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Our backwards neighbors

10 May 2013

Belize, the former British Honduras was known in Mexico (officially anyway) as  “British Occupied Guatemala” and wasn’t recognized as a separate state until the 1990s.  It is still hard to recognize that it is a neighbor of Mexico.

It’s neighbors, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras have not had laws against sodomy since the 19th century, and both Mexican and Guatemala have banned discrimination based on sexual preference.  Same-gender marriage is legal in Quintana Roo, the Mexican state bordering Belize, and should become legal in all of Mexico sometime in the next year [The Mexican Supreme Court has overturned laws limiting marriage to opposite gender couples in a two states, and will rule the same way in future cases, but has yet to reach the threshhold of cases needed to make a definitive ruling that applies nation-wide].

Photo: Amandala

Photo: Amandala

Ironically, maybe given its legacy as an outlaw state (founded by pirates and slavers) what is called “buggery” was merely classified as a public nuisance before World War Two, when then “British Honduras” updated its criminal code, adding, in Section 53, a ten year prison sentence for “every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person …”.

A legal challenge to Section 53 is now before the Belizian Supreme Court, brought by Caleb Orozco of the United Belize Advocacy Movement.  While opposed by all the churches in Belize, Orozco’s most active opponent is a Texas missionary, Pastor Scott Stirm of something called Belize Action.

Pastor Strim is quoted by Amandala (“Belize’s leading newspaper”) as saying:

We believe in respect, we believe in human rights; homosexuals already have human rights — they’re humans.   If those rights are not being enforced, if police are not enforcing the proper laws, if there is any kind of bias, then there are proper procedures for dealing with that. But changing section 53 is not the answer to what they claim is a problem.

Did I add that there is no anti-discrimination law in Belize?

Deputy Solicitor General Nigel Hawke defended the law before the court. The strength of his argument was on the central point that the rights Orozco is claiming do not exist in the Belize constitution. According to Hawke, nowhere in the written text of the constitution does it name a right to privacy, human dignity and sexual orientation. He submitted further that the court does not have the jurisdiction to imply, impute or impose these supposed rights into the constitution because it would be giving itself legislative powers, which violate the doctrine of the separation of powers.

Beyond Strim and his minion’s  references to Orozco as the Antichrist, Orozco has received death threats and supporters of United Belize Advocacy, as well as those who are, or perceived to be, gay have been harrassed and/or attacked in recent weeks.  But it hasn’t only been the Evangelicals.  A Catholic priest, Ian Taylor, told the country’s Channel 5:

Globally it has been determined by states that violence against homosexuals is highest within the homosexual communities itself. First of all the victim syndrome that they tend to portray is actually within the community itself – they are aggressive against each other, and less from those who are considered heterosexual.

OH?

The case was heard Tuesday, and a ruling is expected sometime today.  Should Section 53 be upheld (and there’s every assumption it will be), the case could be appealed to Belize’s court of appeal – one rung above its supreme court, and beyond that – with permission – to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in Trinidad and Tobago.

In all the Americas, only Belize, along with a handful of other Caribbean states (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados,  Dominica, Jamaica,   Saint Kitts and Nevis,   Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) and one South American country, Guyana,  … all heirs of the British Empire…  still criminalize same-gender sexual relations.

Sources: Amdala, The Guardian, 7 News Belize, United Belize Advocacy Movment

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