August 13, 2006 – lgbrpcv.org
Pride in Belize – Adult Education Volunteer, Belize
In the States and in some parts of the world, June is recognized as Gay Pride Month. It is a month that is set aside as a celebration of the lives, history, and experience of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in the U.S. and throughout the world. For me Gay Pride Month is an affirmation of who I am and celebrates my experience when so much in the world negates it.
Now well into my second year of Peace Corps service in Belize, I’ve gained a new perspective on what it means to be a lesbian, especially living in a primarily homophobic environment. Last year at this time I had probably come out to most other volunteers and the rest, thank god were told by the PCV pipeline. It’s funny because when I came to Belize I was already aware of the homophobia and the laws against homosexuality (I had spoken to a lesbian RPCV who had served in Belize in the early 90’s), yet what I was most anxious about was coming-out to the other volunteers.
Being a lesbian in a country that has laws against homosexuality and where the majority of the population practice Christianity means that one cannot be open about her sexuality. Being a lesbian in Belize means discretion. It means being cautious. It means being sensitive to others. It means being afraid. And sometimes it means being ashamed. It means not telling the whole truth. It means avoiding certain topics. It means having to hear homophobic remarks and say nothing. It means that you go back into the closet.
To be honest I’ve been spoiled. I’ve been out since 1993. Which means that I actively participated in the gay and lesbian community, I spoke on panels, I was in parades, I became an activist for gay rights, I had stable and committed relationship with a woman and I was out in every facet of my life including work, school and family. In addition I was able to live in a liberal college town where the gay population was higher per capita than San Francisco and where there were laws against discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation. You could say I was living in a lesbigay paradise!
So that was my experience before Peace Corps Belize. Now it may seem that being a lesbian was my whole life, but not really, just being honest was. I haven’t had many people reject me due to my sexuality. In fact it seems odd that it could possibly happen. Joining the Peace Corps being openly gay was a concern for many of my friends and family. Ironically I wasn’t too concerned. I knew that most Peace Corps countries were either homophobic or not accepting in general. I did expect to be closeted among the host country national. Being closeted wouldn’t be such a struggle because I had hoped to find my support system among other volunteers.
Within the last few years Peace Corps has been actively recruiting people of diverse backgrounds including sexual orientation. Peace Corps has specific policies that state volunteers can not be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. My Peace Corps recruiter didn’t directly ask me if I was a lesbian, but based on my past work and volunteer experience working with queer folk, she did warn me about being discreet and to be careful in Belize if I was planning to be out.
I also received sound advice from my RPCV mentor who had served here. In the states, I wasn’t surrounded by gay people all the time, but I was used to people accepting me for who I am, and treating me with respect. Understandably, I sought out that same type of acceptance and support here within our volunteer group. As a result I’ve gained supportive friends who listen to me no matter what course the conversation takes.
I’ve found empathy and understanding, some curiosity and a chance to educate and share my experiences with others. I am lucky because the other volunteers have treated me with respect in regards to this issue. I am grateful and thankful because as I have learned from the few Belizean friends I’ve made here, respect is the last thing you receive from others in this country if you’re homosexual.
The few gay and lesbian Belizeans that I know are very closeted and very discreet about their sexuality. Amy who self identifies as a lesbian was one of the first people I met here in Belize. She was born and raised in Belize. She currently works in a government agency. Amy has only recently come out to a select few including close friends and a few family members. She is not out at work and most of the people in her life do not know that she is a lesbian. Her experience as a lesbian in Belize has been stressful and frustrating.
Due to the laws of this country, the only place for people to meet with one another is at private parties. There are no openly gay bars or discos. There are no support groups or organizations for lesbiagay people. There is no such thing as Gay Pride Month in Belize. The only medium/resources that lesbiagay people have access to in this country are the pirated cable stations from the U.S. that televise movies and television shows that portray lesbigay characters.
The other resource is the Internet and obviously that depends on whether one has access to a personal computer, because checking out a queer website at the District Education office or at Belize Telecommunications Ltd. doesn’t seem like the most discreet way to find lesbigay resources and information! It seems that most lesbigay people in Belize somehow find others like them through word of mouth, which isn’t always the most reliable. Many move to the States to enjoy more freedom and more opportunities to be open and honest about who they are. As everyone knows, Belize has a small population, once you are discovered as either a lesbian or gay man, (bisexuals are usually considered homosexual) life can become rather difficult. In some cases, people are guilty by association.
According to Amy, she has had to go out with boys because that is what society expected of her, society mainly being her family and friends. As an adult Amy has had to live her life in the closet, as an employee of the government she can’t disclose too much about her sexuality, because if one is too obvious then one’s job and social status/reputation is threatened. There have been many cases of people losing their employment due to their sexual orientation even though it is never openly stated as the reason. After talking with other Belizean lesbians and gay men most would agree that it is easier for men to be open about their sexuality than it is for women.
Although ironically the laws against homosexuality are targeted at gay men and not lesbians. It seems that more men are out than women and that’s because they are willing to take the risk. Due to these realities, moving to the States to be free or open is so true for many gay men and lesbians. Most people in Belize and throughout the world still consider homosexuality a sin, an aberration, unnatural, disgusting, in other words wrong and not acceptable. Due to these harsh judgments, most people prefer to be closeted.
As I write this article, I wonder how many Belizeans will read this and how many will judge me or lose respect for me and the work that I do. I would like to say that I don’t care, but I still have several months of service to complete and I don’t want to compromise my assignment, my office, or Peace Corps. I believe my reason for being here is more important than letting everyone know about my sexuality. And yet, I wanted the other volunteers to know how much I’ve appreciated their support and to be aware of not only myself who is a lesbian but also others who have lived in Belize all their lives and cannot be out because of fear and rejection.
This is the same fear, that will not allow me to publish my name at the end of this piece. I am not ashamed of who I am. If anything I’ve become more proud, living in Belize, not only of myself but, of lesbigay Belizeans who have struggled alone with their sexuality and until recently haven’t even been able to see themselves represented in the media or anywhere for that matter. I am proud of their strength and their honesty. I admire them for being truthful if not with anyone but themselves. Shame and/or fear prevent most people from being open about their sexuality. Coming out is a lifelong process. A good friend of mine once said, lesbians, gay men and bisexual people come-out, so that one day we won’t have to any more. I hope that day comes sooner than later especially for those who live in Belize.
You can contact the author at email@example.com.
April 2009 – From: Cindy, a native lesbian in Belize
Sent to GlobalGayz.com
Comments from a Belizean Lesbian
As a lesbian resident of Belize, I was extremely disappointed in this article about Belize. Whoever wrote this clearly has never been to Belize and has absolutely no understanding of the culture here. For example, my local Mayor is an out lesbian. The daughter of a previous Mayor married her girlfriend and lives openly with her. Many teachers, public servants and business owners where I live are lesbian and gay and live openly in the community. There are hotels that are openly owned and operated by gay and lesbian couples.
I live on one of the Cayes and things are a bit different here. There are parts of Belize where male homosexuality is frowned upon. But no more so than they are frowned upon in rural parts of North America or Europe. These areas tend to be heavily influenced by American Evangelical Missionaries or by Jamaican Dancehall culture. Nevertheless, we have many male and female gay friends and acquaintances who have both traveled and lived all over Belize and had fewer problems than they had back home in North America or Europe.
Belizeans are very tolerant and friendly. We have always been welcomed wherever we have visited and the only time people are surprised by us they demonstrate curiosity not animosity. When we had our wedding blessed on a local boat, the crew just wanted to know if gay and lesbian people required anything different than at straight weddings.
Belize City is a rough area and no one in their right mind would want to be there late at night or even spend much time there at all, but the rest of Belize is wonderful. I can’t think of a single resort that would have any issues with a gay or lesbian couple -actually I lie..there is one, owned by a North American Evangelical preacher. We also have an active and strong National Aids Commission here, which is a mix of health professionals, gay, lesbian and straight people.
There is no ‘pride’ here because it is a tiny country, fewer than 350,000 people and it is a developing nation where there is extreme poverty. People have more important things to think about than gay pride. Private parties are the venue of choice for most gay couples on the mainland because any public display of affection is frowned upon, whether by gay or straight people. This is a country where women are so modest that they swim fully clothed. I have traveled extensively with male gay friends and none of us has ever had any problems in any bars we’ve visited.
There is a huge element of ‘down low’ behaviour here and many men here have several children, often by several women as well as participating regularly in same sex behaviour. This is one of the reasons we have the highest incidence of HIV in Central America.
Please try to get your facts straight and speak to gay and lesbian people who live and work here. I hope this has gone some way to helping you have a better view of Belize. As someone who promotes Belize as a safe destination for gay and lesbian people (not professionally), it saddens me to see poorly informed reports like your own. You can check out our blog to see exactly how openly we live here.
I hope that my response will suffice for now. I do very much appreciate you taking the time respond. I would hate for gay and lesbian people to have read your site and not have chosen to visit our beautiful country.
December 3, 2009 – International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
Belize: Protect Students from Discrimination and Expulsion
Join the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) in calling on the Ministry of Education of Belize and other authorities to take legal action to ensure that Jose Garcia is not prevented from attending school because of his sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression and to protect him from harassment and discrimination.
On October 1 and 5, 2009, Jose Garcia, a 19-year-old student at Baptist School of Adult and Continuing Education in Belmopan, Belize, received letters from the school threatening to dismiss him is because "he acts like a girl," "dresses effeminately," "uses the female bathroom," and "carries a purse as his school bag."
On October 20, Jose received a letter from the school principal, Norman Willacey, asking that Jose withdraw from the school and seek counseling. Later, he told Jose, "You have me so embarrassed. I don’t want to see you here in the compound. If you [don’t] leave right now I will call the police!"
Authorities seem to be unwilling to act to protect Jose Garcia’s right to education. The Public Information Officer of Belmopan, Arlette Gomez, has stated that it is their aim to ensure that Mr. Garcia’s constitutional rights are not being infringed upon and that the guidelines of the Education Act and Rules are being followed.
The Minister of Education, Patrick Faber, has also stated that the school is "bound to follow the constitution, otherwise anybody can take them to court." Nonetheless, the Minister has offered no concrete protection for Jose Garcia, stating that "it is a Baptist High School, there is not much the Ministry can do."
"I am not hurting anybody because of the way I dress."– José García
Discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in education systems is a serious problem all over the world that has not been addressed at all. Harassment, mistreatment, violence, and other human rights violations threaten students’ physical or emotional well-being, influence how well students do in school, make it difficult for students to achieve their career goals, and excludes thousands of students all over the world entirely from education systems.
All people have the right to education under international human rights law without discrimination based on, and taking into account sexual orientation and gender identity (Yogyakarta Principle 16). Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention against Discrimination in Education, all of which Belize is party to, ensure the right to education of all.
Additionally, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and the ICESCR are explicitly interpreted to include protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity (Human Rights Committee: Toonen v. Australia; Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comment 20; Committee Against Torture General Comment 2).
Furthermore, the right to education without discrimination exists in Belize law as well. The preamble to the Belize Constitution states that "a just system should be ensured to provide for education and health on the basis of equality," and the Education Act dictates that "schools shall be free of gender, racial and other biases (Art. 25 (2)."
Jose Garcia’s rights to education and non-discrimination under international and Belize law are being violated by his expulsion, threatening all other rights underpinned by equal access to education, including his right to work, to housing, and to health.
Take Action Now
Send a message:
Please send your letters to:
Sr. Patrick Faber – Minister of Education
Sr. Wilfred Elrington – Attorney General
Sr. Elvin Pender – Minister of Youth, Sports, Information and Broadcasting
Sr. Simeon Lopez – Mayor of Belmopan
Sra. Arlette Gomez – Public Information Officer of Belmopan
Please send a copy to:
Caleb Orozco – UNIBAM
May 2010 – MSM And HIV.org
Good Day All:
As you all know there is an organization called the United Belize Advocacy Movement. We are an advocate organization that uses rights-base approaches to reduce stigma and discrimination among vulnerable groups. In this light , we have been on a historical journey for over 2 years to draft a constitutional challenge to the sodomy law for 2010 with our regional partner Caribbean Vulnerable Communities and the legal time from the University of the West Indies Advocacy Rights Project (URAP).
The section we are concern about is below: Belize Criminal Code Chapter 101 Revised Edition 2003 states in section 53: "Every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for 10 years." Why are we doing this: We see the law as undermining health care especially when providing care and treatment in HIV. The law not only violates an individual right to privacy, but it stigmatizes our relationships as men who have sex with men. It is state sanction homophobia at its worse that justifies the homophobia we experience in the society.
12 April 2011 – Caleb Orozco
Transgender Belizean Discriminated Against at Airport
by Caleb Orozco – Executive President, United Belize Advocacy Movement
I am Caleb Orozco, Executive President from the United Belize Advocacy Movement. We are an advocacy organization that uses a rights-base approach to reduce stigma and discrimination in Belize.
I write to you from the Global Commission on HIV and Law from Port of Spain to express my dismay at how a Belizean was treated at Piarco International by an immigration officer.
Mia Quetzal, a Belizean and regional coordinator of the Caribbean Regional Tran in Action was invited to a a UNDP meeting in Port Of Spain for a meeting on the 12th and 13th. She arrived at Piarco International Airport at 4:00pm in the evening on COPA airlines 411 in Port of Spain on April 11th, 2011. Upon checking into immigration, the officer, read her passport, saw the "M" and proceeded to ask "Why do your passport say you are male?" Being honest, Mia then said" I am indeed male."
The officer proceed to say" Go stand at the corner!" The officer then inform her co-workers and they proceeded to parade up and down staring, laughing, giggling not knowing what was going on. One hour and half later the officer proceeded to say " here is your passport," left it on the counter without an explaination. Already humiliated, took her passport and left to get her baggage. She did not leave the airport till 6:00 pm in the evening.
Upon further investigation with UN represenatative organizing the logistics, I found out that they were calling her to confirm if Mia Quetzal was expected at the meeting here at the hilton. Theira Guzman, logistic coordinator for the meeting confirm that telephone number was from Piarco immigration office. They lied telling the UNDP representative, "We just called the Hilton they dont have a reservation for her." To which Theira Guzman replied," Yes she is one of our participant…I saw the reservation this morning." The phone was then handed to Emile Pradichit and she ran to the executive office of the Hilton to double check the reservation number and provided it to the Immigration Officer with the reservation number.
I asked you to do what you can to highlight this story, as know sane human being would put up with such deliberate HUMULIATION. This person had her documents together, She changed her picture to present how she looks in person, she had the correct name. Yet, she was treated like a dog. I note, she did not killed anyone, she did not violate any laws, she was not a drug traffickers; she was following the law, but yet she was treated with the indignity for just being.
22 May 2011 – Amandala
Belize churches join GOB in court battle against homosexuals
by Adele Ramos
The Belize Association of Evangelical Churches and the Council of Churches have applied through heavyweight attorneys, Rodwell Williams, SC; Eamon Courtenay, SC; Jackie Marshalleck, Christopher Coye, and M. H. Chebat, to join forces with the Government of Belize in defense of Belizean laws against sodomy—laws which are being challenged in court by Caleb Orosco and the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), an organization which Orosco leads. Belize’s criminal code calls for imprisonment for 10 years for persons who have intercourse “against the order of nature” with a person or animal, once they are convicted of the act. UNIBAM is challenging the constitutionality of the law.
UNIBAM is represented by Lisa Shoman, SC, and is supported by the International Commission of Jurists, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, and the Human Dignity Trust, as interested parties. These agencies have hired two other attorneys to litigate against the government: former Belize Attorney General, Godfrey Smith, SC, and former British Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, QC. The churches made the application last week to join the Attorney General of Belize, whom UNIBAM is suing over homosexual rights, to defend the laws currently outlawing sodomy. The churches are seeking to be added as an “interested party” in the Supreme Court case, to be heard on July 13.
According to the joint press release from the churches on Wednesday, May 18, “This [UNIBAM] lawsuit was filed to establish a new ‘right’ to engage in homosexual acts in Belize. In every country that has granted a new ‘right’ to homosexual behavior, activists have promoted and steadily expanded this ‘right’ to trump universally recognized rights to religious freedom and expression.” They also say that this “homosexual agenda” demands that same sex marriage be recognized.
The press release further states that, “This advocacy group has been heavily influenced by foreign interests who seek to impose a worldview that directly contradicts the supremacy of God as reflected in our laws, challenges our national sovereignty, and threatens our very way of life, not least by targeting our children.” (The full press release appears elsewhere in this edition of Amandala.) May 17 is dubbed International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia by those who support homosexual, bisexual and transgender persons (those who identify themselves as a gender other than their biological sex, such as a man assuming a female identity).
Amandala has given the public a chance to have a say through our online poll.. The question of legalizing homosexuality, and particularly sodomy, is very controversial, and one that many people feel very passionately about. This is reflected in the record number of hits to our poll this week. The poll question was: Do you believe homosexuality laws, including sodomy, should be erased off the law books or repealed, so as to legalize same sex relations and marriages in Belize? At press time this evening, there were over 2,000 votes – 73% disagreeing with the notion that the laws should be changed to accommodate the UNIBAM agenda to abolish laws against homosexuality.
July 28, 2011 – 7News Belize
The Homosexuality Debate in Belize: Should the state legislate morality?
Homosexuality has always been one of those things that everyone accepts is part of the Belizean society but no one addresses publicly, least of all on a legal or policy level. But the case of the United Belize Advocacy Movement versus the Attorney General of Belize, which is asking for the decriminalization of sodomy, has changed all that. In the build up to the trial, the issue is being discussed in detail in churches, at work, on the streets and in homes across the country. Tonight 7 News correspondent Janelle Chanona presents part one of a documentary on the Belizean reality of homosexuality.
Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize, May 13th 2011
"I would limit myself to saying that the government as a government has taken the position that it needs to argue for the constitutionality of the law that is in place that’s being challenged and so I would not go beyond that official position. I am not prepared to comment on my own physiological conviction or lack thereof. That is the official position of the government. This is one time when it might be wise for me to say nothing more."
Pastor Scott Stirm, Jubilee Ministries, Belmopan
"By natural law they cannot reproduce. Therefore they must recruit and I want to say this in the strongest terms possible. That’s what this is all about. This is their evangelistic campaign."
Martha Carillo, Regional Discrimination Unit, PANCAP, CARICOM
"It is not about changing people’s values, even to seek acceptance. I think the bottom line is that people need to be respected and we cannot have laws that disrespect the human rights of individuals."
Johnny Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"The party does not have a position as yet and we’ll certainly have to discuss as a party before we have a position."
Pastor Louis Wade Junior, Talk Show Host, Christian Youth Motivational Speaker
"We love people. We love these people. We love all people. It is the behavior that we have a problem with."
Caleb Orozco, Executive President, United Belize Advocacy Movement
"I am willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to enforce my right and my freedom and to meet the needs of my wellbeing as a human being."
September 26th, 2011 – Antigua Observer
Local MSM Community Watching Buggery Law Test Case in Belize
St. John’s Antigua – Interests in Antigua & Barbuda are quietly but keenly monitoring the judicial review of the buggery law in Belize. (Barbuda is an island in the eastern Caribbean, and forms part of the state of Antigua and Barbuda.) Oral arguments in the matter, which was initiated by the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), are scheduled to be heard in early December, a press release from the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) said.
The press release noted that the leaders of more than 20 Caribbean organisations representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community have pledged support to their Belizean counterparts. More than being an issue in Belize, the regional LGBT community and advocates see it as a test case for the Caribbean, which has anti-sodomy laws.
Tracy Robinson, senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law, UWI, Mona was quoted in the CVC release as saying, “the sodomy or buggery laws undoubtedly affect LGBTs disproportionately, but they also criminalise sexual activities between consenting adults who are heterosexual. Some argue that because the law is rarely enforced against consenting adults it poses little harm. But it has been shown that the continued existence of the laws is used by some to sanction their violence against LGBTs results in LGBT people fearing the police and not reporting serious crimes against them and impedes meaningful access to health care and other services to prevent and treat HIV,” Robinson said.
Across the region, people have been speaking out, with Colin Robinson of the Trinidad-based Coalition for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO) saying his group would be “relentless” in trying to change the legislation in the different states. CVC Co-Chair Dr Marcus Day said, “CVC has a mandate and commitment to preserve the rights and dignity of populations that are marginalised and do not have voice in the national and regional dialogue and whose rights are regularly trampled on. We are, therefore, driven by a strong human rights framework.
“To have laws that criminalise person in same-sex relations really and truly negate the human rights of this population. This cannot be allowed to continue,” Dr Day said…
Read complete story
16 November 2011 – The Guardian
Global campaign to decriminalise homosexuality to kick off in Belize court – Lord Goldsmith involved in attempt to overturn law in country which is first of 80-plus targeted by new rights group Human Dignity Trust
by Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent
A new British legal rights group will this week kick off a global campaign to decriminalise homosexuality in scores of countries across the world when it embarks on a first test case in the courts of Belize. The Human Dignity Trust (HDT), which launched its campaign in London on Thursday, is targeting the 80-odd states where consensual sexual activity between adults of the same gender is outlawed. More than half are Commonwealth countries which inherited their regulations from British colonial rule. In some like Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon and Ghana the laws are seen by some as justification for violent attacks on gay and lesbian people.
Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general, will be among the team of lawyers fighting to overturn section 53 of Belize’s criminal code, which enacts 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." The hearing, scheduled to begin on 5 December, has been brought by the gay Belizean activist Caleb Orozco. It is shaping up to be a constitutional legal clash with international political dimensions.
Belize’s evangelical, Anglican and Catholic churches have united to oppose the application. They are expected to set out their objections in a pre-hearing review on Friday and seek to introduce evidence that homosexuality can be "cured". In a joint statement earlier this summer, the churches in Belize declared: "In every country that has granted a new ‘right’ to homosexual behaviour, activists have promoted and steadily expanded this ‘right’ to trump universally recognised rights to religious freedom and expression."
Announcing that they have also retained a high-powered legal team, the Catholic bishop Dorick Wright, the Anglican bishop Philip Wright and the evangelical Rev Eugene Crawford said: "The people of Belize will not surrender our constitution, our moral foundations, and our way of life to predatory foreign interests."
The courtroom battle in Belize is the first in the HDT campaign. Challenges to homophobic laws in Northern Cyprus and Jamaica, where there are so-called "anti-sodomy laws", should be lodged before Christmas. Cases in other states will follow in the new year. Criminalising homosexuality is illegal under international law, according to Jonathan Cooper, a human rights barrister who is the trust’s chief executive. Among the legal authorities establishing that precedent is a 1994 ruling by the UN’s human rights committee based on a case in Australia.
Read complete article here