CVC HAILS DECISION OF BELIZE GOVERNMENT AS A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
(Kingston, Jamaica) The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition welcomes the decision of the Government of Belize to not appeal the court ruling that Section 53 of the Belize Criminal Code is inconsistent with the Constitution. The Chief Justice of Belize Kenneth Benjamin, ruled that Section 53 which criminalized “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, including anal sex between consenting adults, violated the rights to human dignity, privacy, freedom of expression, non-discrimination and equality before the law enshrined in the Belize constitution. Chief Justice Benjamin also found that Section 53 contributed to an environment of hostility, discrimination and exclusion and was not needed for the purposes of protection of Public health and public morality.
CVC hails the position of the Government of Belize that the Cabinet had a duty to regard and accept the court as ‘Guardian of the Constitution of Belize’, that the ruling brings Section 53 in conformity with the Constitution and that the case had been exhaustively argued and the issues fully ventilated. It is especially noteworthy that Prime Minister Dean Barrow denounced violence, including hate speech, and called for Belizeans to treat each other with respect and dignity regardless of differences.
CVC notes the Prime Minister’s excellent characterization of the ruling as a ‘shield for the [LGBTI] community, not a sword’.
The decision of the Government of Belize has occurred at a critical juncture in the HIV response. Recent data coming out of the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa this past July, shows that there has been a 9% increase in new HIV infections in the Caribbean. Criminalization and stigmatization have been shown to be a severe barrier to national, regional and global responses to the HIV epidemic and The Chief Justice in his judgment stated, “retention of section 53 so far as it relates to MSM hinders rather than aids testing and treatment as a matter of public health.”
The decision of the Government to not appeal is therefore an important and bold step forward.
CVC salutes the decision as another indication of the Belize Government’s acknowledgement of the rights and dignity of all citizens regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or other differences. It follows other reforms in Belizean policies and laws aimed at promoting equality and discouraging discrimination.
These encouraging steps forward in Belize are an excellent example of the leadership needed in the rest of the Caribbean - leadership that is the “voice for reason and compassion in our society”, which Prime Minister Harris of St Kitts and Nevis called for in his remarks to the PANCAP Breakfast Caucus at the recently concluded United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS held in June 2016.
For more information, please contact:
Dr Carolyn Gomes
Executive Director, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC)
1 (876) 631-7299 (CVC Office)