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Mexican city bans 'sexist' songs amid growing concerns over violence against women

Artists like reggaeton superstar Bad Bunny are often accused of having sexist lyrics in their songs.
Artists like reggaeton superstar Bad Bunny are often accused of having sexist lyrics in their songs. Copyright Amy Harris/2023 Invision
Copyright Amy Harris/2023 Invision
By Andrea Carlo
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The ban issued by the council of Chihuahua could target some of Latin pop's biggest stars, whose lyrics are often accused of promoting misogyny.


Sing about slapping a butt, get slapped with a fine — at least, that's what one Mexican city has decided.

At the end of July, the city council of Chihuahua, in northern Mexico, agreed to prohibit artists from singing lyrics promoting the "denigration, discrimination, marginalisation or exclusion" of women at public music events.

Anyone performing such risqué ditties risks landing a hefty fine ranging between €36,472 to €64,595 (674,000 to 1.2 million pesos).

Speaking to El Heraldo de Mexico, city councillor Patricia Ulate Bernal — who belongs to the conservative National Action Party — stated that such sanctions aimed to "promote a community in which men and women live with equality and respect".

A "pandemic" of gender-based violence

The ban comes amid growing concerns over violence against women in the country, with city mayor Marco Bonilla claiming seven out of 10 calls to Chihuahua's city police relate to domestic abuse.

Bonilla further deemed gender-based violence a "pandemic", and asserted that the money from fines would be donated to shelters and campaigns supporting victims.

Following this move, some of Mexico and Latin America's hottest pop stars could face a much chillier reception in Chihuahua.

From Reggaeton's incumbent king, Puerto Rican artist Bad Bunny, to Mexican narco-balladeer Peso Pluma, there are a string of popular artists in the Hispanosphere whose lyrics are often deemed to glorify violent and sexist attitudes.

Bernal cared to emphasise that the city's decision was not grounded on a repudiation of specific musical genres, like the Afro-Caribbean Reggaeton or the country's own Corridos tumbados, a hip hop-inflected spin on a traditional Mexican style.

"It seems there is misinformation about what was approved," she stated. "The reform is not directed at a musical genre in particular; it respects the right to freedom of expression at all times, and the right citizens have to listen to the music of their choice."

Which European cities have also attempted to ban sexist music?

While Mexico has a history of legislative attempts to curtail live music — with the country's popular narcocorridos, or "drug ballads", a common target — Europe is no stranger to such initiatives.

Last summer, authorities in the German towns of Würzburg, Munich and Düsseldorf ignited a national debate after deciding to ban one song, DJ Robin and Schuerze's chart-topping 'Layla', from being played at their yearly summer music festivals.

The party anthem's salacious lyrics, which included the line "I've got a brothel and my madam's name is Layla / She's prettier, younger, sexier", were deemed sexist and of poor taste — a common accusation levelled at other songs in Germany's notorious Schlager genre, a folk-disco hybrid associated with the tourist clubbing scene of the Balearics.

Earlier this year, Carnival organisers in north-eastern Spain were also told to remove sexist songs from their playlist to avoid public subsidies.

Among the targeted songs was Spanish-Cuban singer Chanel's hit single 'SloMo', which was Spain's 2022 Eurovision Song Contest entry.

A necessary move or unconstitutional censorship?

Chihuahua's decision to regulate live music has not been well received by all, both at home and abroad.

State congressman Francisco Sánchez, from the centre-left Citizens' Movement party, pilloried the decision as being unconstitutional and "threaten[ing] freedom", deeming it "useless and retrograde".

Mexico's leftist president, Andrés Manuel López, further defended artists' right to "sing whatever they want", albeit condemning the use of violent and drug-related imagery in popular music.

John Locher/AP
Peso Pluma, left, and Becky G perform at the Latin American Music Awards on Thursday, 20 April 2023, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.John Locher/AP

Some commentators have gone even further, branding the decision a form of cultural puritanism and even drawing comparisons with the Taliban's suppression of music in Afghanistan.

Speaking on South African radio channel CapeTalk, international correspondent Adam Gilchrist denounced the Mexican city's decision as a form of "censorship".

"Do you know what my worry is... who decides? Who decides that a song lyric is specifically denigrating, excluding, marginalising and discriminating against women?," he asked. "So we are kind of back to the Taliban and their music vibes, aren't we?"

But certain Mexican activists claim the decision is necessary in the context of the country's worsening sexist violence woes.

"The reality is that we have a gender violence problem that cannot be unseen," stated women rights' activist Veronica Corchado when speaking to The Guardian. "Women have to be part of political decision-making on an everyday basis so women can have better opportunities, a voice, an opinion about political aspects on everyday issues."


Chihuahua's decision comes hot on the heels of a United Nations report exposing the extent of gender-based violence Mexico, as approximately 10 girls and women are killed in the country every day.

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