Caribbean Seminar Series: Decriminalising Homosexuality in the Caribbean (The Belize Case)

As part of the Caribbean Seminar Series of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, Godfrey P. Smith, former Attorney-General of Belize, will present the seminar “Decriminalising Homosexuality in the Caribbean: The Belize Case in Commonwealth Perspective and Beyond.” Mr. Smith is part of the legal team representing the Human Dignity Trust and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association. His presentation on the Belize case and its implications will be followed by an informal question and answer session. This event will take place on February 3, 2012, 5:00-7:00pm, at the University of London in Room 264, Senate House (second floor) in London, UK.

Description: The criminalisation of homosexual acts is currently being challenged in the Central American and Caribbean nation of Belize. The United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) has mounted a legal challenge to Section 53 of the Belize Criminal Code which currently criminalises consensual intercourse between adult males. While UNIBAM argues that this provision represents a violation of constitutional rights, the Belize Action Movement (an alliance of churches) has joined the case to oppose any changes to the law.

The implications of the Belize case are international in dimension. First it is being seen as a test case for the Commonwealth Caribbean where, with few exceptions, homosexual acts are still criminalised, and gays, lesbians and trans-sexuals face intense discrimination. Secondly the legal challenge mounted by UNIBAM in Belize has attracted support from international organisations including the Human Dignity Trust and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association – prompting accusations of ‘foreign intervention’ from opponents of the campaign. Thirdly, the Belize case is unfolding against a backdrop in which donor nations such as Britain and the United States have begun to press for changes in discriminatory legislation as a condition of aid. David Cameron’s recent suggestion that Commonwealth nations should decriminalise homosexuality as a condition of aid has been vigorously rejected by a number of African nations. This seminar will consider the Belize case in local, regional and international context and its implications for the decriminalisation debate.

Godfrey P. Smith is an attorney-at-law and holds an M.A. from Harvard’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. At 31 he became the youngest Attorney General of Belize in 1999 and in 2003 became the youngest Foreign Minister to be appointed at age 35. He has also served as Foreign Trade Minister, Minister of Defence, Minister of Information and Minister of Tourism. In 2005 Godfrey Smith was elected a Deputy Leader of the People’s United Party. He is the founding editor of the Belize Law Reports, the Belize Law Review and the Belize Foreign Policy Yearbook and is the editor of Belize, a Caribbean nation in Central America: Selected Speeches of Said Musa.

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.]

For more information, see http://americas.sas.ac.uk/events/eventdetails.html?id=11492

Photo of UNIBAM wristband campaign from http://edition.channel5belize.com/archives/66159

 

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