Most advocates usually focus on the needs of others, but I am departing from this model for a very personal reason. I hope when you read the information below you will join my letter writing campaign: ‘Self-Respect, Solidarity and Section 5’ to get me to my son’s spelling bee finals in Belize.
Don’t worry, this is not a plea for funds.
You see, in a matter of weeks, my brilliant boy will be competing in the National Spelling Bee Finals in Belize. However, as a gay man, I am legally barred from entering the country to see him.
This is because Section 5 of Belize’s Immigration Act bans the entry of homosexuals, as well as persons who are mentally challenged (described as ‘any idiot or any person who is insane or mentally deficient…’) and the physically disabled (described as ‘deaf and dumb or deaf and blind, or dumb and blind…’). Together, we are all considered ‘prohibited classes’.
I could possibly sneak into the country, but, out of self-respect, and in solidarity with all unjustly prohibited persons, I refuse to visit Belize until the discriminatory law is repealed.
I have also been told that I could get a government waiver, but this would amount to me being declared an ‘honorary heterosexual’, in much the same way that blacks who did business with the Apartheid-era regime in South Africa were declared ‘honorary whites’.
Such a demeaning prospect is unthinkable to me.
I have initiated a case before the highest court in the region, the Caribbean Court of Justice, to have this law struck down, but I need your support. I am therefore asking you to write to the government of Belize (see contact information below) and state if you believe the law should be abolished.
Time is running out. So please write soon. The letter doesn’t have to be long, and, in fact, a short note is more likely to be read. You can simply state who you are, whether you are personally affected by the law and/or if you are writing in solidarity with someone who is.
Also mention what you think of the law, and whether its existence will influence your decision to visit the country.
While I think online petitions have their place, I also believe they can too easily be ignored. So can emails. Therefore, even if you decide to send an email to the persons listed below, I would ask that, if at all possible, you also send actual letters. It would also be wonderful if you let me know if you get a response!
Thank you for considering this urgent appeal. I am sure you will agree that it is time that such archaic laws were consigned to the dustbin of history.
You can write to:
Honorable Wilfred Peter Elrington
Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs
2nd Floor Nemo Building, Belmopan, Belize, Central America.
Honorable Jose Manuel Heredia Jr
Minister of Tourism and Culture
106 South Street, Belize City, Belize, Central America.
Maurice Tomlinson is a Jamaican LGBT activist. He was the winner of the inaugural David Kato Vision and Voice Award which celebrates the life and work of murdered Ugandan LGBT activist, David Kato. Maurice can be reached by email here.