LGBTI global news 24-7

Belize prepares for gay sex law to be axed

With a court due to rule whether the gay sex ban is unconstitutional, experts say the Belize government is paving the way for consensual anal sex to become legal
Belize's Prime Minister Dean Barrow seems to be preparing for the country's anti-gay law to be scrapped.

Belize is preparing for their law against sodomy to be struck down by the courts.

Gay anal sex, considered ‘against the order of nature’, is illegal in Belize and can get you 10 years jail – but a court case is trying to change that.

Recent government moves indicate they accept the court may rule the gay sex ban is unconstitutional and has to be altered or scrapped.

In the latest development, they are amending other areas of the law so male rape would be criminalized properly if the gay part of the penal code is axed.

The case against Section 53, the anti-gay section of Belize’s criminal code, is being brought by Caleb Orozco, the brave head of the Central American nation’s main LGBT organization, UNIBAM.

He says the law violates three sections of the country’s constitution and wants it changed so sex between consenting adults doesn’t count. At the moment a straight couple having anal sex are also breaking the law.

UNIBAM is still awaiting a ruling on the case in May, which appeared to go well. But in the meantime, the government appears to be preparing.

A new bill would change Section 46 of the criminal code – putting male anal or oral rape on a par with female rape for the first time.

That’s vital to counter anti-gay churches who have argued scrapping Section 53 would leave no protection for boys and men who are raped.

Public submissions to the house committee on the new bill are due on 8 October and with anti-gay forces speculating on the government’s plan, it may face opposition.

Anti-LGBT attorney Arthur Saldivar has argued this ‘seeks to bring in this whole homosexual issue through the backdoor – no pun intended’.

He has ‘warned’ it is a stepping stone to turning anal sex from an ‘act against the order of nature’ to ‘one where a person has the right to chose’.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Dean Barrow used Belize’s 32nd Independence Day to say LGBT citizens must have equality, although religious people have the right to disagree.

He said: ‘Government will therefore fully respect the right of the churches to propagate their understanding of the morality, or immorality, of homosexuality.

‘But what government cannot do is to shirk its duty to ensure that all citizens, without exception, enjoy the full protection of the law.

‘After all, the Belize Constitution that affirms the supremacy of God also affirms fundamental rights and the dignity of the individual human being.

‘That same constitution further declares that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to non discrimination; to freedom from interference with their privacy; and to freedom from unlawful attacks on their honor and reputation.’

His comments were following in the steps of his wife, Kim Simplis Barrow, who is also Belize’s Special Envoy for Children and Women.

In a heartfelt speech for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) on 17 May she said: ‘We all have a right to be safe and respected and to live our lives free from violence.’

While much more work is needed, Orozco told Gay Star News he was delighted with progress, saying: ‘It seems the stars are aligning for us.’

A ruling from the court on the constitutionality of Section 53 has been expected since July. While it could happen at any time, experts say it is likely before Christmas.

Comment on a news story