Belize commended for not appealing sex act ruling

The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) supports the government of Belize’s decision not to appeal the ruling that criminalising carnal acts, to include anal sex, is unconstitutional.

CVC said the Cabinet had a duty to regard and accept the court as ‘Guardian of the Constitution of Belize’, that the ruling brings Section 53 in conformity with the Constitution since the case had been exhaustively argued and the issues fully ventilated.

The group also views the decision of the government not to appeal as “an important and bold step forward”.

“It is especially noteworthy that Prime Minister Dean Barrow denounced violence, including hate speech, and called for Belizeans to treat each other with respect and dignity regardless of differences,” CVC said.

The decision of the government of Belize has occurred at a critical juncture in the HIV response.

Recent data coming out of the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, this past July, shows that there has been a 9 per cent increase in new HIV infections in the Caribbean. Criminalisation and stigmatisation have been shown to be a severe barrier to national, regional and global responses to the HIV epidemic.

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin ruled, last week, that Section 53 which criminalised “carnal acts against the order of nature” to include anal sex between consenting adults, violated the rights to human dignity, privacy, freedom of expression, non-discrimination and equality before the law enshrined in the Belize constitution.

He also found that Section 53 contributed to an environment of hostility, discrimination and exclusion and was not needed for the purposes of protection of public health and public morality.

“Retention of Section 53, so far as it relates to MSM (men who have sex with men), hinders rather than aids testing and treatment as a matter of public health,” Chief Justice Benjamin stated in his judgment.