Saturday, October 15, 2011

LGBT media advocacy and controversy in Belize- critics and dialogue

October 15th, 2011

The last few weeks have been super busy, in advocacy. In Janelle Chanona stories on LGBT concerns she broaden the discussion from section 53 to myths and misperceptions. Here is a link to the first story while the second story follows. The coverage is channel 7

The Homosexuality Debate in Belize: Should the state legislate morality?
posted (July 28, 2011)
Homosexuality has always been one of those things that everyone accepts is part of the Belizean society but no one addresses publicly, least of all on a legal or policy level. But the case of the United Belize Advocacy Movement versus the Attorney General of Belize, which is asking for the decriminalization of sodomy, has changed all that. In the build up to the trial, the issue is being discussed in detail in churches, at work, on the streets and in homes across the country. Tonight 7 News correspondent Janelle Chanona presents part one of a documentary on the Belizean reality of homosexuality. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize, May 13th 2011
"I would limit myself to saying that the government as a government has taken the position that it needs to argue for the constitutionality of the law that is in place that's being challenged and so I would not go beyond that official position. I am not prepared to comment on my own physiological conviction or lack thereof. That is the official position of the government. This is one time when it might be wise for me to say nothing more."
Pastor Scott Stirm, Jubilee Ministries, Belmopan
"By natural law they cannot reproduce. Therefore they must recruit and I want to say this in the strongest terms possible. That's what this is all about. This is their evangelistic campaign."
Martha Carillo, Regional Discrimination Unit, PANCAP, CARICOM
"It is not about changing people's values, even to seek acceptance. I think the bottom line is that people need to be respected and we cannot have laws that disrespect the human rights of individuals."
Johnny Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"The party does not have a position as yet and we'll certainly have to discuss as a party before we have a position."
Pastor Louis Wade Junior, Talk Show Host, Christian Youth Motivational Speaker
"We love people. We love these people. We love all people. It is the behavior that we have a problem with."
Caleb Orozco, Executive President, United Belize Advocacy Movement
"I am willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to enforce my right and my freedom and to meet the needs of my wellbeing as a human being."
Janelle Chanona (stand-up)
"The subject of sex is typically an uncomfortable topic for Belizeans. But the debate over whether the laws should be changed to decriminalize sodomy in this country has ignited fiery reactions from both supporters and opponents."
As it currently stands, the Criminal Code of Belize states that “Every person who has carnal knowledge against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable for imprisonment for ten years.” But in early 2011, Caleb Orozco, the Executive President of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) filed for judicial review of the law, contending that the words “any person or” should be removed because they are a violation of his Constitutional right to sexual freedom.
Caleb Orozco, Executive Director, UNIBAM
"The case is personal and it’s about reminding the system that my human rights isn’t about picking and choosing which you’ll support and which you will ignore. My human rights is total. It’s not to be mandated by the church because the church does not govern this country. Period."
If the law is changed, Belize would be only the second Caribbean country to decriminalize sodomy...Bahamas being the first. In May, that possible outcome prompted the Belize Council of Churches, which represents the major Christian denominations of Belize, as well as the Belize Association of Evangelical Churches to join the case as interested parties. The religious leaders insist Belize’s very soul is at stake.
Bishop Dorrick Wright, Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Belize
"We have the story from the old testament of Sodom and Gomorrah, God destroyed a whole country, a whole place because of this same reason. I am not certain if he will do this to the United States where it seems to be popular and getting very common, but I don't think we have to follow what the United States does and I think we should think for ourselves and see what would be the evil outcome of this whole thing if we get into changing the laws of our country to permit same sex marriage and children must be taught that this is an acceptable way of life and you know its just down right wrong."
Good morning Belize and welcome to another edition of Rise and Shine, my name is Louis Wade.
One of the most vocal opponents to the gay rights case has been talk show host and Christian Youth motivational speaker, Pastor Louis Wade Junior.
Pastor Louis Wade Junior, Talk Show Host/Motivational Speaker
"Mark my words, it starts with one lawsuit, when this lawsuit is over, if they get their way, the next set of lawsuits will be against the social security board and other large organizations, insurance companies that must give compensation not only a person but also to their spouse. The third set of litigation is going to be church and religious denominations across the nation when they refuse to marry homosexual couples. And then the final set of mass litigation will be against people who stand up and say that this kind of practice is wrong."
Pastor Scott Stirm, Jubilee Ministries, Belmopan
"Presently in the United Kingdom, there are lawsuits trying to lower the age of consent. That proves to me, the agenda. They are after the children, they are recruiting campaigns and it’s for people that have, I would say, demented sexual practices and they want to go after the kids. That is happening globally, all over the world. It’s called the child sex trade and this is another expression of that same exact agenda. They want to go to younger and younger ages. And again, these are the things that cause us to stand up and rise with a lion’s roar and say “no way”, we will not allow this to happen, not only our watch."
Both Wade and his Christian colleague Pastor Scott Stirm insist that no one is born gay and maintain Belize’s laws should uphold rights, not choices.
Pastor Scott Stirm, Jubilee Ministries
"It’s a learnt’s something people pick up along the way. But I have ministered to I would say countless people, particularly in sexual abuse situations and the majority of them have been sexually abused. When you understand clinical homosexual behavior and clinical homosexual foundations, the absence of the fatherly role plays a huge factor. So you have people that have classic foundations for homosexuality. But then you have other people that just pick up from basic influence of perversion or exposing to pornography and the power of suggestion and things like that."
Louis Wade, Jr., Christian Youth Motivation Speaker, Talk Show Host
"If they are born that way, it will be found in their genes. Where is the gene? I have met ex-gays and ex-lesbians but I have never met ex-blacks person, this is not a civil rights issue."
Similarly strong sentiments were also voiced in February 1998 when the cruise ship the MS Leeward docked in Belize carrying eight hundred and sixty gay men onboard. For Orozco, that incident and his own experiences highlights that he is living in a homophobic society, which is why the majority of Belizean men who have sex with men live secret lives.
Caleb Orozco, Executive President, UNIBAM
"Some of the things they say were like faggot, bonefire, they basically use a lot of the Jamaican dancehall slangs to let me know where my place is and that’s rather frustrating because all I was doing was going to buy condense milk. I don’t believe that I deserve to be treated like that especially if I’m not looking at you or harassing you in any way."
"I need my freedom to be honest with people. I perpetuate my own discrimination or my own experience of homophobia by remaining silent."
Martha Carillo, Technical Associate, Regional Stigma and Discrimination Unit, PANCAP, CARICOM
"Very few people will come to a workshop, very few people will access services at a health centre if they know the minute they step in they are going to be ridiculed or they are going to be treated any less than anybody else."
Martha Carillo is Technical Associate of the PANCAP Regional Stigma and Discrimination Unit. Carillo recently concluded a baseline study on stigma and discrimination with various focus groups, the media, the police, the Belize Defence Force and the religious community about populations such as men who have sex with men.
Martha Carillo, Technical Associate, Stigma and Discrimination Unit, PANCAP
"The preliminary findings are indicating that stigma and discrimination are very much alive in Belize and it is coming from sectors that make it even more scarier for all of us. Because you would think that some of these would be sectors that would be embracing, loving, protecting, providing security and the experiences that have been shared with us indicate to us that we really are living in a critical situation and something needs to be done. And if we have laws, practices and policies that are contributing to this then it needs to be addressed in a very frank and genuine manner."
Ivan Cruikshank, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition
"The most effect response to address HIV and AIDS has to be addressing the social and legal environment, within the country."
According to Ivan Cruickshank, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, countries with high HIV prevalence rates, like Belize, should be supporting every effort to eradicate stigma and discrimination to curb the spread of the disease.
Ivan Cruikshank
"At all levels we are saying to policy makers, review your existing legal and policy environment so that people feel that this is a space that they can come forward and engage with the health care system...that’s a big issue for us."
Maurice Tomlinson, AIDS Free World
"This is about bringing everybody to the table, not leaving anybody out. Because when you exclude people, that is when you provide an opportunity for harm and hate and disease to spread. And these diseases don’t generally stay within the vulnerable groups."
Pastor Louis Wade Junior
"It is a lie. The evidence shows for example in Belize that HIV and AIDs is driven not by the homosexual community but by the heterosexual community. That is well defined in Belize. It is also well defined throughout the Caribbean."
The pastors refute the argument that laws criminalizing sodomy have a direct relation to HIV prevalence rates.
Louis Wade
"I am talking about statistics in European, in England, in Canada, in the United States, in Sweden. These are places where homosexuals have the most freedom in the world, MSM - they have the most freedom, this is where they are not in the closet. Yet the statistics are showing that the HIV rate continues to rise in their circles."
Pastor Scott Stirm, Jubilee Ministries
"At a United Nations level, they have an agenda, they are people in there that that have an agenda and they are pushing that agenda and one of the things that is fueling some of this in Belize is the financial aid that comes from the European Union is coming with stipulations that you must change these laws or we are going to cut you off financially, 'you won’t get any more assistance from us’ and so that’s one of the factors when we talk about why are people hemming and hawing over this issue, it’s because there’s big bucks behind it."
Caleb Orozco
"They are free to form an opinion; an opinion does not provide the basis for reality. It simply offers an expression or description of an issue. Period."
"Cultural attitude isn’t going to change because of one judgment...because of the misrepresentation of the facts and the fear mongering being sold by the religious politicians. There will be years and years around what really is sexual orientation and to an extent, gender identity and what does that actually mean for the individual."
Janelle Chanona (stand-up)
"In the months leading up to this trial, proponents and opponents of this issue will no doubt campaign heavily in their efforts to help you answer the fundamental question of this case: “Should the state legislate morality?” Because make no mistake, whatever decision is handed down in the courtroom, keeping the status quo or changing attitudes towards sexual minorities will be decided on in the court of public opinion. Reporting for 7News I am Janelle Chanona."
The case of Caleb Orozco versus the Attorney General of Belize is scheduled to go to trial in December 2011. UNIBAM's legal team includes former Attorney General of the United Kingdom Lord Peter Goldsmith, former Attorney General of Belize Godfrey Smith and Senior Counsel Lisa Shoman. The churches have retained Senior Counsels Rodwell Williams and Eamon Courtenay as well as Jackie Marshallek, Christopher Coye and Michel Chebat. source:

In the second story and compared two lesbian expereinces. One that prayed the gay away while the other is a proud lesbian. The story in my mind explored the realities of sexuality. Here is a link to the second story...

Can You Pray Away Gay?
posted (October 12, 2011)
It's been reported in Belize and all over the world: Belize's sodomy laws are being challenged by UNIBAM, the United Belize Advocacy Movement. UNIBAM has taken it to the Supreme Court, and the trial is pending. At the end of July, 7news Special Correspondent Janelle Chanona examined the many arguments for and against the taking sodomy off the law books in Belize.
That was part one of her story - and part two, which we present tonight, takes a different tack; it takes the argument from the organizations to the individuals.
Janelle spoke with two Belizean women: one who is unapologetically gay, and another who says that - with prayer - she turned away from her life as a lesbian.
Two different perspectives on a very divisive issue - and here's Janelle's report:
Janelle Chanona Reporting
Melissa Mossiah - Prayed Away Gay
"My name is Melissa Mossiah. I don't think I have to say my age right?"
Simone Hill - Not Ashamed of Being a Lesbian
"I am a person, a human being. I'm Simone Hill, born to two parents that loved me."
The two Belizean women you are about to meet have very different stories about their sexual identities.
Melissa Mossiah
"I know how I used to feel, how I used to think. You get me? And that is not like - I can't convince people of anything, but just stating the fact that I am not the same. It's just unique. This was something that happened between me and God."
Melissa Mossiah says she lived as lesbian for much of her teenaged and early adulthood years because of events that occurred in her childhood.
Melissa Mossiah
"I was a little girl that matured very fast, you know. And so, a man took advantage of me, and innocently, he raped me and I couldn't tell anybody. I couldn't say anything, I couldn't even tell my dad. I was always around my dad; we were very close with each other. But I couldn't tell anybody. I couldn't speak any at all, and the only reason why is because this guy threatened me. Right after that, another scenery unfold and that was with my dad who had an affair, and it was right there in the middle of that, I started having a hatred built up towards men. And so this thing, the desires for females started building up now, because I am going to take care of these females. I am going to risk my life that no men do them anything. That was my mind; that's was what I was thinking."
Mossiah says her beliefs in God clashed with her lesbian life and led to anger, depression and even thoughts of suicide. She found comfort in Bible-based counseling after she moved in with her pastor's family. Eight years later, the young woman says she is no longer a lesbian.
Melissa Mossiah
"The transformation in my mind reflects the transformation outside, okay, because I am so comfortable, Janelle. I got to my bed, and I don't have to be thinking of how to gratifying my flesh, how to feed me, because how I used to make this things, how I used to build upon these desires and these feelings, I watched pornography. Pornography was introduced to Burrell Boom, after those couple years. And so that's how I used to feed myself. But the thing is, afterwards it just makes you feel empty, it doesn't satisfy you. But not only that, I used to masturbate as well. So all this, I was trying to help - something- but it didn't work. When the process began it was a struggle because I still had the desires. I still had the thoughts but, like I said, when the word started getting into my mind, and my pastor was really down-to-earth person when it comes to the word, because he is going to nail it in. And so getting that word in, when I go home, I think upon it. I'm in the bathroom and I'm thinking upon it. And so, that word, Janelle, was what transformed my entire mind, that when I look at female, they are beautiful just like myself. And God created them just as how he created me."
Janelle Chanona
"But you are not sexually attracted to her?"
Melissa Mossiah
"No, not anymore. I can't explain to you how God did what He did to me. I don't know how to explain that, but anytime you get connected with Him. That is what I wanted, a wanted a change"
Simone Hill
"We were born into a family; we are just like the next person. If you cut us, we bleed."
We approached several members of the gay and lesbian community to participate in this documentary; all but one declined, saying they were afraid of how their families and friends would react; what their bosses would say or how their businesses would suffer.
Simone Hill shares many of those concerns but felt that by publicly sharing her story, she could put another human face to the public debate.
Simone Hill
"I knew what I was feeling from I was ten years old, but I never explored these things, you understand me? I wanted to do things that would make my parents happy. I wanted to make them happy. So, I did what I believed what would have made them happy. I have a child, and I raised my child with the help of my family and I taught my child to love. I noticed that my friends that were lesbians and gays, their family behaved back in the early 90s, like at them like they could have turned their children, their little nieces and nephews. I was so sad to me, to see this. I thank God that my sisters didn't behave in that way. I babysat my nieces and nephews. I had my daughter and she was nothing like that. People say - I remember getting some ridiculous questions like, 'Aren't you afraid that she becomes like you?' Who is thinking that? You are just raising your child. There were questions that my daughter raised to me about Sodom and Gomorrah, and all those things. And I answered them to the best of my ability."
Janelle Chanona
"What did you answer?"
Simone Hill
"What did I answer? So long ago, Janelle, but nonetheless, my daughter is here. I believe that I raised her well. She's a good person and one wouldn't - because people put labels - If you look, and she was walking on the street, who would know that she has a mother that is a lesbian? Coming back to tie it all together, we are human beings. We are all just like you pops being the camera, walking the streets and other things. We come in all shapes, forms and other things. Some of us are extreme; some of us are more conservative. But, we are human beings at the end of the day. Some people won't like us because some of us are open, and we are true to ourselves."
Simone Hill hopes that one day she will be able to live as a lesbian without harassment and threats of violence, which is why she supports changing local laws to decriminalize sodomy.
Maria Roches - March 31st 2004
"Well I am fighting for my fundamental rights which were violated and abused and I want my job back."
The decriminalization of sodomy is not the first time that differences in religious beliefs and Constitutional rights have resulted in a court case. In 2004, school teacher Maria Roches was "released" from her post at a Roman Catholic institution after she became a single mother. The court later upheld legal arguments that Roches' dismissal was unconstitutional because it violated her right against discrimination based on sex.
Dean Barrow - Maria Roches' Attorney, March 31st 2004
"All of us have to respect the church and especially the Catholic Church but the Constitution our country is supreme. And whenever anything that is done is in conflict with the constitution, then citizens have a right to go to court and to have this declared to be so. In my view that is what is happening here."
Florence Goldson - Human Rights Advocate
"You have the right to your beliefs and there are so many different spiritual beliefs. So, but there are only one set of human rights, and human rights are guaranteed to every single person just by virtue of being born."
Human rights advocate Florence Goldson says all Belizeans should support efforts to change laws that discriminate, including those that decriminalize sodomy.
Florence Goldson
"This is a law that has the potentiality to affect all of us, because all of us - any person that's going to engage any sexual intercourse, and wants the right and freedom to decide on how they will be intimate, can be affected by this law. So then it saddens and angers me that we decide to isolate one group of people, and decide that it's okay to violate their rights, that we all have the right to protection, except for those people, and whoever else we decide are not worthy of protection. The silence, the fear, the intolerance are indicative of the law and what discriminating laws can bring about. So, as a nation, we should ensure that laws like this one, and other laws, because there are laws that discriminate against women, the laws that don't protect children. There are lots of laws that force us into silence, push people to live hidden lives."

Melissa Mossiah
"My greatest desire right now is to be able to share the truth. That if God can set me free, He can set you free. It doesn't matter what, how deep you are in it. He can set you free."
Simone Hill
"I pray that the law gets change, and so that we can all live in harmony. That's what I pray for. So in the long term, I would like to see us whereby we have laws that protect not only homosexuals, but everybody. I hope that everybody's rights get protected and the laws respect that, and that people can respect these things."
In the end, this case is not just about arguing what's in the law books. This case is about Belizeans and their beliefs. If the laws stay the same, homosexuals will continue to feel discriminated against. If the laws are changed, the religious community will feel that Belize is on a slippery slope to damnation. Belizeans will have to determine whether we want to be a society that protects individual lifestyle choices or a society that clings strictly to religious ideals.
The trial has tentatively been set for December.
We'll keep following the story as it draws closer to a trial date... source:

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