Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Belizen Constitution: How Self-Censorship, Threats and Negotiations undermine rights

Posted 23rd February, 2014

The far right in Belize in 2011 started telling the Public that the L.G.B.T community  is looking for special rights and because the constitution speaks to the GOD, that any attempt to advancement  L.G.B.T concerns would be a violation of that constitution. In defense of the constitution, they had several marches around the country in 2013 and allowed an UniBAM effigy to lead one march in Toledo.




 
                   
                 


 The factual truth is that the preamble to the constitution does speak to acknowledging the Supremacy of God, but it also speaks to faith in human rights. See below the actual wording:          

                                                
 " affirm that the Nation of Belize shall be founded upon principles which acknowledge the supremacy of God, faith in human rights and fundamental freedoms, the position of the family in a society of free men and free institutions, the dignity of the human person and the equal and inalienable rights with which all members of the human family are endowed by their Creator;"

The state, while keeping out of the debate, and rightly so, because of the competing interests, has by omission, inaction and indifference  failed to address the social disparity between citizens as is requires in the preamble seen below:


(e) speaks to…require policies of state which protect and safeguard the unity, freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Belize; which eliminate economic and social privilege and disparity among the citizens of Belize whether by race, ethnicity, colour, creed, disability or sex; which ensures gender equality; which protect the rights of the individual to life, liberty, basic education, basic health, the right to vote in elections, the right to work and the pursuit of happiness;….

Note, the preamble speaks to" among the citizens of Belize," it did not say except L.G.B.T citizens, and so, one can argue there is a failure of the governance structure to  response to the rights of its L.G.B.T citizens through investments in human rights education, mechanism that address discrimination, or legislative protection. The Universal Periodic Review of 2009 have come and gone without follow-up of its recommendations to do, for example, a feasibility study to explore the development of a National Human Rights Institution. In 2013, a representative of the state, Prime Minister Barrow to his credit, finally spoke of not shirking its responsibilities. However, a cabinet response would be more encouraging. One may argue, engage the state, but as we have come to learn, it takes 6 years to get new legislation revised like the criminal code amendments of 2013. The state in its 2009 response spoke of " needing a political mandate" to address reform, indicating at the time, its unwillingness to address the issue. It seems despite, its responsibility to all its people and its role under a constitutional framework, it has failed to taken steps to initiate structure and a substantive response.

In an environment, where inaction was the norm, it was important to challenge section section 53 in the Supreme Court. Like all things, there was a reaction to our action and the group Belize Action had its first, of many rallies in 2011 at BattleField park in Belize City.










The rallies where held in Independence and Orange Walk respectively,  as seen here in 2011 to support its concerns of a moral decay and a Family Forum to speak about the"True Human Rights" in 2010 at the University of Belize.  Something that was shared with them by C-FAM, a known international entity that exists to undermine rights. A speaker at the first forum was Pierro Tozzi, who showed up in Jamaica at a Caribbean Advocates meetings, in 2010, he was back, in 2011 in Jamaica on Human Rights Day and in 2012 showed up in Barbados at an conference and also for a World Congress of the Family meeting in Trinidad that was sponsored by a Justice of Trinidad and Tobago and former Minister of St. Lucia Sarah Beaubrun. See link http://wcfcaribbean2013.org/

 









Section  20 of the constitution speaks to.-(1) "If any person alleges that any of the provisions of sections 3 to 19 inclusive of this Constitution has been, is being or is likely to be contravened in relation to him (or, in the case of a person who is detained, if any other person alleges such a contravention in relation to the detained person), then, without prejudice to any other action with respect to the same matter which is lawfully available, that person (or that other person) may apply to the Supreme Court for redress."

The constitution speaks to my rights to address constitutional concerns in the court,  section 16 (1) speaks to  "no law shall make any provision that is discriminatory." Furthermore, section
 14.-(1)  speaks to "A person shall not be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation. The private and family life, the home and the personal correspondence of every person shall be respected." Everyone has a right to privacy, but it seems, non-state actors find it very important to talk about  "Caleb the Traitor" in an amandala news article see below:


More importantly, reduce honor and reputation to public mockery while working to advance rights enforcement and protection concerns can be considered unlawful interference. Where does the law extend its protection to "Caleb the Traitor" the gay man, the human rights advocate if there is interference or a distortion of honor as seen here:














The constitution speaks to" 3 (c): protection for his family life, his personal privacy, the privacy of his home and other property and recognition of his human dignity; and" is an important part of the constitution. The United Belize Advocacy Movement Launch a campaign called we are one in dignity and rights a couple years ago and managed to distributed 1800 wristbands, but the theme of dignity has not been lost in the organization advocacy process. When speaking about rights, its about negotiating the concerns about arming opponents with evidence of victimization, its about access to resources, its about timing and picking your battles and its about delivering a message the public can understand as individuals. When there are no formal mechanism outside of the court system, it leaves open the space of collective practice that is encouraged to undermine human dignity of L.G.B.T individuals, that goes unrecorded in crime and violence reports, in national legislation, in policy and planning development. Can you say that dignity is upheld when threats abound see below:



















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