Belize LGBT Push for Hate Speech and Hate Crime Legislation

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vlcsnap-2014-04-03-17h03m16s189The Caleb Orozco Vs. Government of Belize over the constitutionality of section 53 case has still not received a ruling as yet.

It is almost a year since arguments were wrapped up and the Chief Justice decision was expected.

While that judgement is still in the air, Orozco and UNIBAM supporters have been making headway with their agenda with the help of various organizations such as the National Women’s Commission, and OAK Foundation, among others.

Orozco has also been taking his case to the international community even while the Belizean court decision remains pending.  On Monday, Belize was given a black eye by homosexual advocates Caleb Orozco  and Steven Diaz.

They filed an official international complaint against the state of Belize at the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, painting a picture that homosexuals in Belize suffer high levels of violence in Belize; even at the hand of state officials.

vlcsnap-2014-04-03-16h59m26s65Caleb Orozco- President of UNIBAM

“In February, 2011 in eth village of Esperanza, Cayo, four police officers pulled up beside a car that took him on a driving.  The officers kicked the door of the car and told the men that they pay $200 to the police officers to be arrested.   A transgender individual in the village of Guinea grass District, was raped by a man she new.  She did not report the assault to the local police or tell her family of the fear of disgracing herself or her family.  LGBT individuals suffer from high rate discrimination within society, including education, health care and employment. In October 1st and 5th of 2009, a 19 year old transgender student, Jose Garcia, was formally threatened on multiple occasions with dismissal from the Belmopan Baptist School of Adult Continuing Education because, according to the school, and I quote “he acts like girl” and dresses deformately, and “quote, “uses the female bathroom”.  February 13th 2009.  44 year old Enrique Castillo was found in his home in the Belize Corozal Road in Orange Walk town.  He had been beaten to death with a baseball bat and his throat was cut with a kitchen knife.  In October, 2012, the person charged was acquitted of murder because he reported to the court that his confession was forced”.

Caleb Orozco presented examples of their claims of high levels of violence against LGBT in Belize; but most of those examples were vague and unreported incidents that he claimed occurred but admitted he had no documentation to prove.

vlcsnap-2014-04-03-17h44m27s53Mr. Diaz:  “Our main concern that the state retains legislation criminalizing same sex sexual conduct, the provision exacerbates discrimination, violence against  an marginalization of sexual minorities in the Belizean society.  Our main concern is that the state has not implemented any public policies or legislations that would rectify the extreme public stigma against LGBT individuals or counter the homophobic speech and misinformation spread by proponents of the criminalization of same sex conduct.  We remain concerns that the LGBT persons suffer from high levels of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, including a non state and state actors.  We remain concern that the Belize Immigration Act prohibits sexual minorities from entering the country.  There is a systematic and widespread LGBT persons by law enforcement officials, including arbitrary detention, blackmails and threats, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and dangerous conditions in detention facilities.  The state does not adequately prevent, investigate or prosecute violence and killing because of the victim’s sexual orientation and LGBT individuals suffer from high rates of discrimination within society, including education, health care and employment”.

Orozco also reported to the OAS, the Roman Catholic Church’s recent move to ban UNIBAM from teaching the children of the Catholic Schools about homosexuality and from promoting it is a natural and acceptable act.

vlcsnap-2014-04-03-17h28m02s254Caleb Orozco:  “Vulnerable groups within the Belizean society, particularly LGBT individuals a subject of particularly high levels of violence that compound the problem of impunity and distrust, complicating the stigma and distrust or stigma and discrimination and improved public human rights knowledge as  an internal memo dated March, 21st from the Catholic Bishop written to school managers and principals which blacklisted four organizations making presentation in their school, including UNIBAM and the government’s National AIDS Commission.  UNIBAM is the only LGBT organization that exists in the country of Belize.  This agenda of sodomy, abortion and sexual gender re-definition seeking to radically change Belize’s Christian character.  We beg to define what Christian character is.  This is important to note as a barrier to cultivating an environment of tolerance and respect for human rights.  The state remains lacking in its response of blacklisting the organization, despite potential in millions invested in health that support the health rights of all citizens.  There is a broadcasting at clarity that is used to retaliate local media, but it exists without a budget or staff, despite current regulations.  In the column written by the editor on the 17th November 2011 in the Amandala, it spoke to, and I quote, “I’ve got news for these homos:  I won’t budget a millimeter for my stand against vlcsnap-2014-04-03-17h45m55s83them.  They can call me anything they like.  They are also still be a nasty, despicable God-forbidden way of life until the heavens crumble, and even afterwards”.

While on one hand they are arguing that they are trying to protect their constitutional rights, it appears, based on the requests made at the OAS, that the LGBT community is pushing for the restriction of Belizean free speech and the removal of certain constitutional freedoms of those who oppose their lifestyle.

vlcsnap-2014-04-03-17h43m26s48Mr. Diaz:  “Adapt criminal legislation that proposes sentences for violent hate crimes committed because of the real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the victims, and ensure that hate crimes are investigated, prosecuted and where applicable punished, provide equal rights sensitization training, particularly in the area of LGBT rights for teachers and staff in schools, government officials at all levels and in particular, law enforcement officers; enact and enforce disciplinary penalties for law enforcement and Immigration officials that engage in arbitrary detention, harassment and blackmail of sexual minorities, adapt, stringent investigatory mechanism to address crimes committed against sexual minorities and document complaints and crimes committed against LGBts in police annual report, engage in public education regarding, correcting widespread misinformation regarding sexual minorities, condemn hate speech, and specifically against LGBT persons in institution, civil, and criminal penalties for engaging hate speech that incites violence against LGBT persons, implement the deliberation of the resolution 2807 adopted 2013 of the General Assembly of the OAS in Guatemala and to sign and ratify the Inter-american Convention against all forms of discrimination and intolerance”.

And since there was an official complaint against Belize, Ambassador Nestor Mendez, Belize’s representative to the OAS, was there to defend the state against the accusations that Belize has a high level of crime and violence against LGBT in Belize.

vlcsnap-2014-04-03-19h08m50s94H.E. Nestor Mendez- Ambassador of Belize to the Organization of American States

“It must be noted in this context that an advanced question regarding a Section of the Criminal Code of Belize, which criminalizes sodomy, is now subduesive and we are compelled to respectfully refrain from speculating from the outcome of the case.  In our legal and constitutional ethos, there is respect for the separation of powers and the organs of state.  The pending UNIBAM litigation is before the Supreme Court of Belize, and that ought to be respected by all parties until the proceedings are concluded.  The decision of the court is still pending and a fundamental aspect of the case addressed the issue of the quality before the law, discrimination, and whether the constitution of Belize includes a person’s sexual orientation. We ask most respectfully that this process be respected.  On the matter of the immigration law, it is part of the laws of Belize.  I don’t know if there is any initiative at the moment to address it.  I really would not like to venture or to say anything about that because I really don’t have the information. The General Assembly Resolution, (if you look at the footnote by Belize was footnoting the resolution because the issues being dealt with), in that resolution were the matter of the case that is still before the courts, and therefore, the government of Belize is not in a position to take political international positions on these issues, and when we don’t know what will be the outcome of vlcsnap-2014-04-03-20h58m25s35the proceedings.  Once the proceedings are concluded, we will be in a better position.  We wouldn’t’ want to venture in any direction until we have heard from the courts”.

Again, Orozco and Diaz presented a long list of accusations hurled against Belize for violations against LGBT, including discrimination in employment and education, but when asked for proof by the Commission, at the time, they appeared unable to substantiate those claims.

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