Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Belizean SOLT LGBT Love, by Fr. Scott Guilinni pastor of Divine Mercy and San Pedro Catholic Churches and missions

Posted: 15th July, 2015

To my brothers and sisters with same-sex attraction:

Let us all love one another as compassionate human beings should!

As a member of the proudly diverse community of Belize I want to take this opportunity to reach out to all our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attraction. Whatever your sexuality or gender, I want to make clear that I love you and most importantly any God in whom you have faith, who claims to have created you in His image, loves you too. As we all know, there is a wonderful diversity in creation and surely God did not make a mistake with anyone. I understand the sufferings, confusion and loneliness that many of you experience in silence because of the hurtful words of religious extremists and I want you to know that the unconditional love provided by people who share your struggle will guide you through..Strengthened by those that serve instead of judge and those that promote inclusivity, thousands of men and women with same-sex attraction have experienced freedom and love. The established churches have struggled with radical factions within their ranks for some time, who prefer to create a God in their own image to justify their judgment and bigotry. Please know that if you are one of the thousands of gay, lesbian or transgender people who has been hurt, excluded or bullied, it does get better. Online support and resources for you can be found at
Unfortunately, as we all know too well, good information does not always make the headlines and the members and leaders of churches often fall short from the fullness of their chosen gospel. They sometimes even are bullied themselves by extremists and fundamentalists within and outside of their ranks, forcing them to isolate and exclude members of their own community rather than focus on service and humility as they know they should. Experience shows that human weakness, sin and selfishness can arise from anyone’s heart. As we all know, the Ten Commandments say nothing at all about who people can and cannot love; though you are urged not to covet your neighbor’s ass. The power of your chosen God’s grace and mercy in the face of human weakness only strengthens the unbroken teaching that your particular church is guided by and generally it focuses on being a kind person and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. In truth, in our weakness we are strong and we are tempted to think, sometimes obsessively, about the sexual activities of others. The spirit of truth continues to blow and it is this truth, which is that we are all equal on this earth, and that will set you free. A church, as a self proclaimed pillar and foundation of truth for those who rely upon it, is there to accompany you in experiencing the joy of the freedom of a child of your God! Do not be afraid and do not be misled to believe that freedom is only for some but not for others! You do not have to settle for labels that other countries put on you, no matter how hard their religious fundamentalists (some of whom, such as Scott Lively, are currently being prosecuted for ‘crimes against humanity’) throw money around trying to convince you to be unkind to your family, loved ones and neighbors. You do not need to settle for less. You are created for more! Your dignity does not come from your desires but it is rooted in your being created in your God’s image and likeness and as stated previously, no one could suggest that their God makes mistakes. Know your dignity as a child of your own personal God or of no god at all!

You do not have to live your life hidden in shame just because some religious bullies try to force you to. As a child of your personal God, do not be fooled to believe a foreign ideology that exploits cultural tensions as many human traffickers have done before on this island such as pedophiles among priests and missionaries; nor should you accept that participating in drag queen events are necessary for you to know your dignity; because as we all know, those are just great fun. (The well organized and enthusiastically attended event at a community complex demonstrates clearly that we, as a strong and unified community, love and celebrate all of our members. If freedom of expression is curtailed, how will be able to encourage the next generation of artists, musicians and leaders?) There is another way than living a promiscuous lifestyle to come to acceptance and freedom, which is something many religious people have yet to learn even though they attend church on Sundays and try to buy their forgiveness.

The wisdom found in the families of San Pedro is a source of hope and peace for you as brothers and sisters. Beware of empty promises of fulfillment from money making religious organizations that are not looking out for your benefit or respecting you as persons. Opportunists have always used the beauty of San Pedro island for their own benefit, demanding for tithes, but doing little to help the most vulnerable members of our community. A wise grandmother will support you in your weakness and correct you in your faults; however, she will never stop loving you and will only wish that you are truly happy and find true love in your life.

Churches teach that as a person you have an inestimable dignity as a child of your chosen God ; you also have just as much without one. The inclinations you have to judge those who are different to yourselves do not define your identity since you are more than your inclinations and feelings. One of the ways you can become a better person is to deny yourself the urge to think you are better and to judge others, but rather to focus on making yourself a kinder and more loving person. Some churches support you and pray for you in your noble pursuit of holiness and love, while others will condemn and judge you for it. They might even expect you to silently suffer detraction and slander from their children with patience. To do so, would not be love. To say that love is a sin is always a lie that leads to selfishness even if it is done in private. But, if you must say it, it’s definitely best done only in private. Do not impose it upon others.

For a family to remain together it must have the kind of love that is able to sacrifice for the other. Selfishness always leads to division and we should all work to bring unity. In our days, unity is not easy for anyone but it is worth the sacrifice. By persevering in a life of virtue and self control you can stop yourself from insulting, hurting or patronizing those who are different to yourself. You can have the grace to love and to appreciate love among others. You can be fulfilled and be accepted by your family and community. Some churches hope to accompany you on this pilgrimage of faith and love, while others do not.

Love always wins. With Holy water behind on the Island of San Pedro

A friend in humanity who understands,

Caution: This is satire, and not meant to be taken seriously, except for the priest who thinks holy water on the street is useful
Chat Conversation End

Friday, June 19, 2015

LGBTTI Coalition work,Nationalistic Pride, Protests and Fundamentalistsin in DC

19th June, 2015

The coalition has met since 2007 in Panama, Medellin, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, Paraguay and Washington DC in 2015. Belize have been to all OAS General Assembly through the LGBTTTI coalition. Learning about thematic hearings, the Inter-American Court and Commission, resolutions process and its value. No where in the world, has any international institution adopted seven resolutions on Human Rights:Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

This year was different as our trans colleagues were denied visa to attend the meeting to attend the OAS meeting. The coalition was upset about it and issued a release in response. We engaged the LGBT Unit to speak about reporting process and followed up in regards to it internal programs on another day. We strategised about how to respond to the fundamentalists along with coordination process.

Belize has appeared in Washington three times, one for coalition meetings and twice for thematic hearings concerning Belize and Guyana. We have made reports directly to their L.G.B.T Unit and have gotten precautionary measures for one person in Belize.

It is clear, the success of the coalition has led to the arrival of the fundamentalists, in Guatemala, Paraguay and Washington DC this year. The clash was classic, in DC. In the middle of all this, our new (ASG) Assistant Secretary General in waiting, Nestor Mendez must navigate as Caribbean diplomats and Latin American Diplomats and activists push and pull the system towards the right side of history.

      In addition, Ambassador Mendez,  arrives at a time when the OAS is experiencing financial owes, where the OAS system has repeatedly looked at LGBTTTI issues at the country level through thematic hearings and Belize being challenged in its Belize Guatemala dispute.
    First, I beam with national pride to see one of our own making it to the post of ASG at the Organization of American States. As I have come to learn it was no easy feat. A feat, a small country  achieved nevertheless.It proves we can do anything in the international community, once a clear vision to act, is articulated, and action is taken to give life to the vision. While the new ASG Nestor Mendez, is in waiting, he has now has become a model of what is possible for any Belizean, no matter what political isle a person may belong. 

Still, while the ASG in waiting, is doing his thing at the OAS, we have Belizean, Erika Castellanos, focal point of T.I.A Belize, who added her mark in the OAS process. More precisely, we see a cultural first, the posing of a transgender Belizean with not only our Foreign Minister, but with the ASG in waiting at the OAS. A mile stone, for we do not know if the Foreign Minister or the ASG in waiting ever met a transgendered Belizean. She also met Belizean Emil Waight of SICA who knew her well through engagement work in HIV.

In Addition, she met with the US representative to the OAS to discuss, colleagues visa troubles and expressed signed to engage the new Secretary General in the informal dialogue section of the meeting. In the middle of it all, delegates exploded into thunderous applause as the Argentinean representative defended proactive protections for LGBTTTI people's across the hemisphere and shared their leading initiatives inviting member states to adopt them to ensure the human rights for all. Erika was present in supporting the statement and joined the LGBTTTI coalition in its applause. Canada, in contrast, spoke for less than a minute, saying nothing of note and Paraguay made a total anti progressive statement in which her main message was in favor of the protection of the right to life of the unborn child and spoke of the historical relationship of the church and state.

While Erika was expressing her solidarity with the coalition, the fundamentalists where out in droves. I met personally Helene Coley-Nicholson. A google search found a report done in July, 2014, that gives insight into her mind set and professional background.The interview reported the following,  

'Helene Coley Nicholson, a member of the Jamaica CAUSE Secretariat, the group finds the agenda of  the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex, LGBTI community, to be a cause for concern. Nicholson further stated that Jamaica CAUSE stood to oppose said agenda which, according to her, seeks to foster a society where all sexual expression is free and those in opposition are punished.'

Mrs. Nicholson was the President of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, in 2013, worked at the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation. She pursed a  law degree at the University of London and later entered the Norman Manley Law School. Coley-Nicholson landed a job as the legal officer for CVM Communications Group and while there was also the co-host of Drive Time Live. In 2004,s he opened her own law practice. Coley-Nicholson became a Christian in first form at Ardenne High School, and was very active in the Inter-School Christian Fellowship and Jamaica Youth for Christ. 
While Phillipa Davies of Jamaica  in an editorial of November, 2014.  '..But isn't forcing unwanted laws and behavior on the majority of a population an act of oppression? Where is the justice in that move, Minister Golding?..' about discussions by Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding about efforts under way to review, laws pertaining to sexual conduct. Both can be seen below.

Their presence is important to note, as the fundamentalists had their own press conference outside the OAS building with Helene Coley Nicholson who spoke of the Jamaican Coalition for Healthy Living and Lawyers Christian Fellowship supporting the fundamental rights of all human being, but rejecting  contentious political phrases to write ( in the working groups) , that are not compatible with faith nor moral law are not universal, fundamental or defensible see speech There was an Argentinean woman in the group, upon review by one person, he said, 'OMG! I am amazed by the way in which the Argentine woman can speak so much nonsense in such a carefree way. She is both ignorant and malicious in the worst way possible.' The response can be note in her comments that can be scene here,  another person, highlighted on facebook, the following,'A 72 year-old fundamentalist civil society representative from Argentina at the OAS claimed that a resolution on human rights for the convention for older persons should not contain any reference to sexual rights because SHE does not need them. To her, it was common sense that old people are here because of "normal sex" so why spell out these rights? And this summarizes the problem with fundamentalists. Because THEY don't need protection, then CLEARLY no one else needs protection.'

We saw the fundamentalists in the group for Human Rights, Democracy, development and security. Trying to take over the note taking and moderation. We saw how actual discussions in the working group was co-opted by the fundamentalists concerns especially in the working group for human rights.


        The result of that co-opting resulted in  Civil society recommendations prepared on the previous day on Democracy, Human Rights, Multidimensional Security and Integral Development, under the framework of the central topic of the Assembly: "Present and Future of the OAS!" being ignored. The coalition issued a release stating,"Spokespeople only had to read  the texts agreed by the thematic work groups. However, in a shameful episode, the spokesman of the Human Rights work group performed an arbitrary reading, censoring the points he disagreed with and adding paragraphs that had not been discussed. He also decided to use this time to personally attack the candidate for the Inter-American Court Eugenio Zaffaroni, violating previous collective agreements favoring  his own ideological and professional interests.
      The interventions of government representatives who defended advances in L.G.B.T rights and in the fight against discrimination in the region, again faced the rage of anti-rights activists, who yelled to interrupt the representatives.We denounce these methods of ideological violence and misrepresentation of reality that do not belong to a civil society working space, but to the exercise of power of military dictatorships. The LGBTTTI Coalition will remain vigilant to ensure that such behavior is not repeated. "
We saw the unwritten rules of democracy were alive when, we learn the position of the the new Secretary General, who said "we want no voice nor any rights of anyone in this room to be silenced". He added that "as a general rule we will promote the logic of non-discrimination, our motto is 'More rights for more people'" and that "any form of discrimination, every right that is not respected, affects the Americas, " while allies and coalitions members applauded, anti-rights groups in the room reacted aggressively and disrespectfully, shouting and booing the Secretary General.

The first civil society member to take the floor in the dialogue was gay activist Yonatan Matheus, a member of Venezuela Diversa, who highlighted "The importance of the OAS member states fulfillment of their obligation to guarantee the rights of LGBTTTI people in the region, without interference of partisan ideological and confessional positions that oppose  social inclusion and full exercise of rights of this and other vulnerable groups in the Americas".
Iren Rotela, Paraguayan trans activist emphasized the need to implement the right to equality and affirmative action to ensure non-discrimination against groups and historically excluded populations.
In the second part of the day.

The coalition did not stop at the release for it shouted down the shameless human rights speaker, can be seen with allies turning their backs when the speaker spoke, and countering positions in other areas of the OAS meetings on other days. We saw fundamentalists trying to undermine the Convention for Older persons and worked to counter their process.


Caribbean Activists where no slouch either as they held up signs, took notes and tweeted about the event in any space they could. Zenita Nicholson of Guyana's SaSOD, did her thing with her sign and in trying to engage the secretary general, while Maurice did his thing with Jamaica and Belize. There was another fellow who had a sign for Trinidad, it was interesting to see the combinations at work.  

We made due with the space as we were told that the space would be a confined area. So we coordinated imagery were every we could fine a socket, or where we could sit and twitter, facebook and email.

On the side, time was taken out to to share our experience with the Futures group, and international NGO that worked closely on USAID projects in Central America. We spoke to their Caribbean team on work on the ground regarding what opportunities may exists. I made it clear that my story was not just about victimhood, but it a story of resistance and explained what I meant. I had invited other activists, but they could not make it on short notice. Maurice Tomlinson, spoke of his work in the region around police security and LGBTI issues. I must mentioned Ryan who has crazy energy, a good heart and whom I met accidentally at a latin club during pride week. He even allowed me to embarrassed him with the introduction to the Kiki. I have no idea, the concept, but I sold him out. Until the next general assembly.



Phillipa Davies


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Amandala Editors Lies: Reflections of the Editor about the New York times piece

Posted: May 31, 2015
Written by Kay Johnson

An indignant opinion piece entitled The New York Times Magazine Lies! was published in The Amandala on May 29th, 2015, by Russell Vellos, regarding Caleb Orozco, and UNIBAM -
Vellos' outraged spluttering was an attempt to buttress The Amandala's penchant for slandering the LGBT community. It seems poor Russell Vellos is under attack at every turn by those not in sympathy with the Amandala's blatant bigotry.
In fact, in an opinion piece from 2011, Vellos portrayed himself as being constantly in fear for the sanctity of his body, due to his irresistible attractiveness to men. Amandala - 25 November 2011, by Russell Vellos
Using the "find" feature, search for "homosexual" (found 54 times) and you'll see clearly who is obsessed, to the point of a seriously unhealthy fixation.
If his words are to be believed, Vellos spent his youth dodging predatory males, and in fact, lived a hellish life due to his astounding ability to attract unwanted attention from men.
Poor Russell!
The story, of course, is a gross exaggeration regarding the life of Russell Vellos. It was written to garner sympathy and support for oppressed straight men, seemingly under siege from aggressive gays. Unfortunately, we cannot know much about Vellos’s real life, but Belizeans who know, see and interact with him would condemn the greater part of the story as a flaming tall tale.
No less than four times in his life, poor Russell claims he was subject to unwanted attention from a man. Shudder in vicarious fear, as Vellos describes in detail how, forty years ago, a man telephoned him! (If Vellos was so "young" how could he go to a bar? Or be employed? This fairy tale does not add up, nor does it even remotely indicate that gays are predators on the "young") Another man asked Vellos to a party! A man invited him to his house for a few beers! Tremble in terror as you realize that poor Russell had no earthly idea the man was one of "those" types, finding out later, much to his everlasting horror and dismay!
Of course, if every adult female in Belize toted up all the unwanted attention in their lifetimes, including telephone calls, leering looks, disgusting comments, rude gestures, filthy cat-calls, unwanted date invitations, lewd street accosting, gropings, (and worse) from arrogant, obnoxious, pushy males, the count would be in the thousands, if not tens-of-thousands. People like poor Russell Vellos simply cannot abide being treated the way many men constantly treat females.
While there are many Belizeans who are homosexual, they nevertheless know that Vellos just AIN'T alla dat!
"The other thing I want to talk about is the homosexuals’ practice of name-calling, a time-honored and proven way of getting people who abhor their way of life to quit opposing them, and just shut up, leaving them to their stated policy of trying to change the world from “Adam and Eve” to “Adam and Steve.” Oh yes, they call you all sorts of names: homophobic, backward, stupid, uneducated, ignorant, and the like."
Let's compare being called ignorant and backward with some of the terms and phrases The Amandala (Evan Hyde, Colin Hyde, and Russell Vellos) have used to label the LGBT community over the past four years: "predator" - "danger" - "disgusting" - "evil" - "an abhorrence" - "perverted" - "scourge of wickedness" - "disgusting" - "drooling" - "dribbling" - "sickening" - "prey on young boys" - "wicked" - "sick" - "blasphemous" - "depraved people" - "misbegotten creatures" - "nastiness" - "aggressive" - "a nasty, despicable, God-forbidden way of life" - I'll leave you to decide just WHO is doing the vast majority of name-calling, and of the worst sort.
There are people who will mock Vellos, of course, but there were simply not enough of these incidents to even faintly buttress Vellos' argument that he lives a life pursued by aggressive men, slavering after his derrière.
In fact, not only does Vellos' tale itself appear to be a skillful fabrication in pursuit of the Belize Action Anti-Gay Agenda, (which falsely claims gays are "after the children") but it also seems Vellos’s histrionics regarding his close calls were penned under the coaching of Pastor Scott Stirm, and Pastor Louis Wade.
The Amandala, Belize's largest newspaper, published a page-long editorial under the headline UNIBAM divides Belize which properly points out that the churches need to clean up their act before pointing fingers elsewhere.
The Amandala has ALSO published many anti-gay screeds, among which was this: "Homosexuals are predators of young and teenaged boys,’ wrote the editor-in-chief, Russell Vellos. ‘Woe unto us, Belize, if homosexuals are successful in our court. Woe unto us! In fact, since ours is a ‘test case,’ woe unto the world!"
I have checked Google and can categorically state that the entire quote was published by The Amandala and is only one among numerous other such poison-pen pieces. The EXACT words Vellos denies, (and was unable to find, in his own paper's archives) do indeed appear in a section called "Of This and That" - Features— 17 November 2011— by Russell Vellos
If Russell Vellos can blatantly lie about such a thing to suit his purposes, then the veracity of his entire newspaper has to be questioned.
The puzzle for me is, why would a media entity such as The Amandala think it necessary to resort to “gutter journalism” in pursuit of their anti-gay agenda? Ain't nobody got time fo' dat.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Belize IDAHOT 2015: LGBT Youth, Social Complications, quiet resistance

17th May, 2015

IDAHOT is not a single day, but a daily reminder how Young Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender resist threats, beating, murder, accusations, the lack of legal protection and political indifference in not giving up on their lives. It is a story of victimhood and we in Belize must acknowledge the pain of our Y.L.B.G.T. A pain that crosses a generational divide where the older generation have sought to self-medicate in binge drinking and smoking to help to sustain personal calm, in an atmosphere of hostility and self-guarded socialisation. To the media, he was 18 year old Joseph Sanchez, cross-dresser, murdered victim who died in January,2014 in women's clothing. To the police, ASP Calbert Flowers he was  simply a person, who experienced an attempted robbery and was murdered as a result. Flowers said in a channel 5 interview, "The investigation reveals that this person was walking on Elston Kerr Street when he was attacked by two persons. The investigation revealed that these two male persons that attacked this person tried to rob him. During that robbery a struggle ensued and this person was stabbed once to the chest.   The investigation is ongoing and we have what we think is enough evidence to show that it was an attempt robbery.”  

To the LGBT community, she was a friend, a brother and a son to a mother. He was not just a murdered victim,not just a person or a cross-dresser found in women's clothing. She was a Youth, who's experience, remain undocumented, who lost her life in a senseless killing, who lived under constant threat for her gender expression and identity. She was Cenida Ramos, a trans youth. The lost of her life was symbolic of a system of social, legal, cultural oppression the community lives under that remains invisible to the wider public and the political directorate, who's response has been mimimal in recognizing that there is need to uphold concerns of dignity and rights. This was Cenida Ramos as she was, alive and in burial. Sadly, I learned that some of the same people who harassed, mocked, insulted her, attended her wake looking for rum. One person in particular, on the day of the funeral shared his experience of hearing, on the bus, while going to the  cemetery,someone, making a homophobic remark and he had to put him in his place. Nevertheless,the people who showed up was not three persons, but many at her final resting place and showed nothing but respect.


We celebrate Cenida Ramos life as a symbol of resistance, as she lived in an area where violence, harassment, threats, mockery was the norm, not the exception. I say this because of my personal experience of driving in the area to deliver community donations, after she died to her moms house. A  child, no more than 12, decided it was his right to stone my car. In addition, a separate experience prior to her  death occurred where persons told me, " come back on this street, again" took pride in shaking up my car, just before, I was able to drive off. This incident happened not more than 100 yards from where she was murdered. Personally, I am surprise, she lasted that long in the area.With low conviction rates, we don't have any expectations that justice will be found.

As we explored the murder of Cenida Ramos, it is important to remember that the general youth population lives a complicated life affected by violence in homes and streets, poverty and unemployment. When sexuality, psychological maturity and inadequate access to sexual health education is added, life skills for the most hardy, can be tested to the extreme, affecting, life decisions that add to the struggle of navigating all the cant do's and clouding the path to the can do's. In this regard, family becomes crucially important as a social safety net to ground individuals, but for transgendered persons for any youth who belong to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender population, there is no guarantee of such a safety net. The result is perpetuated violence, not by strangers, but by blood. We came across one 15 year old story, in October, 2014 who wrote,"They took me in a pick-up truck out on land....and they beat me with stick and they kick me while I was lying on the ground trying to cover my face and head. I could hear my pa said that you spare the rod and spoil the child so he was kicking me to save me from hell." Like most, no state services will ever document such a case, and so family abuse for young LGBT persons will remain invisible, for such experiences are almost never reported in Belize. 

With the April 9th, 2014 mob attack of 19 years old Vanessa Champagne Paris on Central American Boulevard, we discovered, how transgendered youth are on the frontline of violence, it is not just effeminate gay men. While many will ask what was she doing on Vernon street looking like a woman. The no one asked, what her family life was like, about her school experience as a child where she lived, if she was employed or skilled to be employed and why she did not finish her education. What we got were news reports of stealing women's clothing, burglary and other accusations.Vanessa story, is a case of contradiction. A case that showed the effects of how social and cultural oppression can impact a youth psychology and socio-economic standing in Belize, while showing that not all LGBT persons are able to  to make healthy-judgements to survive in an atmosphere of psychological and potential physical violence. It is a story, of poor-judgement and unwritten social background and living a self-prophecy that invites instability and social isolation.

      On 21st, January, 2015, the body of a 26 year old was found in a decomposed state, in the roaring creek area. While the story speaks in generic terms, it also was implies that even in death, injustice is going to be norm in any criminal investigation as the Belize justice system is challenged by its evidence collection process, trained personnel, inadequate data structures and a wall of social silence. 

We know that 13.85%  of men who have sex with men were found to have HIV prevalence rates that disproportionately affect men. What we have not seen is the quite erosion of dignity that impacts health. The system often touts the need to do more test, to do more prevention work. It never ask how discrimination impacts the health of young persons. Here are two, one that have already died because family support was not possible. While we got him connected to his family weeks before he died. It was clear that advance HIV had ravaged his body.The 2nd person is still alive, I place cream on his shingles years ago, but he is still struggling with recognizing his worth as a gay man. These pictures were taken years apart, but they hold true, still today. That the violation of an individual dignity and worth has lasting effects that is years in the making.

      Despite, the silent, dark, invisible experiences, our community have shown that we are willing to resist, mockery, threats, insults and physical violence and so create social spaces of every kind to remind ourselves. Allies share in the vision of reminding us about our humanity and in celebrating life. Allies provides hope to the future an amplify our voices in government, business, among friends and family.


We see the struggle is not just an LGBT issues, but every citizen, as Civil, Social, Economic and Cultural, Political rights can be violated everyday, for anyone. The United Belize Advocacy Movement calls on all citizens to act shamelessly to uphold the rights of all citizens, but especially, young Lesbian Gay Bisexual and transgender persons and show the right to personal security, expression, association, education and dignity upheld, in social practice, in policy, in institutional mechanism that promote tolerance. The recent UNAIDS launch of a poll which said 68% of Belizean's are tolerant or accepting, is important, for it shows we are a society of extremism, that families still matter. In the end, ff blood is before church and politics, let families lead this day, of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia to act and support our youth, in improving their quality of life and in the upholding of their human dignity.The Special Envoy for women and children leads the way in her actions. Can we see other Belizean's move from the role as fence sitters, to champions?


A look at the possible  motive of Joseph Sanchez murder

Accused of stealing Female Clothing

Transgendered woman robbed

Special Envoy statement on IDAHOT 205

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Nazification of Caribbean Leaders: Chucking Citizens dignity and Rights out the door.

28th, April, 2015

At the Parliamentary Assembly of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, meeting at its 35th Session in Strasbourg, France on 14 and 19 March 2014, leaders supported a declaration against the suspension of Nigeria and Uganda from negotiations of the Cotonou Agreement for its criminalisation of own L.G.B.T citizens  A declaration which spoke of 'that democracy and human rights do not allow forceful imposition of unilateral points of view by one country over another sovereign country;' and goes on to say,'the laws passed in Uganda and Nigeria were proposed by democratically elected Parliaments, and complied with all the necessary legislative procedures, including consultations with a cross-section of their populations;' lost on me is how the rights and dignity of citizens can be subsumed by sovereignty rights. The declaration goes to speak of, 'its rejection of any attempt to pressure the ACP countries into accepting values contrary to the wishes and aspirations of their peoples'

In August, 2014. the Ugandan court said in its ruling,"The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was quorum" . "We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally." The essence of the law as reported by the Guardian said in December, 2013, 'The bill, rushed through by MPs on Friday, also bans the promotion of homosexuality and makes it a crime punishable by prison not to report gay people to the authorities or to conduct a marriage ceremony for same-sex couples.' The Bill was tabled without notice, but the declaration from A.C.P states would lead us to believe that it was,'the laws passed in Uganda and Nigeria were proposed by democratically elected Parliaments, and complied with all the necessary legislative procedures, including consultations with a cross-section of their populations.' It seems the region leaders in the Caribbean would vote to support the Nazis in their quests to get rid of Jews, under the claims of Sovereign Rights. More importantly, spoke of a,' ..forceful imposition of unilateral points of view.'

But what happens when a national court offers an interpretation of a country constitutional frameworks. The declaration totally ignored, the 2011, Ugandan ruling on rolling stone, the 2013 ruling of Audrey Mbugna Ithiba, of 2013. The rolling stones ruling in January, 2011, about four years before the declaration  point out the following:

In considering whether the Rolling Stone’s publication of alleged homosexuals’ names, addresses and preferred social hang-outs constituted a violation of the applicant’s constitutional rights, the Court, ruled that:
1) The motion is not about homosexuality per se, but ‘ is about fundamental rights and freedoms,’ in particular about whether ‘the publication infringed the rights of the applicants or threatened to do so’.
2) The jurisdiction of Article 50 (1) of the Constitution is dual in nature, in that it extends not just to any person ‘whose fundamental rights or other rights or freedoms have been infringed in the first place,’ but also to ‘persons whose fundamental rights or other rights or freedoms are threatened to be infringed.’
3) Inciting people to hang homosexuals is an attack on the right to dignity of those thus threatened: ‘the call to hang gays in dozens tends to tremendously threaten their right to human dignity.’

 4) Homosexuals are as entitled to the right to privacy as any other citizens. Against the ‘objective test’, ‘the exposure of the identities of the persons and homes of the applicants for the purposes of fighting gayism and the activities of gays...threaten the rights of the applicants to privacy of the person and their homes.....’

The court further awarded UGX. 1,500,000/= to each of the applicants, as well as ordering that the applicant shall recover their costs from the respondents. The court issued a permanent injunction preventing The Rolling Stone and their managing editor, Mr. Giles Muhame, from ‘any further publications of the identities of the persons and homes of the applicants and homosexuals generally.’

While politicians are not always lawyers, it is clear that parliamentarians do no follow legal precedence and are challenged to improve their  basic understanding of international and national legal obligations. If they did, this badly worded declaration would have reflected the rights of citizens in the overall statement. In addition to the Rolling Stones case, the case of Audrey Mbugua Ithibu, further adds, not only national values, but national interpretation of fundamental rights.

In a case brought by Audrey Mbugua Ithibu, who was seeking to have her name, replaced on documents issued by the Kenya National Examination Council certifying she had passed educational exams ruled, The court said,
“The court takes judicial notice of the fact that examinations in this country are not administered based on the gender of the candidate. Marks are also not awarded based on gender. Removal of the gender mark will therefore not dilute the quality of the certificate,” Korir reportedly said.

In addition to this ruling, the Kenyan court ruled in the case of G v Odunga, case 308A of 2013. The court ruled, ' Apart from the foregoing, it is my view that to discriminate persons and deny them freedom of association on the basis of gender or sex is clearly unconstitutional. That would contravene the provisions of Article 27(4)of the Constitution which provides that;The State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience,belief, culture, dress, language or birth.'

Furthermore, the positive ruling on the Kenya, National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, (NGLHRC) reported April, 27th, 2015 on buzzfeed, showed that the EU position to suspend both countries from the Cotonou agreement, was an accurate reflection of legal obligations to uphold basic human rights concerns. This seem to have been lost on the crafters of the declaration.

That states find sovereign rights, more important, than their national legal obligations to protect their L.G.B.T citizens, begs the question. If not them, then who is to protect their citizens? More importantly, the recent legal decision in the NGLHRC ruling cements the point that nations, including Caribbean nations are already legally obligated to their L.G.B.T citizens.The Kenyan judge decisions support  such a premise in the following way, “An interpretation of non-discrimination which excludes people based on their sexual orientation would be in conflict with the principles of human dignity, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, and non-discrimination” the three judge panel held in a portion of their ruling interpreting three sections of the Kenyan constitution concerning fundamental rights. Even in Tomlinson v TJL, CVM Ltd and the Public broadcasting of Jamaica the court acknowledged, "(28) it is perhaps to be recognised that the claimant cannot seek redress for any allegations of discrimination on the grounds of his sexual orientation as the charter does not afford that protection specifically. This maybe viewed as a significant deficiency in this charter, but it is to be noted  that the first paragraph of the charter  is comprehensive enough to point to a view that it be interpreted to embrace all the rights and responsibilities of all Jamaicans."  The shameful language of ACP states in the declaration, suggest that state value complicity in the violation of and subsuming of citizens rights, in the name of Sovereign Rights. 

Seshauna writes in a piece called Maurice Tomlison verse Television Jamaica Ltd..., "The corresponding horizontality section of the South African Constitution has been said to embrace a conception of liberalism which recognizes that ‘the real issue regarding the application of fundamental rights is …about how all kinds of power are distributed throughout a polity and what that means for the lives of individuals and the associations that inhabit the larger political community.’ Despite repeated references to the South African provision and the suggestion that it was conceived in an ethos of equality, the Jamaican Court did not take sufficient notice of the context of power distribution that arose in the case before it."

The declaration and Seshuna writing implies that protection and enforcement of rights is about power distribution. The implication is that distribution can either cause harm or be supportive depending on the views of the L.G.B.T communities among CariCOM member states, or state leaders who are generally complicit by indifference, inaction and omission to uphold oppressive social and institutionalised systems that perpetuate mistreatment and violence against their own L.G.B.T citizens. Furthermore when the St. Lucia Foreign Minister Alva Bapiste will show up at an event on Non-discrimination and Development, in Brussels in 2012 and call it, privately, 'a trick,' while leaders fail to endorse a roadmap on discrimination because 140 religious groups, sent a statement about the roadmap,'reordering society,' speaks volumes to the commitment of regional leaders to the fundamental rights of its L.G.B.T citizens. More importantly, reflected how current social power distributions between the religious extremists and marginalise can be set aside for political convenience, instead of leadership and responding to legal obligations. 

The Nazification of the region, is not about genocide, but about states refusal to invest in legislation and mechanism that directly extents protections and rights enforcement base on sexual orientation and gender identity; setting up systems that address discrimination; invest in interventions that builds the capacity of the justice system to respond to issues base on sexual orientation and gender identity. Leaving the responsibility of rights defence and protection solely to the individual affected while keeping policies and practices that act as barriers to advance social and cultural transformation, does not uphold human dignity.  In addition, a failure of any cabinet to take a formal positions as state, policy in what its fiduciary responsibility is to its L.G.B.T citizens, is at minimum, dubious. Either way, state refusal to deal with its L.G.B.T  citizens cost lives ,erodes human dignity and promotes exclusion.

Belize, has made some strides through its Gender Policy, it however, does not have an official state position on its L.G.B.T citizens; its investment in rights remain minimal and cabinet leaders specific commitment, to its legal responsibility towards its L.G.B.T citizens remain ambiguous, at best. The Nazification of Belize, is as issue of inequitable distribution of social power, a failure to lead and distorted privileged realities. The solution it seems is the use of National Supreme Courts to correct, systemic oppression to construct systems of support to advance dignity and rights.  He who feels it, knows it and will do something about it, seems to be the order of the day.

See below:
3rd January, 2011
Court Ruling on 'Hang Them' Tabliod

Non-Discrimination and Development
20th, December, 2013
Ugandan MP's Rush through draconion Law Against homosexuality.

1st August, 2014
Law Declared null and void

8th October, 2014
Court Defends Trans Rights

Ruling of GvOdunga

LGBT Rights Victory Kenya on NGLHRC

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Western Imposition or Knowledge Deficit? The Road of Political Engagement

22nd April, 2015

I was at a presentation at Michaal Kirby lecture called: Can the Commonwealth of Nations Survive? A Dismal Story of Human Rightsand it was fascinating to listen to the evolution of the Commonwealth. What was clear from the presentation was that political rights did not occur without a cost.

He explained that The Commonwealth of Nations being a voluntary association of 53 states, constitute more than 25% of the membership of the United Nations; nearly 40% of the World Trade Organisation; more than 35% of the Organisation of American States; and just under 40% of the African union. The represent 26% of the South East Asian Association for Regional Cooperation; around 90% of the Caribbean Community and Pacific Islands Forum and over 20% of the Organisation of Islamic Countries.

He pointed out that litigation helped to advance rights, among Commonwealth countries came 'in a number of courtroom',..For Example, ' in Botswana;[1] Kenya;[2] Malaysia;[3] and Australia... In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Bermuda found in favour of a same-sex couple who complained about their inability jointly to adopt a child whom they were raising together. The Supreme Court of Bermuda held that the case was one of direct discrimination against unmarried couples because of their marriage status and indirect discrimination against them because of sexual orientation... Fiji (lately readmitted to the Commonwealth) adopted constitutional provisions in 2013 prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of ‘sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression’.... A minor amendment was made in Samoa by the Crimes Act 2013 deleting ‘indecency between males’ from the Crimes Ordinance 1961. The same amendment in 2013 removed the previous offence of a ‘male impersonating a woman...’Rwanda where the President terminated a Bill to introduce a sodomy crime saying that it was not part of that country’s legal tradition (which had been Belgian). Similarly Mozambique adopted a new Penal Code in July 2014. This removed a previous provision criminalising same sex sexual conduct even though between consenting adults...The hard work for removal was done by the local legislature after local civil society organisations sought reform, supported by the United Nations.'

Kirby goes on to point out the culture of indifference in the Commonwealth and referred to the efforts of the EPG or Eminent Persons Groups to recommend support for a commissioner. The EPG at the Perth CHOGM  2011, found out,'Effectively, the Secretary-General’s negative opinion torpedoed the proposal for a commissioner.' When this is placed in context with addressing the political commitment to the rights of L.G.B.T individuals, he reports,

'Perhaps the most virulent opposition to the EPG recommendations on HIV/AIDS and sexuality came from The Gambia. On 9 October 2014, President Yahya Jammeh signed into law an amendment of the Criminal Code Act 2014 introducing life imprisonment for a broad and vaguely worded offence of “aggravated homosexuality”. He described homosexuality as “satanic behaviour”. According to the Human Dignity Trust website, 8 persons were arrested under the new law after November 2014, including a 17 year old boy. President Jammeh, who originally came to office following a coup d’état, claimed in January 2015, that L.G.B.T people and supportive Western nations, like the United States of America, were parts of an “evil empire”. Of one development, however, we can take satisfaction. Just prior to the 2013 CHOGM, President Jammeh announced that he was taking Gambia out of the Commonwealth. The Secretary-General, instead of taking the opportunity to express hopes for the country’s return, to the Commonwealth should have insisted, in a clear voice, that the nation’s laws were an affront to the Commonwealth Charter and to universal human rights...

He goes in his presentation, 'Not a week goes by, but reports are published concerning serious human rights violations in Commonwealth countries. These include: 
* The imposition by the State of Punjab High Court in Pakistan of the death sentence against a Christian mother of five Asia Bibi. Human Rights Watch says that the blasphemy law has long been unduly misused to target religious minorities;[4]

* The about turn of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, following an earlier promise to introduce repeal of that country’s Sedition Act, a legacy of colonial rule, adopted first to deter antagonistic protest against the Government but used now for contemporary means of control;[5] and

*The complaints in the UN Human Rights Council against the alleged refoulement by Australia of Sri Lankan refugee applicants arriving in recent years by boat. These steps were part of a legal regime to which the refugee applicants have been subjected, under successive governments, to “enhanced screening process”.[6]  '

What the presentation did was to offer insight into how countries of the commonwealth value human rights in practice and how present weak mechanism and political responses of the commonwealth has helped to perpetuate abuses. More precisely, it offers, a context into, the not so unique practice of ignoring the civil, social and political rights of citizens.    
Belize is no different in this regard, the Maya's of Belize fought for close to 30 years for customary land rights acknowledgement and used the courtroom  as a tool to hold the state accountable for its lack of recognition. It finally succeeded in 2015. The strength and effectiveness of Civil Society,it seems, in using democratic tools like, international systems at the OAS, UN or national and regional courts, seems to be the last bastion of upholding commonwealth values in practice. What is clear is that Civil Society has a clear role in advancing rights, in an environment where political leader lack knowledge about their legal responsibility to their L.G.B.T citizens. This is reflected in in the idea that that L.G.B.T issues is a Western Imposition,despite, constitutions across the commonwealth, which speaks to all citizens rights. For Belize, the education, laws, religion, political system are western concepts that have been adopted already. The laws specifically, were adopted from the British. More precisely, the constitution, does not say fundamental rights extends only to heterosexuals and as such, leaders already have a legal responsibility to protect all their citizens. Regionally, among CARICOM member states political leaders, seems to play on national values, which is self-serving that reflect, the self-interest and personal prejudice of political leaders willing to absolve their legal responsibility. So what makes leaders resist acknowledging their legal responsibilities? Is anyone guess, one can theorize, personal prejudice, never meeting anyone L.G.B.T, being in the closet themselves, self-interest in sustaining personal power, are just some assumptions.  

What is clear,is that courtroom process is just one layer in the march to equality, shadow reports in international treaty obligations, a regional court in the Caribbean and public engagement around diversity, seems to be the compliment.

In a process in 2011, U.N.D.P in collaboration with WIN Belize was able to organize a National Dialogue on Human Right where Michael Kirby appeared by video at the Radission in Belize. We influence that process and saw, the planning given life in the process.

It was clear, however, that U.N.D.P role is to provide technical assistance, as it maintains a fragile balance of diplomatic relations and supporting civil society in rights engagement in Belize. To have call our government to task, would have disturbed its diplomat standing. Furthermore, in advocacy, one realises that its about timing, strategy, human relations and politics and that getting attention for an issue can be either a cloudy or clear process. 
It is clear to me that L.G.B.T advocates domestic and international is affected by political messages and that we have a responsibility to share strategies to help transform policy norming, development interventions, mechanisms and laws into a process that is accessible, reliable, and helpful in holding national system accountable for the lack of protections that exists. More importantly, international spaces are vital, in leverage political engagements, nationally. This also applies to international spaces that can be used to advance funding targeting areas, policy priorities and development positions on a global scale. In the end, the idea that we can progress with our rights, in societies that are accustom to marginalising groups, is to ignore fundamentally that no society will just acknowledge rights of a marginalised group without opposition. 

[1] “Gaberone High Court Ruled in Favour of LGBABIBO Barred from Registration by Department of Labor & Home Affairs” 14 November 2014.
[2] Court is considering an application the National Gay & Lesbian H.R. Group to be registered as a NGA, Kenya..
[3] Court of Appeal of Malaysia, 7 November 2014, Khamis v State Government of Negeri Sembilan and Ors (Prohibition on cross-dressing held void).
[4] The Australian, 13 February 2015, 8 (“Pakistan to Defend Blasphemy Accused”).
[5] BBC News, Asia, 2 July 2013 (“Malaysia PM Najib Razak makes sedition pledge” but see “Malaysia’s creeping authoritarianism”, Wall Street Journal, 17 March 2015, 12.
[6] E. Howie, “Understanding Australia’s Opposition to the Investigation by the Human Rights Council of Sri Lanka’s War Crimes”, CHRI, Newsletter (2014) Vol. 21, no. 2, 5.