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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Video: In Caribbean, challenges mount to 'buggery' laws

By H, Editor Gay Jamaica Watch

Human Rights advocates and activists from across the Caribbean say they are in full support of a judicial review of the buggery law that is presently being mounted in Belize.

The case which has created strong public debate in Belize was initiated by United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) and its Executive President Caleb Orozco in July 2010. Oral arguments are scheduled to be heard in the Supreme Court in early December this year. UNIBAM is a Belizean NGO established to defend the human rights of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.

At a regional consultation convened by the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) in Montego Bay, Jamaica 28 August under the PANCAP Global Fund Project, leaders from more than 20 Caribbean organizations representing the LGBT community and other human rights entities unanimously voted to support their Belizean counterparts.

Recognized as a “test-case” and an example of litigation in the public interest by many, the Belize case is driven by the human rights principle that states that all people are equal and should have equality before the law. It seeks to challenge the failure of the Belize Government to acknowledge the human dignity of all persons regardless of their sexual orientation in an old colonial law that still exists in Belize and the failure to recognize the rights of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable, as Caribbean constitutions demand.

Implications for the region

In detailing this unprecedented show of support for this historic move, Colin Robinson of the Trinidad-based Coalition for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO) stated:
“We want to send a clear message that we will be relentless in helping to change that situation. It shows that not only is there general dissatisfaction with this outdated legal framework throughout the region but that many persons are feeling the negative effects of these laws in their own countries”.
“CVC has a mandate and commitment to preserving the rights and dignity of populations that are marginalized 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,” noted Dr. Marcus Day, Co-Chair of CVC. In affirming that CVC will seek to bring to bear its skills and resources to giving voice to these communities he stated that “To have laws that criminalize person in same-sex relations really and truly negates the human rights of this population. This cannot be allowed to continue.”

Tracy Robinson, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona noted that “The sodomy or buggery laws undoubtedly affect LGBTs disproportionately, but they also criminalize sexual activities between consenting adults who are heterosexual”.

According to Ms. Robinson,
"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.”
The consultation in Montego Bay took place under the theme “Identifying Core Service Provision Elements: Current, Potential and Unmet Needs.” It looked at a broad range of issues including service provision to members of the LGBT community, capacity building for organization serving these communities and identifying key barriers to scaling up services to the LGBT community across the Caribbean.

Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays held a peaceful protest outside the event.

Video from the region

Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow comments on the government's position regarding UNIBAM lawsuit to legalise sodomy in Belize.

Notice the condescending tone.

Meanwhile Caleb Orosco, Executive President, UNIBAM wrote in May 2011:
“Our case isn’t unique in terms of what we’re trying to do. We’re using a democratic tool. The tool is the Supreme Court and the use of the Constitution. We are not unique in terms of bringing constitutional challenges. There are other groups which have done that and have used the court to for finding redress so our case is not unique in that regard. Beyond them politicizing the sexual rights of individuals that they know nothing about really is a dirty. What it means is that gay people or gay men in particular, bisexual men in particular have stood up for basic human rights. What is means is that this case will and have generated a discussion on the basic consciousness of every individual in this country. How would you treat your own blood if they were gay?"

St. Lucia gay rights activist group, United and Strong has called on the government to reconsider the buggery law currently on the islands law books. The appeal comes in the wake of the judicial review of the buggery law in Belize. Co-Executive of United and Strong Kenita Placide says that it is about time that the government of St. Lucia consider doing the same and has called on the present administration to address the matter, which she says won't go away.

In St. Lucia, two of the Island's main religious denominations have spoken out against the campaign to have the anti-buggery laws repealed.

Peace and tolerance

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