Belize’s Foreign Minister, Hon. Wilfred Elrington, is in Antigua, Guatemala attending the 43rd Annual Assembly of the OAS. The main topic of discussion is the existing drug crisis within the Americas and a productive way forward. However, there is another pressing issue up for negotiation, and this includes references to sexual orientation and gender identity. To be presented at this year’s gathering is a resolution and its preamble reads “Taking into account that a pluralistic and democratic society must respect the cultural, linguistic, religious, gender and sexual identity of every person, whether belonging to a minority or not, and create the conditions that will enable that person to express, preserve, and develop his or her identity.” And in doing so, the resolution, in Article I (1) is seeking to redefine the term discrimination, to mean “Any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference, in any area of public or private life.” In other words, the proposed resolution insists that religious and cultural identity be respected, but then it goes on to say that being guided by one’s belief system in decision making will be classified as discrimination. But that’s not all, it will also warrant many as intolerant, as this is yet another term the document seeks to redefine – the new definition of intolerance would read “An action or set of actions or expressions that denote disrespect, rejection, or contempt for the dignity, characteristics, convictions, or opinions of persons for being different or contrary.” Another provision refers to indirect discrimination; this type of discrimination, “Shall be taken to occur, in any realm of public and private life, when a seemingly neutral provision, criterion, or practice has the capacity to entail a particular disadvantage for persons belonging to a specific group, or puts them at a disadvantage, unless said provision, criterion, or practice has some reasonable and legitimate objective or justification under international human rights law.” And certainly there will be ramifications for whoever violates these provisions, and we’ll tell you what the resolution says about that later in the newscast. So far, we have been made to understand that Guatemala has rejected the proposal while Belize has abstained, stating that some of those issues are currently in the Belize Court system, yet to be determined. However the real voting on the proposal is set for September of this year.
There is a momentous meeting taking place in Guatemala. The gathering is being hosted by the OAS and consists of some 36 international delegations and 28 Foreign Ministers, including Belize’s Foreign Minister. Among a revised drug policy, the gathering will negotiate a proposal which includes sexual orientation and gender identity references. We already outlined some of the provisions, particularly those in Article 1. Now Article 4 of the document speaks about laying down the rod on persons, organizations and publications that breach the provisions of the treaty. The article affirms that the states must “Undertake to prevent, eliminate, prohibit, and punish, in accordance with their constitutional norms and the provisions of this Convention, all acts and manifestations of discrimination and intolerance.” These include “Public or private support provided to discriminatory activities or that promote intolerance, including the financing thereof; Publication, circulation or dissemination, by any form and/or means of communication, including the Internet, of any materials that: advocate, promote, or incite hatred, discrimination, and intolerance and preparing and introducing teaching materials, methods, or tools that portray stereotypes or preconceptions, based on any of the criteria set forth in Article 1.1 of this Convention.” PlusNews understands that there will be a period for the document to be vetted, and thereafter, in September the members states will cast their vote on the resolution. If passed, it becomes a binding treaty. We also note that Guatemalan media has also opened discussions on the current OAS meeting, disputing claims that it’s merely about defense and drug policies, but rather, has primarily to do with the implementation of sexual orientation and gender identity rights. (OAS PICS 3) – Also today, Civil Society representatives hosted an information summit where the rights of the LGBT community, the existing drug crisis, drug trafficking and the criminalization of various sexual acts, among other social issues were discussed.
Also in attendance was Executive Director of United Belize Advocacy Movement UNIBAM, Caleb Orozco. Orozco, via a press statement today, congratulated the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Women’s Commission for their statements of support for diversity. The release also acknowledges UNIBAM’s support of the Gender Policy. The LGBT Community in Belize came under scrutiny after it was alleged that they attempted to get Vice-President of Oceana Audrey-Matura Sheppard fired for comments she made against the current homosexual lawsuit. And while the UNIBAM press release did not touch that matter, it did say “Oceana’s work remains valued and UNIBAM remains supportive in its effort to secure a balance in the development process.”