Belize’s Chief Justice has ruled the country’s sodomy law is unconstitutional.
The law punished consensual gay sex with 10 years in jail.
Section 53, the section of Belize’s criminal code which criminalized sodomy, was introduced when the country was under British Empire rule.
The legal challenge was brought by Caleb Orozco, the brave head of the Central American nation’s main LGBT organization, UNIBAM. The organization started it’s legal challenge in 2010.
Their Twitter message posted after the court’s decision says: ‘We won on all counts. Speechless. Omg. Speechless.’
Belize has a population of around 380,000. But the impact of the decision may be even wider. Other Caribbean countries with the same law, also introduced by the British, are likely to face their own legal challenges.
Jamaica’s law has a similar history to Belize’s and so is highly likely to be challenged in the same way. Leading gay Jamaican activist and lawyer Maurice Tomlinson is among those who supported Orozco.
Despite the LGBTI activists sounding surprised in their tweet, the collapse of the gay sex law in Belize had been predicted for several years, although the case rumbled on far longer than expected.
GSN reported in 2013 that the government was preparing new legislation to put male anal or oral rape on a par with female rape for the first time, once consensual gay sex was legal.
That was vital to counter anti-gay churches who argued scrapping Section 53 would leave no protection for boys and men who are raped.
In a 100-minute judgment today, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin ruled that by criminalizing consenting intercourse between adults of the same sex, Section 53 contravenes the Constitution of Belize. He said the constitution granted rights to dignity and personal privacy, as well as equality and equal treatment of everyone under the law. (gaystarnews.com, 8/2016)