Wednesday, October 19, 2016

UniBAM at UN: It was about LGBT Politics, Humanity and Defiance

Post 19th October, 2016

On September 21st, Belize was placed in a room of power at the United Nations General Assembly side event meeting. An event organized  by the U.N. L.G.B.T Core Group, which includes more than 20 countries and European Union. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders spoke at the meeting alongside Biden.
  
 

  I had two cool parts to the event, the first was meeting Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koender and discovering the down to earth nature of the man while waiting for Vice President Biden at the door to the hall. Koender made me feel me l so at ease while waiting for Vice-President Biden that I was comfortable enough to speak to Biden sister for a few seconds. I learned latter, the Dutch Foreign Minsiter had passed or near through Belize once, years ago.

The highlight of the event for me was meeting Vice President Biden, I had asked Outright International to see if it could happen. It was down to the wire and a last minute arrangement.Also thanks to the Foreign Minister Koender of the Netherlands who said, " come, stand with me here and we'll meet Biden together!" And so that's what happened and that led to me meeting Biden in the Hall way with a couple persons taking pictures.



 I was drawn to the man because of how he spoke about his son and family. In an interview in 2015, the article said,"Beau’s mother and younger sister were killed in car crash in 1972, which badly injured the young boy and his brother Hunter. Biden Sr brought the two boys up while commuting daily from his home in Delaware to his job in the US Senate." Biden shared a conversation he had with his son in a military hospital, later in the interview, where his son said, " ‘Dad, sit down, I want to talk to you.’ He said, ‘Dad, I know how much you love me,’ Biden recalled. “Promise me you’ll be all right, because no matter what happens, I’m going to be all right.” He added, “I feel like I was letting down Beau, letting down my parents, letting down my family, if I didn’t just get up,” Biden said, his voice trailing off at points. “You’ve just got to get up.”I can relate to his son death from cancer, as I have my own sister with stage four cancer. Each time, I see her cough, hear her breathe with a whiz, see her crawl on the floor to the bathroom, I know we are crossing the bridge of life together. Then I see her spring up, ready to move the dirt drums, driving my car to help me do my errands, shouting and expressing her annoyance at her husband and I become surprised and her will. . She said once, "I am not ready to go yet!"And I said, "its your choice on what you want to do."This was a conversation in mid 2016 and so we fight on, she, for as long as her heart and body will last. And I, as  I buy her pain killers, her pills to stop her bleeding, her booster shots to build back her blood and make sure she has snacks like Tostados sauce and Nacho chips.   So I spoil her, over the years, we traveled to the state of Quintana Roo once with my mom in 2015 for New Years, traveled to San Ignacio to take a bathe in the river and even took a ferry, in the Spanish Lookout with her husband to try and find gellato ice-cream.  We got lost instead. Recently, I took her and her husband to San Pedro to ski and dive. She did the diving part and I did the club part and slept all day, as I needed to get away from a city that was just making me sick from news of the Morality Commission, the partial challenge of section 53 and all the quarrels that simply got people crazy, including me. If it was not the kind words of Special Envoy, Kim Simplis Barrow. I would not have remained grounded.


In this work, politics waits for no advocate. Good opponents, PlusTV, sought to propagandize Belize's presence at the UN with the report, " Caleb Orosco asks UN to tie LGBT agenda to their Trade, Development and Technical Assistance to Belize."The actual speech, spoke of, "if you have a relationship with the Government of Belize --- whether through trade, development, or technical assistance --- please use your access and voice to support our struggle." The speech did not call for conditional aid policy. this small fact, did not deter Plus TV from deliberately lying the Belizean Public. A practice it has upheld for the last six years against the litigation of section 53. 

To my surprise, the Belize Delegation was at the UN as well, and issued a statement. I immediately emailed the Director of Foreign Service with the Legal Documents filed by government against section 53 to ensure that she knew of the specifics of the filing and asked for the Foreign Ministers Speech in which he said, "The national debate on social issues took a precedential turn recently.  A high court ruling held that Section 53 of our Criminal Code which criminalized consensual sexual acts between same sex partners is unconstitutional.  The ruling also expands the definition of "sex" to include sexual orientation.   However, in response to the request of a not inconsiderable segment of our population, our government has launched a limited appeal to the judgment challenging only the expanded definition of “sex” by the High Court." In the spirit of constructive engagement, I sought to share that the government was doing a partial appeal on sex and freedom of expression. Here they are at the UN in 2016.



I also had the good fortune to meeting the Global Special Envoy on L.G.B.T issues Randy Berry in New York and the always considerate, Jessie Bernstein of the US State Department. We spoke of engagement processes with faith-base leaders and strategies for reducing conflict. What was clear in the conversation, is that L.G.B.T communities have global systems evolving that are slowly developing to support systems of support at the national level. Still, many will have to flee their states, dies, be imprisoned, killed or accept discrimination until the political environment changes. Belize remains lucky for it is not Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan or Russia. We have never had civil wars or acts of genocide. We do have hope that change is possible through the 68% of our citizens who are tolerant our accepting. But we have to make investments and build systems that promote justice and is accessible to all with limited resources.  If we don't, that 68% could easily be reversed to intolerance with the help of fundamentalism of the National Evangelical Association of churches of  Belize.

 
Did I have a goal to the UN Side Event Headlines, it simply to raise the profile of Belize's decriminalizing process, to acquire new knowledge of support systems seeking to scale up political engagement at the UN and it was to meet new people in the work. I met with donors to explain the value and timing of their support, I met met with donor activists to understand their history and strategies. It is clear, Belize has alot to do, with expectation of faster and better, but it must first deal with its fundamentalists opponents who out shoot through media ownership, access to institutional spaces like the Unions and is able to use an intersectional message that plays on collective prejudice and simply ignorance about human sexuality and rights.  With all the protests that happened on August 23rd, 26th and in October for close to two weeks by teachers that ended today October 19th. I remain strong in the belief as I said at the said event,"Today, my family is my greatest defender, but one day soon, I know it will be my government."

 Source:
Washington Blade

PLUSTV Report on the UN LGBT Core group side event
 
Washington Blade

UNfoundationblog

Biden

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Belize's Good Governance: LGBT David and Goliath Battle.

Posted, September 25th, 2016

On 21st September, the Prime Minister of Belize, in his independence speech acknowledged that there was a culture war between traditional values and religious mores. The statement reflects a new era of understanding  in Belize about the value of good governance. It also comes at a time when, government has experienced pressures from the Belize National Teachers Union, scandals triggered by an Auditor General Report about passports, accusation that Ministers were associated with a dubious character named Danny Mason who was arrested for the alleged beheading of a Pastor, Lands department scandal, protests from fundamentalists and opposition party. In his speech, the PM said,
"the .... recasting of the categories of sexual and gender identity, and the claims that human rights include LGBT rights. Not surprisingly, the Chief Justice's Section 53 ruling detonated a societal pitched battle in which traditional values and religious mores are in a fierce offensive against liberalism, secularism and the arguments for evolved Constitutional protections"

 

 While, the Belize National Teachers Union public relations department issued a press release without membership consultation on August 24th, that called for, " BNTU appeals to the PM to “…ensure that this matter, which is of paramount importance to our teachers and to our vastly Christian nation state, is thoroughly ventilated and addressed.Our people must be allowed the opportunity to openly express their concerns and opinions on the issue and the possibility of an Appeal process before it is brought to the House of Representatives.“ and ends "for the sake of our children and nation we urge that this issue be treated as a matter of national importance."  Interesting enough the B.N.T.U was calling for good governance that included an 8 point proposal. They proceeded to advance their call with protest for close to two weeks.






In addition to this, the Belize Communications Workers Union, The Belize Water Services Workers Union, and the Belize Energy Workers Union also issued statements against 53. The release said,

"Governments are elected to office with the core responsibility of defending and preserving the rights and values of its citizens.... failure to react...clearly brings to light .. that the ill will of a few are being forced down the collective throats of the masses.... as tax paying citizens of this democratic nation, call on the Government to act ..... we insist that the Government of Belize appeals this decision all the way to the highest court...“we pledge our support to the Churches  and we call upon all Belizeans to stand in solidarity in defense of our country’s moral values for our people...”

We learned later that the Union membership were not consulted in the drafting of this press release either, but PlusTV was the first to air the Utilities Unions reaction to the Chief Justice ruling  about the unconstitutionality of section 53. Interestingly, the Belize Communication Workers Union mission is "To fight and oppose unfair labor practices and discrimination in whatever form or content." Lost in the release of all the Unions was the understanding that the case was about adult privacy, not children. Lost in the Union releases was their understanding that constitutional morality is what governs our democratic nation and its diverse people, not individual belief or morality. Of note,in  1981, Belizean supported rights were for all and that the state is required to address the social privileges and economic inequity between citizens. Some how fundamentalism created, exceptionalism about our fundamental rights as citizens base on sexual behavior rather than as human beings or even citizens. The point was made clear by Scott Stirm who said on September 16th, 2016,""We are talking about human rights for humans. Gay rights are for gays..., you talking about special rights for one special group of people."

Despite the preamble to our constitution and government obligation to protect all its citizens, government proceeded to support the idea of a Morality Commission which was a reaction to the decision on section 53 on September 9th, 2016.The reason for the commission," to in fact look at issues having to do with public morality and its role in our society, having to do with the institution of marriage and safeguarding that institution. Government believes, it's a shared position of all of us that marriage is between a man and a woman."So on that same day, I spoke about being invited to the Commission table, " If it's a process of building peace and understanding and its value about building peace and understanding, we will be included without question."

Out of concern for the impact of the Morality Commission and proposed discussions to amendments the constitution to define sex and male or female and to define marriage as one man and woman, a slew of meetings took place, with the Minister of State, within the Ministry of Finance, The Attorney General Office, the Deputy Prime Minister, leader of the opposition and others to neutralize discussions or find a pragmatic way forward. The results of the meetings started with The Deputy Prime Minister in local news coverage reminding the media," the Commission does not have the power to make policies based on the church's position; it only will have the ability to advise the Government on what course of action they should take..," and continued, "Faber added that personally, he would want to see the minority groups get more than an opportunity to dialog; he would want there to be some mechanism to address their concerns." While the PM did not sit down with the community, access to his Deputy Prime Minster and others became the alternative route to communicating our concern.

The largest contingent was when we had a meeting with the leader of the opposition. One point made during the meeting was, "if government abdicates its legal obligation to address the needs of all its citizens equally, that such a position will promote vigilantism and discrimination, but more importantly, will amplify the fundamentalism view that constitutional rights are to be subsumed and replaced with oppression and marginalisation." Another point shared was that it was important to ventilate the term sex in court. Nevertheless, it was a pragmatic point that the Government of Belize eventually agreed to along with examining the point of freedom of expression in its partial appeal. We managed, nevertheless to share information about our human rights concerns and the broader issues of sexual and reproductive rights as well. Participants both allies and community members shared their concern. A request was made to do a meeting in October, regarding further engagement work. The leader of the opposition agreed to the tentative month of October.

 

Of note, we learned the National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB) had its application dismissed on October 4th because it was not a party to the original case and it submitted the wrong documents to the wrong court. The irony in its submission, is that it was asking that the Claimant pay its cost directly, but the Chief Justice instead told them they owed the Claimant $750 along with the Attorney General Office. Of note the Roman Catholic Church submission asked for similar court cost, despite the fact, that its them appealing the case in its totality while the Government of Belize is only doing a partial appeal. Time will tell, how that requests evolves.

Where do L.G.B.T Belizeans fall into the framework of Good Governance promoted by the Belize National Teachers Union? Do the press releases reflect the official position of members in the Teachers and Utilities Union? Is fundamentalism taking over our governance structure? Is unconstitutionality of section 53  going to be respected by the Roman Catholic Church and others? We simply don't have an answer. Section 53, nevertheless, has become the one major tool to turn religious tradition on its head that it not longer has a right to promote impunity with automatic entitlements to discrimination in its institution. Will it be constructive and reasonable in accepting our right as citizens. Only the Universe has an answer! We fight on, nevertheless!




Source:
http://ambergriscaye.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/517720/prime-ministers-independence-day-address.html

BNTU Press Release:
http://www.plustvbelize.com/bntu-requests-that-amendment-to-section-53-not-go-to-house-as-yet/

Utilities Union
http://www.plustvbelize.com/utilities-union-calls-for-gob-to-appeal-s53-decision/

The Morality Commission
http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=37623

Let All Voices be heard
http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=37697&frmsrch=1

Press Office Video of PM Independence Speech 2016
https://www.facebook.com/GOBPressOffice/videos/1091738660861636/

NEAB Filing Against Section 53
http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=37708&frmsrch=1

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Section 53: A case of Adult Privacy and The best liars in religion

9th September, 2016

On August 10th, 2016, the Supreme Court of Belize ruled that section 53 was unconstitutional and read down the offending section to say, "this does not apply to consenting sexual acts between adults in private." Wade, in his disappointment noted in a facebook commentary on August 18th that Cabinet and Caleb was Sodom and Gomorrah. This snapshot on the left reveals exactly what he said while his fundamentalist colleagues revealed  solutions that included a referendum on section 53, a constitutional amendment on marriage, safeguarding the education from LGBT Agenda, among others to correct concerns about the acknowledgement of LGBT rights in Belize.

 














Furthermore, Wade and Stirm promoted a campaign of deception with the Belize National Teachers, Utilities Union and the leader of the opposition. As a result, the Utilities Union issued a Press Release on September 8th, calling on the government to,.." mount an appeal, against the sections within the judgement which express issues of our freedom of expression, and the meaning of gender to include sexual orientation." If they had spent anytime reading the judgement, they would have known that the term to be challenged was sex not gender. Still they call for peace and no discrimination. The release further spoke to, " ensuring democracy prevails" and calls for members, "to take active measure to support the churches in our country.



















With regards to the Belize National Teacher Union, they issued a press release as well. Except, upon further investigation, it was the PR department of the Union which issued the release without any consultation from teachers, expressing concern, "..for the sake of our children and the nation, we urge that this request as a matter of national importance." How a case about adult privacy jumped to safeguarding children in education is a comprehension process that must be explained. Amazingly, the release spoke of," to ensure that this matter, is thoroughly ventilated."  The ventilation seem to be to ensure bigotry and and fearmongering prevails, as an invitation was never extended to the United Belize Advocacy Movement to explain the judgement.


 
In a bid to promote understanding of section 53, the Prime Minister of Belize very succinctly on August 26th in the house explained unnatural crime, when he said, "...the order of nature has been interpreted to mean a range of things...when I was a criminal lawyer .. against the order of nature included as well oral sex."  Alluding to the point that all Belizeans were unapprehended felons and that section 53 was about adult privacy. For daring to stand up for my constitutional rights and challenge the entitlement of  Right-Wing fundamentalists groups like National Evangelical Association of Churches in Belize, COLA and Leaders Alliance sought to organized two protest. On August 23rd, 2016. Fundamentalist organized a protest in Belmopan infront of the National Assembly as well as August 26th, 2016.



This writer have to say, the best liars in the faith-base business, is Scott Stirm and Louis Wade. For immediately after that decision, Wade  reported that UniBAM received $3.4m 24 hours after the section 53 decision. Never mind, it was money for the National HIV response. Further more, Stirm, an American by birth, reveals that in point 2 that section 53 is to safeguard children. Never mind, he opposed the amendments to the criminal code that sought to protect children. Louis goes even further and reveals in his post that the CJ has no power, that the CJ rewrote the constitution and interpret the constitution outside its "normal meaning.". No mentioned of state international obligations, no mentioned of the power of the Judicary to read down laws. His facebook points are revealed at the right hand corner of this post and bottom center.








Of note, Scott Stirm is not the only Pastor advocating against LGBT issues in Belize. Meet American Pastor Dennis Ten Kley who was interviewed by channel 5 and he had this to say,"I pray that my daughter will accept Jesus soon or sometime because we’re coming to the end of time and I don’t want to see her go to hell and that’s what’s going to happen to all the homosexuals.  It’s in the Bible, it’s in Galatians and Corinthians all over.  If those people would realize and I just, my daughter won’t let me talk to her much so I can’t, yeah, it’s very hard.”With the exception of Eugene Crawford, a Belizean, the Belize Prayer Network reveals other  Americans supporting the propaganda of the right wing in Belize.

 On September 9th, the perfect storm of factors came together that allowed the Prime Minister go back on his word not to appeal? In simply terms, The PM announcement that government, will not appeal; two right-wing Evangelical led protests, one on August 23 and one on Augusts 26th that was complimented with campaign of mis-education of the Unions and the general public; add in, the silence of civil society and a government riddled with scandal. It becomes a perfect storm of pressure to advance marginalisation of Belizean LGBT rights, more importantly, citizens’ rights. One can argue, we may have won section 53, but lost on civil right matters.   A point made clearer when Pastor Lewis said, "We thought that the cabinet would have accepted the removal of the gender policy, but they said no to that according to what the Prime Minister said, but now this will come under the commission for public morality." As a result, A morality Commission was formed, the reason, “government believes, it's a shared position of all of us that marriage is between a man and a woman. The whole question of how to protect family values in an inclusive society."

The importance of section 53 to religious leaders is not sexual acts that consenting adults do in private, but the idea that the systems of marginalisation and oppression that they felt entitled for generations was challenged. More importantly, right wing fundamentalists- the NEAB, the Catholic Church along with Anglicans, discovered that section 53 was about challenging their automatic sense of entitlement in the system to undermine LGBT rights, was no longer automatic.  Moreover, losing at first instance made them realise that the era of absolute entitlement is over. The challenge to sex is only a small indication that they collectively are struggling with the notion of rights protection and enforcement concerns of LGBT person.  Government itself is struggling with the notion, as well, for while it walked back on its word of not appealing, it did say, it will not seek to appeal the whole of section 53 a Constructive response to prevent it utter collapse.


The clock is ticking on all this, as September 16th is the deadline for government to push forward filing for partial appeal which will give standing to the Catholic Church to submit its document to the court. Round two arrives to Belize’s Court of Appeal, whether the PM of Belize believe that the right wing fundamentalists thinkers will be appease at the end of all court hearings will be discovered in time. We I do know, is that Belize has never been the same since September 9th, as right-wing fundamentalists were finally let in to governance, to what can be interpreted as the fourth branch of government. Only the future holds, to see if it will collapse under its own weight,




Source:
http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=37471

Morality Commission:
http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=37623&frmsrch=1 

Partial Appeal
http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=37620&frmsrch=1



Friday, August 12, 2016

Guatemala's Border Dispute: A Belizean LGBT Prospective

Posted August 8th, 2016

The current debate on Guatemala ad Belize about sovereignty has forced the United Belize Advocacy Movement to look into the level of violence that affects both countries from a LGBT prospective. What the research alludes to is that both countries are challenged to address violence that occurs within its borders, have grossly under-invested in addressing human rights mechanisms, and renders, systematically, its LGBT citizens invisible in policy and planning.  

Let's examine the global picture of trans murders. Trans Murder Monitoring project issued its IDAHOT  reported that counted  2115  killings of trans and gender diverse people in 65 countries worldwide between the 1st of January 2008 and the 30th of April 2016. 1,654 of which were reported in Central and South America. The annual report up to December 2015 points out,

Further analysis of this data shows that 65% of all murdered trans and gender diverse people whose profession was known were sex workers...the highest absolute numbers have been found in countries with strong trans movements and civil society organizations that carry out forms of professional monitoring.

The TMM data mapping revealed that it received between 2008-2015 Guatemala had, 39 trans murders, but Belize had 2 documented in that same time period.  The 2012 Shadow Report for 104th session of the Human Rights Committee reveals at least 35 LGBT people were murdered in Guatemala between 1996 and 2006 on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but between 2009 to 2010, alone, at least 30 transgender individuals were killed. The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions noted,

 “There has been impunity for murders motivated by hatred towards persons identifying as gay, lesbian, transgender, and transsexual.”In approximately 34% of cases of violent crimes against transgender women, the assailants could be identified, but there is little evidence of charges ever being brought.

In Belize, we have documented 32 murders  or attempted from 1997 to 2015 that have occurred for various reasons. In all we have received 146 reports of  socio-economic and civil rights violations that have gone unanswered.

 



The breakdown of data base on human rights violation for Belize between 1997 to 2015 follows a system of under-reporting that invisible violence in our country against persons who are LGBT Belizeans. A result that allows state systems to deny that violence and discriminate occur, including bias-motivated crimes. No state system have these data in Belize except the United Belize Advocacy Movement.

 


This violence exists both states, Belize has never experience genocide or a 30 year arm conflict. The Guatemalan armed conflict from 1962 to 1996 have not ended violence after loosing an estimated 300,000 people. Even years later, he country 's recorded killings  routinely exceed 5,000 per year. In fact, in 2010, 4,925 violent deaths were recorded, including 41 lynchings, as well as 6,132 reports injury as a result of violent attacks.  Of the 30,873 reported incidents of violence against women in 2009, only 0.7% of the cases led to a prosecution and 0.2% to criminal sentences. Guatemala’s rate for 2015 was little unchanged: 36 homicides per 100,000 people, with 5,718 murders — slightly less than the 38 per 100,000 rate recorded in 2014. For Belize murders of citizens totaled, 1,553 between 2000-2015 with 672 rapes and 7,541 robberies.





        
 
When crime data is compared to military might, Guatemala has 14,918,999 citizens, 5.518m fit for service, 15,500 active front line personnel, with 340,000 citizens reaching military age annually. It has 20 tanks, 134 armored fighting vehicles,  with a defense budget of $210,000,000us.The Belize government spent, $32m us on the military with active personnel at 1,330 with 750  in reserves as of 2016.

When gross domestic product is added in 2015 it stood at $1.76b or  less than .1%  of the Worlds Economy for Belize, but Guatemala's Gross Domestic Product is $63b. Guatemala's per capita income, $3850us, however, was less than Belize's $7,098.23us in 2015.


What is this thing called the border dispute? It really is about how we value our human rights institutions, like the judiciary, its about whether the rate of poverty will go up or  down at the border lines with Guatemala; its about, whether Belize will improve its redress mechanisms with money and personnel tat is accessible to the every day man or woman. We may not have a history of modern genocide, but we do something far worse to our citizens, complicity has attack the dignity of citizens and the practice of collective silence have allowed the perpetuation of mistreatment.

Going to the ICJ or not, we still need to deal with citizens security both economic and personal. The struggle continues.

  
 Guatemala's Stop Trans Murders
 https://www.outrightinternational.org/content/guatemala-stop-trans-murders-guatemala

 Human Rights Violations of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) People in Guatemala: A Shadow Report
file:///C:/Users/Caleb/AppData/Local/Temp/566-1.pdf

TMM IDAHOT Release
http://transrespect.org/en/idahot-2016-tmm-update/

Transgender Day of Violence:
http://transrespect.org/en/tdov-2016-tmm-update/

Tansgender Data MAP
http://transrespect.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/TvT_TMM_TDoV2016_Tables_EN.pdf

Guatemala Military Strengthen
http://www.globalfirepower.com/country-military-strength-detail.asp?country_id=guatemala

Belize Military
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belize_Defence_Force

Northern Triangle Violence
http://www.ticotimes.net/2016/01/05/central-americas-violent-northern-triangle-registers-17422-homicides-in-2015

Belize GDP 2015
http://www.tradingeconomics.com/belize/gdp
http://www.tradingeconomics.com/belize/gdp-per-capita-ppp

Guatemala GDP 2015
https://www.gfmag.com/global-data/country-data/guatemala-gdp-country-report




Thursday, August 11, 2016

Orosco's Lesson

  Reposted August 11th, 2016

Orosco’s Lessons
 
There’s lots to learn from Orosco!
Despite people trying to make his plight into a fiasco
Taking on the entire nation and won
Disaporan Belize needs to challenge section 63 (1)
BPP needs to bring a case for the signing of the
UN convention on Anti Corruption
So does the entire Nation
He’s taught us how to lobby
He’s taught us how to agitate
He’s taught us how engage
He taught us not to accept being marginalize
Or self ostracize
He taught us to organize
He taught us to endure with tear in your eyes
He taught us to push on despite being criticized
Caleb did not do this he owe
He put up his office near his home
He sought international affiliations
He was thinking of future generations
He started web- site and attended international forums
Researched and lobbied among those ready for action
He show more ump than our politicians
He’s taught us how to lobby
He’s taught us how to agitate
He’s taught us no engage
He taught us not to marginalize
Or self ostracize
He taught us to organize
He taught us to endure with tear in your eyes
He taught us to push on despite being criticized
International lawyers and students joined his crusade
Removing any national blockade
Then international bodies tried to persuade
Our government to engage
Then it went further into diminishing UN aid
Then it began affecting international trade
Then more pressures came down like a two edged blade
This ruling was years in the making
We laughed as he made the media encircling
I remember ‘lik road’and Dickie trying to make fun of him
His tenacity, passion and determination got this win
His mother must be proud of him
The bigots are still singing sin
He’s taught us how to lobby
He’s taught us how to agitate
He’s taught us no engage
He taught us not to marginalize
Or self ostracize
He taught us to organize
He taught us to endure with tear in your eyes
He taught us to push on despite being criticized
By: Abdulmajeed K Nunez

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Coalition,Belize:Against the Odds at the DR OAS General Assembly


 Posted June 17th, 2016


In 2016 fundamentalists clash with our LGBTTI Coalition in an anti-climatic way at the OAS General Assembly meeting in Santo Domingo. They appeared in droves on the street, but in response, as a member of the coalition, I decided to take pictures of them in the background in defiance of their overwhelming numbers with a simply message, "Zero Discrimination.' I cant say the OAS LGBTTI coalition was surprise to see the numbers, but I can say that the numbers reminded me of our experience in Belize, 2013 when the so called 'constitutional marches'  was organized across the country.


In 2013, we saw fundamentalists influenced by Belize Action, organized themselves in the South of Belize with close to 2,000 people walking on foot, with a hanging effigy leading that march. It was through Se la Vee, a virtual forum on social issues that  allies and community members learned of the effigy through an uploaded cellphone video. It was strongly condemned by then Minister Lisel Allamila and many others in the community as bordering on hate. The odds were not in our favor to be able to organized a march that large, but allies and community member remain defiant in their position that Belizean fundamentalists were wrong in having the effigy leading the march.

 




The Channel five story of July 11th, 2013 reported on the issue," The lynching of an effigy depicting one or, symbolically, all members of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), during a pro-constitution march held in Toledo last Friday, has raised grave concerns." Realising, too late, that the effigy was bad public communication that promoted an imagery of violence, Belizean fundamentalist  distance themselves. The coverage done by Western Vision highlighed the point in it's report,  "..Three of the participants in the pro-Constitution March, BelizeCan, Belize Action and Rise and Shine, have issued a statement regarding photographs purporting to show the hanging in effigy of UNIBAM...' and goes on to say, “We strongly condemn and discourage the use of such placards or images which can be perceived as sending the wrong message. We encourage Belizeans to exercise their right to rally in a respectful, responsible, and God-fearing manner,” said the statement.   Louis Wade, the owner of Plus."

We were glad our opponents made fundamental public communication mistakes because it provided evidence of homophobia and that discrimination and hate was real. We fought back in the timely release of a report called Dangerous Liaisons and got our opponents to admit that they were working with right-wing American groups. The New Seven report made July, 29th 2013 states, 'He does admit that ADF and C-FAM has provided advice, legal assistance and strategy, and he says quote,“they are assisting in cases all over the world in the homosexual global attack on morality & family values.”' The argument of a foreign Agenda was reversed unto our opponents for the first time.

 The theme of social defiance in national advocacy, as we experienced in Belize,  reflected the current extended left and right push and pull in many international spaces. The OAS General Assembly, is no different, in fact, opposition and counter-engagement strategies in the norm at the OAS. When we found members of the Coalition being prevented from using the public bathroom during the General Secretary Dialogue, members naturally protested against the indignity. It helped to have the media there to cover their concern and it helped to learn the following day that there would be gender-neutral bathrooms at a coalition meeting.


 
When we found ourselves in a room where fundamentalists outnumbered our coalition members 2 to 1, we were not having it. As a result, members and allies alike came back swinging with signs.Yes, the fundamentalists were out in droves, what we did not have in numbers we made up in spirit with our Jamaican colleague signs leading the way, which said, ' End Religious Extremism!' and 'Religious Extremism Kills!" and 'Protect my Gay Family'. Our coalition added their two cent with trans flags and signs as well, while other coalition members had their own signs like 'LGBTTI are Humans Too!' and held up, 'diverse families.' Signs and sounds began to bloom in torrent of organized chaos at the Secretary General OAS dialogue, but at least it was respectful.


 





The fundamentalists came back at us through their speakers and signs like ' no gender ideology.' They used working groups to lay down their positions and they sought to shut out the coalition from participating in the General Assembly process. In fact, we learned from one of our colleagues from Guatemala that the bathroom incident form the basis for arguments of exclusion of the coalition from engaging with ambassadors during the Permanent Council process. A fact, we learn a day later after the coalition engaged representative of the Inter-American Court.














 

 When we arrived at Foreign Ministry building for Santo Domingo, we were herded into a small room and made to wait by officials. Members of the coalition were upset about the exclusion for in nine years of attending the OAS General  Assembly the Coalition has always had the freedom to listen and engage quietly with representative on the Permanent Council about their concern. Officials eventually met us and we expressed concerns about being held hostage in the room and they expressed concerns about the news reports painting them badly.



  


The agreement was not reached without, a transwoman from Santo Domingo contribution to local media from the room window, while we waited for final agreement. The result of that unwanted contribution led to to security calling for four more persons to block the window to prevent persons inside the room from shouting to the media who were directly outside. During the process, they had a security officer take our photos, so we took out our cameras and took pictures of them. We agreed that we would take off our cameras and they would remove their efforts at documenting who was in the room. Fascinatingly, we saw our internet slow down and the air-conditioning cut off while we waited for negotiations to happen. The point made by officials was that there was no space, but the point we made was that they knew exactly how many people would come and that they had the burden of responsibility to planned properly. In the end, it was agreed to let every person in the room plus one person from registered organizations.

Like all General Assembly, the work of the coalition would not be complete without picture taking from Belize and its Caribbean Colleagues who made every effort to reach out to representatives. It was interesting at this general assembly to hear how countries in the Caribbean extended their condolences to the people of the US  about the Orlando Shooting. Jamaica and Trinidad made mentioned of Orlando, but Belize's Foreign Minister Erlington said in his speech,"their pain is our pain, their grief is our grief!" a point as a Belizean citizen, I can appreciate. Other  Caribbean colleagues sought to reach out to their representatives and documented their efforts at engagement by taking a picture or two, or simply asking a question during the Secretary General Dialogue. We did our part in a meeting with the representative of the Inter-American Court, with the representative from Barbados speaking up.



 
 


For Belize visibility meant expanding our presence through Zahnia Canul and Tia with her network,  REDLACTRAN. It was a welcomed sight to see her expand her understanding of political communication to strengthen her capacity. Zahnia can be seen here, holding a sign, but documenting the speech and supporting the concerns of her network very strongly at the Secretary General dialogue. I added my concern about tolerance and ensured that I engaged Belize's Assistant Secretary General of the OAS Nestor Mendez whom can be seen side by side with the Secretary General below.

 


I look forward to see what 2017 brings, protests has happened in Paraguay and Guatemala, -prior to Santo Domingo, but never in numbers like Santo Domingo, I wonder while there, how many of the people protesting realized that they are protesting against their own health and right needs. I look forward to 2017 in Mexico.

Source:
Minister Alamilla appalled by hanging of UNIBAM effigy in P.G.
 http://edition.channel5belize.com/archives/87925

Group Distance themselves from UNIBAM Effigy
 http://www.westvision.bz/groups-distance-themselves-from-unibam-effigy/

Report Dangerous Liaison
http://ambergriscaye.com/art2/dangerous_liaisons_splc-report.pdf

Stirm Strikes Bank at SPLC
http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=26163&frmsrch=1