Three years after homosexuality was first legalised in Belize, the country’s Court Of Appeal has upheld the ruling that found that criminalising same-sex sexuality is unconstitutional.
In August 2016, Belize became the first former British colony in the Caribbean to be freed of its repressive sodomy law when the Supreme Court struck down Section 53, the provision banning gay sex. It was a victory for activist Caleb Orozco, who brought the case to the court in 2013.
The government, backed by the Catholic Church, challenged the matter but on December 30, 2019, the Court Of Appeal agreed with the 2016 decision in a unanimous ruling.
It affirmed the Supreme Court’s view that section 53 contravenes sections 3, 6, 12, 14 and 16 of the Belize Constitution which are the rights to dignity, equality before the law, freedom of expression, privacy and non-discrimination.
Justice Samuel Awich, one of the judges on the three-judge panel, concluded that “consensual sexual intercourse between adult gays or between adult lesbians in private does not harm the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, nor does it intolerably harm contemporary public interest.”
Orozco welcomed the court’s decision. “I have proven as a citizen that our fundamental rights have value and can be upheld by our courts, and that any alienated section of society can stand on principle and can go to court and use the fundamental rights to ensure that the state leaves no one behind,” he said.
“Today is a renewal of hope in the substance of the Chief Justice’s decision in 2016, which still stands,” Orozco added.
Derricia Castillo-Salazar, Managing Director of local LGBT advocacy group, Our Circle, commented that the decision “affirms the value of the Orozco case to us individually, to our families, to our communities and to our country.”