Belize Decriminalizes Gay Sex, Raising Hopes for Other Caribbean Countries

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A report by Dominic Preston for Frontiers Media.

Belize’s Supreme Court yesterday struck down an anti-sodomy law dating from the colonial era, sparking hope among activists and legal experts that it could influence similar campaigns and legal cases across the Caribbean.

Section 53 of Belize’s Criminal Code, an old British colonial law, banned ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’, effectively criminalizing consensual gay sex. There were few convictions under the law, which threatened up to 10 years in prison, but it worked to stigmatize gay men in the country.

Now, six years after a lawsuit was first filed by gay rights activist Caleb Orozco, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin agreed that Section 53 amounts to a violation of the constitutional rights to dignity, privacy, equality and non-discrimination on grounds of sex.

“In striking down Section 53, Belize has also rejected a poisonous remnant of colonial rule,” Orozco said in the wake of the ruling. “We have reaffirmed ourselves as a society built on dignity and respect for all our people. This is a proud day.”

While it’s a momentous occasion for the LGBT population in Belize, the ruling could have vital ramifications across the Caribbean. Attorney Maurice Tomlinson brought suit against neighboring Jamaica’s law criminalizing homosexuality last December, and speaking before the Belize ruling he said it could be “highly persuasive” to courts in other Caribbean nations.

“The reasoning would be very important for my ongoing challenge to the Jamaican anti-sodomy law,” he added.

That view was echoed in a statement by Shawn Gaylord of campaign group Human Rights First: “Let us hope that this step may inspire neighboring Caribbean countries to take action to end the criminalization that only serves to marginalize groups of citizens who simply seek equality and respect.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, Belize is the third country this year to decriminalize homosexuality, following Nauru and the Seychelles. There are now 72 countries left with laws that criminalize LGBT people.

3 thoughts on “Belize Decriminalizes Gay Sex, Raising Hopes for Other Caribbean Countries

  1. There is no such thing as ‘normal’ queer theory questions the very ground of identity. Few individuals fit neatly into the categories’ man or woman – when tested on chromosomes, hormones, genes, or anatomy most will fit somewhere on a continuum. Some men may look very masculine, but have high levels of female hormones, or a micropenis, while some women may be tall or hairy, which are qualities we are encouraged to view as masculine

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