Belize’s Supreme Court has stroke down Section 53, an anti-sodomy law, used against LGBTI people, from the country’s legislation.
The ruling is unprecedented and historic throughout the Caribbean and likely to affect other states in the region.
According to Section 53 of the Belize Criminal Code, “Every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person … shall be liable to imprisonment for 10 years.”
Section 53 is a relic of British colonial past which was challenged in 2010 by the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) headed by director Caleb Orosco as unconstitutional, with the support of attorney Lisa Shoman.
Shoman and other lawyers from the University of the West Indies Rights Advocacy Project,, The Human Dignity Trust, the International Commission of Jurists, and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association have supported Orozco’s case in the Supreme Court.
They claimed that Section 53 violates rights guaranteed in the Belizean Constitution; including the right to human dignity, personal privacy, right to equality before the law, equal protection of the law and freedom from discrimination.
Belize’s Supreme Court heard the case in May 2013 and Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin was due to rule on the constitutionality of Section 53 of the Criminal Code in July but had to reschedule due to his health.
According to Orozco there are around 30 cases languishing in the judicial system relating to Section 53.
The Roman Catholic Church of Belize, the Belize Church of England and the Belize Evangelical Association of Churches are partners opposing to Orozco’s case.
The the striking down Section 53 has far reaching ramifications beyond Belize, as it may pressurise other member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to decriminalise homosexuality.