Up till recently, men engaging in consensual same sex relations in Belize were liable for a sentence of 10 years in prison on conviction. However, on 10 August 2016, the portion of the country’s code that outlawed same-sex relations between men was deemed unconstitutional by Belize's Supreme Court. This constitutes a victory for the country of Belize, as all people now have their human rights upheld.
Since the constitutional challenge to Section 53 of Belize’s Criminal Code was filed in July 2010, it has taken six years for this decision to be made. The old law is now considered to constitute a violation of the rights to dignity, privacy, equality and non-discrimination. As a result it is declared void to the extent it prohibits consensual conduct in private.
Gay rights activist and sole claimant Caleb Orozco of the United Belize Advocacy Movement had challenged the provision’s constitutionality, with the help of the University of the West Indies Rights Advocacy Project. Also in support of Caleb were the International Commission of Jurists, the Oak-funded Human Dignity Trust and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association. Caleb says he is elated by the ruling and for the first time feels free to be a gay man in Belize.
“For me and to my community, this document called the Constitution is not toilet paper,” said Caleb. “It is real, full of ideals and it is our responsibility to demand its enforcement, to demand the ideals that are in this document. Today, the courts acknowledged what I had suspected for decades, but what you realize in any social movement is that the people who feel the pain or feel marginalised or who carry fear must step up and defend those ideals, otherwise nobody else will do it for you.”
The Human Dignity Trust believes that laws that criminalise LGBT people put them beyond the protection of the law, fostering a climate of fear and violence. The Human Dignity Trust supports local activists and their lawyers to uphold a person's right to dignity, equality and privacy.
Téa Braun, Legal Director of the Human Dignity Trust, said: “This is a great victory for human rights and the rule of law. Intimacy in private between two adults of their own free will should not be a matter for the law. The only outcome of such laws is to blight the lives of members of the LGBT community by fostering a climate of oppression and state-sponsored discrimination.”
Oak Foundation congratulates Human Dignity Trust and Caleb on the victory. Read more about it here.