Black and Gay and Hunted: In Jamaica, Lesbians and Gays Are the Victims of Violent Persecution-Often Murder. Fuelling This Gay-Bashing Are Popular Reggae Lyrics. Peter Tatchell Takes on Their Singers

By Tatchell, Peter | New Statesman (1996), October 4, 2004 | Go to article overview

Black and Gay and Hunted: In Jamaica, Lesbians and Gays Are the Victims of Violent Persecution-Often Murder. Fuelling This Gay-Bashing Are Popular Reggae Lyrics. Peter Tatchell Takes on Their Singers


Tatchell, Peter, New Statesman (1996)


It is like living in Afghanistan under the Taliban," says Richard, a 28-year-old gay Jamaican. "I wake up in the morning not knowing whether today I will live or die." Richard is lucky. He is still alive. But he bears huge scars from a machete attack by a homophobic mob. Jamaican police stood by and allowed the crowd to chop at him like a piece of butcher's meat.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Amazingly, Richard survived. Others are less fortunate. The Jamaica Gleaner newspaper reported a gay man being chased by vigilantes into a Baptist church. Cornered near the altar, he pleaded for his life. They pumped him full of bullets.

In June, in Montego Bay, a man was beaten to death--with police acquiescence. He was accused of "looking" at another male. There was no proof that he was gay, but mere suspicion was justification enough for killing him.

A few years ago, the Jamaican media reported that a Gay Pride march was scheduled in the capital, Kingston. Hundreds of people wielding guns, machetes, clubs and knives turned up at the starting point. They had come to kill the "battymen" (a patois term of abuse meaning "queers" or "faggots"). The police turned up, too--not to protect the marchers, but to help murder them.

Under Jamaican law, homosexuality is a crime punishable by ten years' hard labour. Men who sexually abuse girls in their early teens face a maximum of seven years in jail. Queer-bashing victims cannot go to the police for help, because officers are likely to abuse, assault and arrest them. Amnesty International con-firms that gay men and lesbians have been "beaten, cut, burned, raped and shot on account of their sexuality". Jamaican police, instead of assisting the victims, are often themselves guilty of homophobic "violence and torture", says Amnesty.

Gay people taken to hospital after being queer-bashed sometimes have to face the ordeal of hostile doctors and nurses. Badly injured victims of gay-bashing have been insulted by hospital staff and made to wait nearly 24 hours for medical treatment.

P J Patterson, Jamaica's prime minister, refuses to speak out against the murder of gay people. His police chief has failed to crack down on homophobic violence.

Homophobic hatred and violence is whipped up by Jamaica's eight leading performers of dance-hall reggae, including Beenie Man, Vybz Kartel, Buju Banton and Elephant Man. Their hit tunes urge listeners to shoot, burn, stab, hang and drown gay people. Buju Banton's song "Boom Bye Bye" exhorts listeners to shoot queers in the head, pour acid over them and burn them alive. A track by Elephant Man, "A Nuh Fi Wi Fault", goes: "Battyman fi dead!/Shoot dem like bird." And Beenie Man's "Han Up Deh" includes the incitement: "Hang chi-chi gal [lesbians] with a long piece of rope."

These murderous lyrics get prime-time airplay in a society where real-life homophobic violence is a daily occurrence. They reinforce and stir up anti-gay prejudice. This prejudice fuels queer-bashing attacks. The Jamaican gay rights group J-Flag says the popularity of new "kill gays" songs often coincides with a rise in homophobic violence. Yet even though incitement to murder is a criminal offence in Jamaica, the government and police refuse to prosecute the singers. Likewise, no one appears to have been convicted of any homophobic murder.

Buju Banton, meanwhile, is wanted by the Jamaican police on gay-bashing charges. …

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Black and Gay and Hunted: In Jamaica, Lesbians and Gays Are the Victims of Violent Persecution-Often Murder. Fuelling This Gay-Bashing Are Popular Reggae Lyrics. Peter Tatchell Takes on Their Singers
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