LGBT rights in Belize

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LGBT rights in Belize
Belize
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Illegal since 1888[1]
Penalty:
10 years imprisonment (Homosexuals are prohibited immigrants)
Gender identity/expression -
Family rights

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Belize face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT citizens. Same sex sexual activity is illegal in Belize.

Foreign homosexuals are prohibited from entering Belize.

Issues[edit]

Illegality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

According to Section 53 of the Belize Criminal Code, "Every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person ... shall be liable to imprisonment for 10 years."[2] It was clarified in the challenge to Section 53 of the Criminal Code that homosexuality per se is not illegal, but any sexual act which is not the "sexual congress of a phallus inserted into a vagina" is illegal, including oral sex, anal sex between heterosexual or homosexual persons, masturbation, etc.[3]

Law against LGBT entry to Belize[edit]

Under Section 5(1) of the Immigration Act, "... [T]he following persons are prohibited immigrants – ... (e) any prostitute or homosexual or any person who may be living on or receiving or may have been living on or receiving the proceeds of prostitution or homosexual behaviour...."[4]

A challenge by Jamaican activist Maurice Tomlinson was filed in 2013 to the immigration ban in both Trinidad and Tobago and Belize. Tomlinson asked Jamaica, his home country to insist that the travel bans of these countries be removed based on CARICOM provisions for free movement of citizens of member countries. Jamaica refused, and Tomlinson petitioned the Caribbean Court of Justice asking leave to file the case with them directly.[5] In May, 2014, Tomlinson was granted leave to challenge the immigration laws of both countries.[6] In October, 2014, CARICOM joined the case as an interested party supporting Tomlinson's arguments.[7] On 18 March, 2015, the challenge was heard[8] with allegations that the immigration bans abridge the rights of free movement for Caribbean citizens contained in the Treaty of Chaguaramas. Judgment was reserved by the court for a future date.[9]

Legal protections[edit]

The U.S. Department of State's 2011 human rights report found that,

The law does not protect sexual orientation or gender identity. The criminal code states that "carnal intercourse" with any person "against the order of nature" shall receive a punishment of 10 years' imprisonment. In practice[,] the law was interpreted as including only sex between men. The extent [in 2011] of discrimination based on sexual orientation was difficult to ascertain due to lack of reporting instances of discrimination through official channels. United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), the country's sole lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy organization, reported that continuing harassment and insults by the general public and police affected its activities, but its members were reluctant to file complaints. There were no gay pride marches organized during the year due to UNIBAM membership concerns over the public's possible adverse reaction.[10]

In contradiction to the findings that the law applies only to MSM, testimony in the challenge filed by Caleb Orosco to Section 53 of the Belize Criminal Code clarified in court that all sexual activity other than penile/vaginal sex is illegal.[3]

LGBT rights movement in Belize[edit]

Pressure from the United States[edit]

In December 2011, United States President Barack Obama criticised nations that persecute homosexuals.[11] In response, Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow reiterated that Belize would not change its laws.[12] He argued that the issue is one for Belize to deal with and if the U.S. wanted to punish states by removing foreign aid for continuing such practice, then "they will have to cut off their aid".[12]

Judicial challenge[edit]

In September 2010, the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) and its executive director Caleb Orosco jointly filed a case in the Supreme Court of Judicature of Belize challenging the constitutionality of the anti-homosexual laws with the support of the International Commission of Jurists, the Commonwealth Lawyers' Association, and the Human Dignity Trust.

The Catholic and the Protestant churches reacted negatively to this, saying that same-sex marriage would be next.[13][14] On 3 December 2011, the Council of Churches organized a "Take a Stand" rally to oppose the UNIBAM case.[15]

Counsel for the Church Interested Parties (CIP) (consisting of the Roman Catholic Church, the Belize Church of England Corporate Body, and the Evangelical Association of Churches) argued in January 2012 that UNIBAM had no standing to bring the case because, as an organization, it has no constitutionally guaranteed rights. Relying on Section 20 of the Belize Constitution, the court sided with CIP on 27 April 2012.[16]

Quoting the 2007 case Belize Telecom Ltd. et al. v The Attorney General of Belize and Belize Telemedia Ltd., Justice Michelle Arana stated that "[a]part from [instances when a person is detained] no representative action can be brought to enforce the rights protected in Sections 3 to 19 of the Constitution". Despite precedent from courts in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, the justice did not allow UNIBAM to bring an action on behalf of its members.[16] In December 2012, Justice Arana granted UNIBAM "interested party" status, which is the same status given to CIP.[17]

The case was heard by the Supreme Court of Judicature in May 2013,[18] amid violence and death threats received by LGBT activists.[19]

Public opinion[edit]

In 2013, UNAIDS conducted a survey of 773 Belizeans, ages 18 to 64. The survey found that 34% consider themselves accepting of homosexuals, while another 34% consider themselves tolerant of homosexuals.[20][21] Of all the Caribbean countries that were polled, Belize and Suriname had the highest percentage of acceptance for homosexuals.[21]

Church opposition to decriminalization[edit]

The Belizean Council of Churches held a "Belize Action/Family Forum" rally on 23 November 2011[13] to express its opposition to decriminalization as part of "an orchestrated plan of demonic darkness to dethrone God from our Constitution and open massive gateways to demonic influence and destruction that will affect generation after generation to come".[22]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal No For male (Penalty: Up to 10 years imprisonment; not enforced) / No For female[3]
Equal age of consent No For male / No For female[3]
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fink, Micah (27 July 2013). "The Abominable Crime: Belize’s Sodomy Law". Washington, DC: Pulitzer Center. Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  2. ^ Belize Criminal Code
  3. ^ a b c d Stewart, Colin (May 7, 2013). "Belize challenge to anti-gay law, 140 characters at a time". Erasing 76 Crimes. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  4. ^ Belize Immigration Act
  5. ^ Mills, Suzanne (August 11, 2013). "Visibility is liberty". Trinidad & Tobago: Newsday. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  6. ^ Jones, Patrick E. (May 8, 2014). "CCJ grants leave to challenge Belize’s Immigration Act". Belize: Breaking Belize News. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  7. ^ Cayetano, Isani (October 29, 2014). "CARICOM Joins Gay Activist Maurice Tomlinson In Suit Against Belize & Trinidad". Belize City, Belize: News 5. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  8. ^ Wee, Darren (19 March 2015). "Landmark case challenges anti-gay laws in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago". London, England: Gay Star News. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  9. ^ Humes, Aaron (March 18, 2015). "CCJ hearings end in the case of Maurice Tomlinson". Belize: Breaking Belize News. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  10. ^ 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Belize, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, page 16
  11. ^ "Presidential Memorandum -- International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons"
  12. ^ a b "Belize Continues to Deny Fundamental Human Rights of Sexual Minorities", Council on Hemispheric Affairs, authored by Robert Works, 17 January 2012
  13. ^ a b "A long fight to decriminalize homosexuality", Latinamerica Press, authored by Louisa Reynolds, 21 December 2011
  14. ^ Bowcott, Owen (November 16, 2011). "Global campaign to decriminalise homosexuality to kick off in Belize court". The Guardian (London). 
  15. ^ "Christians 'Take a Stand' Against UNIBAM", 7 News Belize, reported by Jules Vasquez, 5 December 2011
  16. ^ a b "Supreme Court Claim No 668 of 2010 'Caleb Orozco and UNIBAM v. The Attorney General of Belize'" (PDF). Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  17. ^ "UNIBAM regains ground in court", 7 News Belize, 5 December 2012
  18. ^ Global Post. Gay in Belize? You're breaking the law. Still.. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  19. ^ The Guardian. Belize gay rights campaigner is facing more death threats, says lawyer. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  20. ^ "Polling Sexual Perceptions". 7 News Belize. April 17, 2015. Retrieved April 18, 2015. 
  21. ^ a b Humes, Aaron (April 17, 2015). "UNAIDS surveys: Belizeans more accepting of LGBT; want more sex education in schools". Breaking Belize News (Belize Media Group). Retrieved April 18, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Decriminalizing homosexuality will have dire ripple effects: churches", Amandala Newspaper