Gay activist vows to fight Belize's immigration law

Published: Thursday | December 27, 2012 Comments 0

WESTERN BUREAU:

Jamaican gay-rights activist Maurice Tomlinson and the group Aids-Free World have added Belize's "offensive" immigration law as one of the fights they will champion into 2013.

"Only two countries in the Western Hemisphere, Belize and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, arbitrarily ban the entry of homosexuals as a 'prohibited class'. AIDS-Free World is working to bring that to an end," the group has stated.

Tomlinson, a member of the Jamaican lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual (LGBT) community and an HIV-activist, signalled his intention in a media release, stating that he travels to all parts of the Caribbean and, as a gay man, he is legally barred from entering Belize and Trinidad.

Training sessions INVITATION

Tomlinson, who has been invited to conduct training and sensitisation sessions in Belize City from January 14-16, said despite the invaluable contribution he can make to Belize's HIV response, as an attorney-at-law, he is unwilling to break the law to conduct these sessions. He was invited to Belize by the United Belize Advocacy Movement, Belize's only civil-society group working exclusively to promote the health and human rights of LGBT/men who have sex with men citizens.

According to the ardent gay activist, he considers the ban on his entry into Belize to be a violation of his right to freedom of movement within the Caribbean Community. Hence, a refusal of the invitation and, with the support of AIDS-Free World, he has initiated a challenge to Belize's Immigration Act before the highest court in the region, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Repealing that law, and Section 5 of the Belize Immigration Act, he argues, will also liberate other marginalised groups. Among the other classes of persons prohibited from entering Belize are the mentally challenged (described as 'any idiot or any person who is insane or mentally deficient ...') and the physically disabled (described as 'deaf and dumb or deaf and blind, or dumb and blind ...').

"It is noteworthy that in 2011, Belize signed and quickly ratified the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities," said Tomlinson.

Earlier this month, he was invited to present at a UN meeting in Trinidad and had to turn that invitation down as well. He subsequently initiated a challenge to the Trinidadian immigration law before the CCJ.

Tomlinson also wants the Jamaican Government to bring the matter before the CCJ on the grounds that Belize's Immigration Act breaches the provisions for free movement of persons within the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. If the Government of Jamaica fails or refuses to bring the matter before the CCJ, he said he intended to try and do so himself.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com

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