Maurice Tomlinson, an LGBT advocate is to challenge Belize’s entry ban on gays in an international court.
Tomilnson, a Jamaican national and legal advisor for the NGO AIDS-Free World has been invited to conduct training and sensitization sessions regarding the rights of individuals infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
The sessions, due to take place in Belize on the 14-16 January 2013, are an initiative of the United Belize Advocacy Movement, the country’s only civil society group promoting the health and human rights of LGBT and men who have sex with men citizens.
However, section 5 of Belize’s Immigration Act prohibits entry to homosexuals, people with mental health issues and physical disabilities.
The law, which is written in an archaic and offensive language, prohibits entry into Belize to:
‘(b) any idiot or any person who is insane or mentally deficient or any person who is deaf and dumb or deaf and blind, or dumb and blind;
‘(e) any prostitute or homosexual or any person who may be living on or receiving or may have been living on or receiving the proceeds of prostitution or homosexual behaviour;’
As an attorney-at-law Tomlinson has no intention of lying, nor breaking the law and therefore he had to reject the invitation from the United Belize Advocacy Movement.
This despite the recognition that Belize is in urgent need of such expertise, and the sessions are in line with the human rights approach to combatting HIV promoted by UNAIDS.
Tomlinson also considers the ban on his entry into Belize to be a violation of his right to freedom of movement within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which the country is a member.
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).
Last month Tomlinson was invited as a speaker in a UN meeting in Trinidad and Tobago but had to turn that invitation down as well, as the country has a similar prohibition to Belize’s.
He subsequently initiated a legal challenge to the Trinidadian immigration law before the CCJ.
Repealing that law, and section 5 of the Belize Immigration Act, will also liberate other marginalized groups.
It is noteworthy that in 2011, Belize signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In accordance with the rules of the CCJ, Tomlinson has written to his government, Jamaica, asking that it insist that the government of Belize remove this unreasonable travel restriction.
If this is not forthcoming, Tomlinson can petition 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 in CARICOM.
If the government of Jamaica fails or refuses to bring the matter before the CCJ, Tomlinson intends to try and do so himself.
Tomlinson told Gay Star new: ‘The offensive and overbroad prohibitions in section 5 of the Belize Immigration Act contribute to crushing stigmatization and discrimination against the most vulnerable populations in the Caribbean.
‘The law must to be expunged if the region is to rid itself of the last vestiges of its horrific past of exploitation and unspeakable cruelty.
‘Such laws have no place in the pluralistic societies that we wish to forge’.
He further pointed out that Belize’s anti-gay law acts to restrict ‘the fight against HIV, and contributes to the fact that the region has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world after sub-Saharan Africa’.