maim and kill gays. These include the group Tok whose reggae song Chi Chi Man human rights campaigners claim encourages the burning and killing of gay men.
Tok and two other artists using homophobic lyrics – Elephant Man and Capleton – were nominated last year for Music of Black Origin awards. Beenie Man, another Jamaican reggae singer, recorded the song Bad Man Chi Chi Man (Bad Man Queer Man), instructing listeners to kill gay disc jockeys.
Rappers such as P Diddy, DMX, 2Pac and Ice Cube have also been accused of homophobia.
A dossier of offending singers, lyrics and record companies is being sent to the Metropolitan police's hate crimes unit by OutRage!, the gay rights campaign group. It is demanding that the police press charges under either the Public Order Act or the common law offence of incitement. Under the Race Relations Act, inciting racial hatred is a crime but there is no separate law prohibiting homophobic incitement.
Lord Avebury said radio stations should be more cautious about broadcasting homophobic songs. "I think a clampdown would make the broadcasters more cautious," he said. "People should be allowed to do anything they like but only as long as it does not cause harm to others."
Stonewall, the gay rights group, said it welcomed any clarity in the law which would defend a community's right not to be a target of hatred.
"The music industry has to start acting responsibly. What we are talking about in many of these songs is clear incitement to hatred and violence," said Sacha Deshmukh, Stonewall's director of parliamentary affairs.
Peter Tatchell, a spokesman for OutRage!, said this was the first attempt to secure a prosecution for inciting homophobic violence. "There is one law for blacks and another for gays," he said. "We agree these singers have a right to express their opinions, including the right to criticise homosexuality. But they do not have a right to urge the killing of lesbians and gay men."
The Reggae News Agency