Mon | Feb 24, 2020

Belize Court of Appeal upholds ruling against gay sex ban

Published:Thursday | January 2, 2020 | 12:35 AM

The Belize Court of Appeal has upheld a landmark ruling by the country’s Supreme Court which found that a part of Section 53 of the criminal code, which prohibits same-sex relations, was in contravention of five sections of the constitution.

Section 53, Chapter 101 of the Belize Criminal Code states that “every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for 10 years”.

In the 2016 decision, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin ruled in favour of Caleb Orozco, executive director of The University of the West Indies Right Advocacy Project, declaring that the section in question violated the rights to dignity, equality before the law, freedom of expression, privacy, and non-discrimination.

Delivering the unanimous judgment this week, Justice Samuel Awich, a member of the three-judge appeal panel, said that the chief justice did not exceed the court’s power when he assigned the meaning “sexual orientation” to the word “sex” in the anti-discrimination Section 16 of the Constitution.

He added that “... consensual sexual intercourse between adult gays or between adult lesbians in private does not harm the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, nor does it intolerably harm contemporary public interest”.

The other two appeal court judges on the panel were Justices Murrio Ducille and Lennox Campbell.

Renewal of hope

Orozco, who filed the claim in 2016, welcomed the decision to uphold the lower court’s decision, placing confidence in the judiciary to continue to uphold the constitutional rights.

“I have proven as a citizen that our fundamental rights have value and can be upheld by our courts, and that any alienated section of society can stand on principle and can go to court and use the fundamental rights to ensure that the state leaves no one behind. Today is a renewal of hope in the substance of the chief justice’s decision in 2016, which still stands,” Orozco said.

Managing director for the Belize-based gay-rights lobby group, Our Circle, Derricia Castillo-Salazar, also commented on the judgment.

“Today affirms the value of the Orozco case to us individually, to our families, to our communities, and to our country. We have spoken the words of ‘all a wi da one’ on numerous occasions and now is the time for Belizeans to come together and push for positive action to be done,” she said.

nickoy.wilson@gleanerjm.com