Belize Continues to Deny Fundamental Human Rights of Sexual Minorities

Source: Channel 5 Belize

A number of Latin American countries have long struggled to administer justice fairly and efficiently; increasingly, in recent years this has been in regard to gay rights. Even though most of the region’s constitutions guarantee an array of personal rights, large gaps have existed between what is promised and the actual redress delivered by a given nation’s judicial system. Indeed, the region’s constitutions chronically have proven to be insufficient to protect the rights of socially and politically disadvantaged groups. However, in the case of Belize, and in light of the blatant legal discrimination sanctioned by the notorious Section 53 of the Belize Criminal Code, this enshrined bigotry recently has come under intense scrutiny as the result of a pending court case. However, the outlook for its elimination appears bleak in a country that constitutionally labels itself as a “Christian” state and one that continues to identify both socially and politically with the Church.

The United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) filed the high-profile court case against the Attorney General and the Government of Belize aimed at overturning the provisions of Section 53 that outlaw “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal.” Their argument is that the law discriminates against consenting partners, and that their individual rights to privacy are being violated. However, the Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches, along with the Belizean Government, argue that the elimination of Section 53 would spur further laws advocating gay rights.  That is, the long-held, anti-discriminatory practices protected by law would be uprooted, paving the way for a litany of more rights being afforded to what had been transformed into a marginalized group.  Of course, the possibility of this kind of sudden shift appears unlikely and is being used as a mere rhetorical tool to gain support against altering Section 53.

This very debate is one that has permeated the Americas in recent years, but Belize remains the only country in Central America that outright prohibits male homosexual activity.  There is no country in Central America that recognizes same-sex marriage, but all countries, except Belize, recognize the legality of same-sex activity under various legal provisions, overwhelmingly through advocating individual privacy.  Nevertheless, in 2003, Belize enacted legislation that imposed a possible ten-year prison sentence on males convicted of such activity, as outlined by Section 53 of the Criminal Code.  In addition, in 2011, the United Nations successfully pushed through a measure denouncing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation with Belize remaining the only nation in the region that did not sign the resulting document.

In fact, Belize appears far from accepting any measure that affords male homosexuals even an inkling of hope for a more fair system. Even more damning is the judicial system—one based on civil law rather than common law—which is not fully equipped to defend individual and human rights in the country. Consequently, this matter may have to wait for a deficient political system to eventually accept responsibility.  Not surprisingly, to this date, no major political parties have supported either the overturning, the amending, or the elimination of Section 53 of the Criminal Code.  In fact, Dean Barrow, the current Prime minister of Belize, recently observed:

I would limit myself to saying that the government as a government has taken the position that it needs to argue for the constitutionality of the law that is in place that’s being challenged and so I would not go beyond that official position. I am not prepared to comment on my own physiological conviction or lack thereof. That is the official position of the government. This is one time when it might be wise for me to say nothing more.

The Prime Minister continued his remarks by condemning President Obama’s recent critique of nations that continue to persecute homosexuals.  He argued that this issue is one for Belize to deal with and if President Obama wishes to punish states by removing foreign aid for continuing such practice, then “they will have to cut off their aid”.  However, the U.S. is not likely to enforce the suspension of this foreign aid stipulation because Belize is critical to the implementation of U.S. drug policy.

The issue of fundamental human rights that should be afforded to sexual minorities is snared by a completely independent judiciary that by its nature is not designed to advance individual rights. Nonetheless, the privacy argument under which the lawsuit has been filed allows the Belizean Supreme Court to intercede, in a plenary manner, by expanding support for civil and human rights, and improving the lives of people both inside and perhaps even outside the homosexual community.

The struggle remains, but Belize, and the judiciary, have the ability to act in the name of privacy, and at least rule that the consensual activity should not be criminalized. If the judges act first in a decisive manner in this regard, then the possibility of progressive politicians later advancing the cause in the public arena greatly increases. However, if the witch-hunt laws that enable imprisonment and arrest remain in effect, the cause will continue to be suppressed, and human rights will continue to be denied, to the diminishment of the entire community.

Belize, indeed, is at a crossroads, and the future remains rather doubtful.  Libertarians would argue that it is time for the judges to act and address a fundamental human rights issue by courageously defending minorities. Belizeans deserve such magnanimity and generosity of spirit, at the very least.

*The case will be tried on January 30, 2012.

16 thoughts on “Belize Continues to Deny Fundamental Human Rights of Sexual Minorities

  • January 18, 2012 at 11:06 am

    This is very sad – the Churches are claiming in press releases that homosexuals seduce children and are actively trying to 'recruit' young people into sin. It is disgusting to see grown up people lying this way – using fear to push their own agenda. The atmosphere is poisonous on this issue.

  • January 18, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Put them all on one of the island cays, and let them do whatever it is they do. They would then become equal among equals.

  • January 19, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Your comment is far from true and breathes the same lie that you claim the Churches of Belize are 'publishing'. I don't represent the church, but can tell you that in the eyes of most normal and God-fearing, decent citizens, what's 'disgusting' and 'poisonous' to our young school children, is the unnatural act of homosexuality. In Belize's Church-State system, Teachers are faced with having to teach the children the words of the Bible, where chapters and verses condemn homosexuality, yet there exists a 'book' donated by US Peace Corps, that tries to teach children to accept homosexual family structure. It's important to note that Belize is not like the US, where it's forbidden to teach Religion in schools. In every Belize School, Religion is an important part of the curriculum. Every country has an independent and cultural right to determine it's future.

  • January 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    @ Richard. There is an obvious agenda of the LGBT, and to deny that is ridiculous and blind. They ALREADY have their stuff in the school books to start to teach Belizean kids that this is "normal." Wait till one of them gets YOUR kids, then you'll say "the Church was right!!" We're committed to move in love & respect, not hate. The CHURCH is not pushing this issue to increase criminalization toward homosexuals, the LGBT are pushing this issue, trying to change laws so they can legitimately advance their agenda in Belize. OPEN YOUR EYES!!

    • February 6, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      We're blind? Remove the beam from your own eye, brother.

  • January 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    And the case will NOT be tried Jan 30th. That's merely the Preliminary Hearing, at which time the actual court date will be set.

    • February 6, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      Even less than that. It was only a hearing to determine standing.

  • February 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    The writer of this piece makes one, quite serious, mistake. Belize does not "a country that constitutionally labels itself as a “Christian” state." It does constitutionally proclaim that Belizeans recognize the supremacy of God, but it does not specify whose conception of God. More importantly, thoughout the Belize constitution are guarantees of freedom of religion, worship, and belief for all citizens without regard to what religion, rites of worship, or nature of beliefs. And that is as it should be in a culturally and ethnically diverse nation like Belize, where its (approximately) 330,000 citizens include not only Christians not opposed to equal rights for LGBT persons, but also Muslims, Baha'is, Jews, Sikhs, Mennonites, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists, Deists, and non-believers. The UNIBAM suit opposition does in fact continually characterize Belize as a constitutionally Christian nation; but they either fail to understand the nature of their constitution, or they are lying.

  • February 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    If people want to use the bible to secure and defend their own hate and lack of understanding as to what it means to be gay, so be it…. So for the bible pushers, who uses the text indeed found in the bible about homosexuality being a sin, here are some other text from the bible….

    btw: I especially enjoy this text–>> Oppression of others, particularly the poor or vulnerable (Ezek. 18: 6-13)<<—- Is an abomination, haters…….

    List to follow… Needed to be split….

  • February 14, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    The following is a list of things the Bible considers an abomination:
    •Unclean things (Lev. 7:21)
    •Customs of pagans (Lev. 18:30)
    •Idols (2 Chr. 15:8; 1 Pet. 4:3)
    •Sins of men (Ps. 14:1; 53:1)
    •Cheating (Mic. 6:10)
    •Lost souls (Rev. 21:8)
    •A froward man (perverse; one who turns aside (Pro. 3:32; 11:20)
    •A proud look (Pro. 6:16-17)
    •A lying tongue (Pro. 6:17; 12:22)
    •Hands that shed innocent blood ((Pro. 6:17)
    •A wicked scheming heart (Pro. 6:18)
    •Feet that are quick to sin (Pro. 6:18)
    •A false witness that speaks lies (Pro. 6:19)

    part 2 on its way

  • February 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    •A sower of discord (Pro. 6:19)
    •Wickedness (Pro. 8:7)
    •A false balance or scale (Pro. 11:1)
    •Sacrifices of the wicked (Pro. 15:8; 21:27)
    •The way of the wicked (Pro. 15:9)
    •The thoughts of the wicked (Pro. 15:26)
    •The proud of heart (Pro. 16:5)
    •Justifying the wicked (Pro. 17:15)
    •Condemning the just (Pro. 17:15)
    •Divers, dishonest weights (Pro. 20:10, 23)
    •Divers, dishonest measures (Pro. 20:10)
    •Refusing to hear the law (Pro. 28:9)
    •Prayers of the rebel (Pro. 28:9)
    •Eating flesh of peace offerings on the 3rd day (Lev. 7:18)
    •Some same sex acts (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Dt. 23:18) See
    •Taking ornaments from idols when being destroyed (Dt. 7:25-26)
    •Any Idolatrous practices (Dt. 12:31; 13:14; 17:4; 18:9; 20:18; 29:17)
    •Offering an imperfect animal to God as a sacrifice (Dt. 17:1)
    •Any traffic with demons (Dt. 18:7-12)

    part 3 on its way

  • February 14, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    •Wearing clothes of the opposite sex (Dt. 22:5) See
    •Bringing the hire of a harlot or sodomite into God's house (Dt. 23:18)
    •Re-marriage of former companions (Dt. 24:1-4)
    •Cheating others (Dt. 25:13-16)
    •Making images/idols (Dt. 27:15)
    •Idols of Ammon (1 Ki. 11:5)
    •Idols of Moab (1 Ki. 11:7; 2 Ki. 11:13)
    •Idols of Zidon (2 Ki. 23:13)
    •Incense offered by hypocrites (Isa. 1:13)
    •Eating unclean things (Isa. 66:17)
    •Offering human sacrifices (Jer. 32:35)
    •Robbery (Ezek. 18: 6-13)
    •Murder (Ezek. 18: 6-13)
    •Adultery (Ezek. 18: 6-13)
    •Oppression of others, particularly the poor or vulnerable (Ezek. 18: 6-13)

    part 4 on its way

  • March 24, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    There are a big bunch of ignorants in every religion, because all of them open their big mouth to said GOD, but those people living with hate to everyone.

  • December 30, 2012 at 10:51 am

    it is an early fight and the christian right will paint what it wants. The case will be back in court for full hearings on 7th to 10th May, 2013

  • April 20, 2013 at 3:15 am

    Very interesting breakdown, indeed. It’s nice to have such information available in one location and some ideas for new and different directions to take to help one stand out.

  • April 29, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Very interesting post. I appreciate to your post.
    Thanks for the posting.


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