Sunday, January 29, 2012

We Are one Launch in Media

UNIBAM: We Are One
January 27, 2012

On Monday UNIBAM's constitutional challenge of constitutionality of section 53 of the criminal code is going to the Supreme Court of Belize for a Preliminary Hearing.
And today, UNIBAM launched its public relations campaign to get sympathetic members of the community to come 

Now, if you've been watching the polls, you might say they don't have very much support, but UNIBAM is appealing to what they believe is the silent majority, and today they pulled out all the stops: Attorneys, Human Rights experts and a Christian Minister to get the message out.
We were at the press conference and here's how it went:
Jules Vasquez Reporting
The purpose of today's press conference was to launch these wrist-bands:
Caleb Orozco - Executive President, UNIBAM
"The bracelets for us are our attempt to increase the visibility of the issue, but, more precisely, for generating solidarity among individuals. You may not agree with our issue, but, at the end of the day, as Belizeans we all expect the same treatment of dignity and rights. At this end, the bands are designed to generate dialogue, to generate- to get people to reflect whether their intolerance is logical and justified about a set of people that they know nothing about, about a set of people that they hear gossip and inflaming statements about. And if we can generate sufficient dialogue on this issue through the wearing of the wristbands, we would have done our job."
And to fuel that dialogue, there's this savvy ad campaign:
The message is "we are one in dignity and rights" - turning what's been coloured as a gay rights issue into a human rights one:
Antoinette Moore
"No one is excluded from the human family, and, therefore, no one is excluded from the enjoyment of their basic rights."
And while that is a universal sentiment, is it Belizean one? Credible foreign media have reported that the challenging of buggery laws in is part of an international campaign by gay rights advocates:
Lisa Shoman, Co-Counsel, UNIBAM
"The case really is an issue that has been raised in Belize by Belizeans. There a lot of misconceptions as to how this case was brought, and I can say that, along with my co-counsel in this case, we represent Caleb Orozco and the United Belize Advocacy Movement. But it is important that Belizeans understand that this is a case brought by Belizeans, about Belizeans, about the Belizean criminal code, and the constitution of Belize. There is no foreign entity that is driving this."
Jules Vasquez
"Are you an agent or are your strings being pulled - and your bills being paid - by any international human rights group?"
Caleb Orozco
"Well I can say, first and assertively, that I don't need my strings to be pulled when I'm being threatened on the streets. As to the quotes by the foreign press, love, you know and I know that foreign press can say anything they want- doesn't mean that's what's actually happening on the ground. For me, I operate on principle and integrity and character. Nothing else disturbs me more than when misinformation is passed on to an entire society without first getting it at the source. In the end, London isn't driving this case- it's the people at the University of The West Indies; it's me."
And Orozco says he's gotten a number of threats - this one from an armed policeman.
Caleb Orozco
"He said, 'you da Belizean?' [Are you Belizean?] I said, 'yes.' He said, 'you da fagit?' [are you a faggot] I said, 'yes.' He said, 'fagit, noh bring dat fagit ting ya' [faggot, don't bring that faggot thing here]. And then he moved on."
But today there was none of that, even an ordained pastor who is visiting the country lent her voice to the cause in songful prayer:
Mary Martin - United Church of Christ
[singing] "From whence does my help come? From God who made heaven and earth"
And while that was a singular appearance, UNIBAM is hardly trying to hide behind the veil of Christianity:
Jules Vasquez
"Are you afraid of any eternal damnation- type event? Many feel that you are eternally damned."
Caleb Orozco
"Well, my friends at the Catholic Church need to check their billion dollar budget; my good friends at the Anglican Church need to check their overdraft, and my good friends at the Evangelical Association need to check their pastors. I'm not worrying about the eternal damnation; my concern is simply to ensure that social justice prevails- not for a select few, but for everybody, and in this case I'm just the face to an issue."
The wrist bands are available directly from Caleb Orozco. You can facebook him if you want one of the wrist bands...


Jan 27, 2012

UNIBAM launches “We are one” wristband campaign

United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) came to prominence in mid 2011 when, under the leadership of Caleb Orosco, it launched a constitutional challenge against the Government of Belize. Through its challenge, UNIBAM is asking the Supreme Court to declare section fifty-three of the Criminal Code to be unconstitutional since it criminalizes same-sex relationships. While that matter will be taken up before the courts in the weeks to come, UNIBAM has embarked on an awareness campaign to promote its call for equal rights. The organization plans to do so through the widespread distribution of a wristband with a very distinct message. This morning at the Radisson, before a host of partner NGOs, UNIBAM launched its new media crusade in an effort to garner much needed support. It’s a single public service announcement that they believe will change the hearts and minds of the Belizean public. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was there when the wristbands were being distributed.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
“We are one in dignity and rights” is a universal mantra that signifies equality among men and women regardless of gender, creed, and sexual orientation.  That’s the profound message that wearing this multicolored wristband is intended to send to the Belizean public.  The group behind this initiative, the United Belize Advocacy Movement which supports the cause of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, has quickly become arguably the most controversial organization to champion social change within an otherwise homophobic society.  Leading the charge is UNIBAM’s president Caleb Orosco.

Caleb Orosco, President, UNIBAM
“The context of the campaign, “We are one in dignity and rights,” is related to our need to address some of the vile and flammatory language that has been used in the media for the past year and a half. It is to remind people that as individual human beings, individual dignity and rights do not change. We may disagree with many, many things, but we all have the same expectations about the treatment of dignity and rights. That is the context of the campaign itself.”
To accompany the wristbands a short public service announcement is scheduled to air in the local media across the country.
The drive aims to raise awareness of the plight of the LGBT kinship in light of upcoming litigation to repeal section fifty-three of the Criminal Code which outlaws carnal intercourse against the order of nature.  Representing UNIBAM at the Supreme Court is Senior Counsel Lisa Shoman.

Lisa Shoman, Attorney, UNIBAM
“It’s not just to launch a unified front; it is to say to Belizeans that this is about human rights and human dignity. It is not about whether you are gay, it’s not about whether you bi, it’s not whether you are transgendered; it is whether you are a Belizean person and you deserve to enjoy the fundamental rights and freedoms which are guaranteed in the constitution; that’s what really the constitutional challenge is about. It is challenging the criminal code stating that the criminal code violates the rights of Belizeans when it comes to the freedom of expression, the freedom of association, their inalienable rights and other fundamental rights and freedoms such as the right to privacy and lack of discrimination.”
UNIBAM, Orosco says, has come a long way since the organization was formed.   Recent news articles on the constitutional challenge, according to Orosco, has garnered attention thereby creating newfound support for the cause.
Caleb Orosco
“When we first started, there was no structure of support. Our group, Belize constitutional challenge. It is a close group because it’s not; there is no interest for us to have individuals there who are not of liked minds about the issue. More importantly our friends in the Caribbean for example are watching the case closely and the friends I am talking about are other LGBT activists who are looking not only at the process but the lessons learnt and the challenges in order to decide how they will approach their filing. We know for example that Jamaica did a similar filing of their case at the Inter-American Human Rights Court and so between February second and the eight, I’ll be at the regional meeting looking at not only at the documentation of this case, but the history and the cultural context of homophobia as it exist in the entire region.”
For Shoman the matter has forced her to change her position from an abstract approach initially to one where she is now standing up for basic human rights.
Lisa Shoman
“I think when I started out on this case; I had a very academic approach. I was dealing with it as a lawyer; as a solicitor and the more I became involved, the more I saw that this is fundamental to me as a human and a Belizean—not because I’m straight, not because I chose to love and be married to a man as a woman. That doesn’t really make as much difference to me but that as a Belizean, I uphold the right of all Belizeans to have their human rights respected. And so I have moved from being a solicitor really to being an advocate on the issue.”
Wristbands are being distributed through UNIBAM by contacting Caleb Orosco. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.
The case will be argued on either side by a distinguished team of both local and international attorneys, including Rodwell Williams, Eamon Courtenay, Michel Chebat, Jackie Marshalleck and Chris Coye on behalf of the Council of Churches and Lord Peter Goldsmith, Lisa Shoman and Godfrey Smith on behalf of UNIBAM.

Coverage: LOVEFM Radio


January 27, 2012

The theme “We Are One” sounds almost like a September celebrations one, but this is the theme of the United Belize Advocacy Movement, UNIBAM, which this morning launched its campaign in its bid to defend the rights of same sex unions. The organization came out with support from key groups, including the National AIDS, Commission, one member of the US clergy among others. Chairperson of the National AIDS Commission, Kathy Esquivel was present at the launch and lends her support to the campaign.

Kathy Esquivel – Chairperson, National AIDS Commission
“I’m here as a human being in solidarity to say that every individual has inalienable human rights and I want to make sure that I have my voice heard. I am also chair of the National AIDS Commission and in that respect we recognize that one of the important things we have to do in order to make sure that everybody has access to education, prevention, care and treatment is to make sure everybody is treated with dignity and respect.”

Esquivel says it all boils down to people’s rights.

Kathy Esquivel – Chairperson, National AIDS Commission
“Everybody has a right to their own moral and religious viewpoint and they should try to live their own lives according to that but we do not have a right to tell other people how to live their lives so if you believe that it is a sin then you should not do it. If we took that then adultery is a sin and fornication, even thinking about fornication is a sin so if you believe that’s wrong then don’t do it, that’s fine but you don’t have a right to push that on other people.”

Meanwhile one of the group’s lawyers, Lisa Shoman, says people need to understand that everyone has rights that must be respected.

Lisa Shoman – Attorney
“What UNIBAM and Caleb Orosco are claiming for is that their rights under the Constitution will be upheld and that Section three of fifty three of the Criminal Code will be held to be in violation of that because it prescribes a penalty for an offence which is against human rights and fundamental rights and freedoms most notably the right to privacy, also the right against discrimination. Also the preamble to the Constitution says we are all endowed with inalienable rights by our Creator meaning that those rights cannot be taken away and in this case we believe that the right to sexual orientation and the expression of that orientation is a fundamental human right. And this is not just a matter of people in Belize believing this, this is a universal human right, it has been declared so.”

Reverend Mary Martin is the head of the Catch the Vision Ministry in the US. She responds to our question of dealing with the topic of same sex unions among the clergy.

Rev. Mary Martin – Catch the Vision Ministry
“I remember being taught that being a certain race was wrong. I remember Scripture being used and still by the Christian Identity Movement that subjugates people of color. I remember when it was illegal in the US for races to intermarry, the issue was very close. I see religious indoctrination that sometimes has us as insiders or outsiders when the truth is we are all one. There are seven passages in Scripture used to denigrate members of the GLBT community. Some use those without taking into consideration the context. A long time ago it was once believed, and Genesis One supports that, the world was flat and those who believed otherwise were even put to death by their Church. Education happened, we’ve progressed and we realize that those people weren’t wrong, it was just age appropriate thinking.

Marion Ali - Reporter
But people will base their argument on the whole biblical portion that refers back to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Rev. Mary Martin – Catch the Vision Ministry
“There are discrepancies, there are arguments, there are issues that need to be discussed in ways that are rational without emotion and I think we could even in that Scripture about Sodom and Gomorrah talk about what that meant and how does it apply today and what was the context. I think open and honest dialogue is what is needed.” 

Coverage: LOVEFM TV

UNIBAM launches dignity & rights campaign

The Constitutional Challenge to section fifty three of the criminal code will inch towards a hearing in the Supreme Court on Monday, when a preliminary hearing will be held.  The United Belize Advocacy Movement and Caleb Orosco took the Attorney General to court alleging that section fifty three of the Criminal Code violates his human rights. Today UNIBAM formally launched another initiative. And Love TV’s Marion Ali and cameraman Myles Gillett had front row seat at the Radisson Hotel.

Coverage: PLUSTV

January 27th, 2012

UNIBAM launches LBGT rights campaign in Belize
UNIBAM launches LBGT rights campaign in Belize
Date: Fri 27, Jan 2012 |
UNIBAM and its supporters have launched a public campaign to promote the homosexual agenda in Belize in line with its lawsuit against the Government and people of Belize. “We are one" is the organizations campaign slogan. The campaign comes under the banner of “human rights” as UNIBAM prepares to legally challenge the constitutionality of section 53 of the criminal code. Although there has been no documented case where practising homosexuals have been legally tried for consensual same sex relations, the term “unnatural act” in that section has been claimed by homosexuals as referring to their lifestyle practise. Today’s campaign launch was aimed at uniting supporters of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community and their supporters were in attendance at today’s launch. UNIBAM’s major supporters are foreign entities but in Belize, key persons assisting UNIBAM in promoting the homosexual agenda are Kathy Esquivel, Chair of the National Aids Commission, Imani Fairweather Morrison of Oak Foundation, Attorneys Lisa Shoman and Antonette Moore along with other members of UNIBAM’s board.

Lisa Shoman, Attorney at LawI started out as a solicitor, but since then I have taken on a more active role as advocate. I will continue to give this cause my personal support and I will continue to be refortified by the good works of local councils who are assisting in the endeavor and also several regional attorneys who are helping with the project. Most notably off course, is the UROC group out of the UWI, who are concerned with the preservation of human rights in the Caribbean.
Antonette Moore, Attorney at LawAs men and women of conscience, we reject discrimination in general and in particular, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Where there is tension, between cultural attitudes and universal human rights – rights must carry the day. Together we seek the repeal of laws that criminalize homosexuality and that permits discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation and gender identity and that encourages violence, those are the words of the UN Secretary General.
At today’s launch, wristbands were distributed which read, “we are one in dignity and rights”. Caleb Orozco spoke about UNIBAM’s logo.

Caleb Orozco, UNIBAMOur logo for this campaign will be the ‘No Hate’ design that you see here and there is a Facebook page that you go on and you simply ‘like it’ to show that you support us. We encourage everyone to like the page – everyone who is in solidarity with and supports the idea that we are one in dignity and rights. We have been doing planning with our Caribbean friends for the last five years in terms of our priorities in the region and in terms of what activists need in the region, so UNIBAM in itself is not the only vacuum in this advocacy.
UNIBAM’s campaign strategy has not just started today, however. According to Orozco, they have been doing a lot of ground work over the past five years and use social media such as facebook as a powerful strategic tool.

Caleb Orozco
There are two groups ‘Belizeans for the Constitutional Challenge’ which is a closed group and ‘Se la vee’ which has given us space to advance our message. In fact, since the debate began, the entire case has generated over twenty-five hundred comments with our people chatting with our opponents from the religious side about their positions on sexual orientation and gender identity and on their position in regards to rights and so on. The Facebook of social networking is a key strategy in getting our message out and thus far we have operated with the intent of delivering a message that we are united. So that doesn’t change in regards to our modus operandi in getting our message out. However, more precisely, it is me getting support from a thousand plus Belizeans from Facebook and this starts with one of our supporters right there, Emani Fairweather, who has provided very good advice in terms of raising awareness on our issue. This is driven by Belizeans and not by anyone else.
And while Unibam’s court case goes for preliminary hearing on Monday January 30th, the argument UNIBAM presents is that it boils down to an issue of human rights and not morality. When asked by one journalist if he has any concerns over the churches’ opposition to the changing of the law, Orozco had this to say.

Caleb Orozco
My good friends at the Catholic Church need to check their billion dollar budget. My good friends from the Anglicans church need to check their over draft and my good friends at the Evangelical association need to check their pastors. I’m not worried about the eternal damnation; my concern is simply to ensure that social justice prevails, not for a slight few, but for everyone in this case. I am just the face of an issue.
UNIBAM says it has 500 wristbands which will be distributed to supporters of their cause.

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