amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

GRASSROOTS: The MSM Initiative Blog

amfAR's MSM Initiative supports grassroots MSM and transgender organizations responding to HIV, and advocates for effective HIV policies and increased funding for MSM/TG globally.

Belize: A Constitutional Challenge to Homophobic Laws

 Permanent link

Posted by Ben Clapham, June 13, 2011

blog6

Among those hoping to change laws against homosexuality in the Caribbean, all eyes are on Belize, where UNIBAM (the United Belize Advocacy Movement), an MSM Initiative-grantee, filed suit last year to overturn the country’s anti-sodomy law.

The suit has already generated a cultural and political struggle between human-rights activists and influential religious, political, and societal forces. Church leaders have argued that the case isn’t about the “decriminalization of a sexual action” but that the gay community has a hidden agenda to disrupt and corrupt Belizean culture (and to recruit and “homosexualize” their children). Last month, an application was filed by local Catholic, Anglican, and Evangelical churches to join the case as interested parties.

The challenge to Belize law has been long in the making. Two years ago, the MSM Initiative supported a Caribbean-wide initiative on decriminalization during which a team of lawyers conducted a regional analysis and determined that Belize presented the best prospect for overturning laws criminalizing homosexuality. After UNIBAM gathered information and testimony, the group filed a constitutional challenge to Section 53 of Belizian law, which decrees that “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” is punishable by imprisonment of up to ten years.

“Homosexuals are standing up for their basic human rights through advocacy at the Supreme Court level,” said Caleb Orozco, the executive director of UNIBAM . “Our case isn’t unique in terms of what we’re trying to do. We’re using a democratic tool. The tool is the Supreme Court and the use of the Constitution.”

UNIBAM has some powerful backers, including the International Commission of Jurists, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, and the Human Dignity Trust, which have joined the case as interested parties. A pre-trail hearing set for July 27, but for now we’ll have to wait and watch—hoping that the case will have a wider impact across the region.