Sunday, December 30, 2012

Gay Rights And Great Leaders

 Posted: 30th December, 2012

Gay Rights And Great Leaders

Published: 
Sunday, December 30, 2012

Great leaders are the ones who do historic things. Free slaves, end wars, empower the disenfranchised, put men on the moon...The Prime Minister’s apparent promise to produce a “policy (that) will forge the way forward for T&T as (her) government seeks to put an end to all discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation” can be Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s historic move to catapult her into the realm of great leaders in history.

 Why? Because even though we decided to become independent of our former colonial power, we retain the worst of its legacies: its archaic, discriminatory laws, which even it has long changed. Because even though we’ve done away with the Privy Council as our ultimate arbiter of justice, we’ve retained a strange pride in these laws that patently victimise some of our citizens.

Because despite rare statements by regional leaders of openness to rectifying the scar of legal discrimination against gay citizens, no action has been taken. Because the international reputation of the islands has remained, and justifiably so, as a hotbed for victimisation of and violence against gay citizens born of a culture and legal system that tacitly and explicitly condone such action against gay citizens for the only reason that they are gay.

 This can be Persad-Bissessar’s historic act to catapult her failing reputation into a legacy of epic proportions, something by which she will be remembered and revered for centuries to come. Because, face it, T&T is sorely lacking in great leaders.

 Pave roads or change history
Think of our last four Prime Ministers. One faded into infamy, one was forced to grant amnesty to a “terrorist,” one lost an election and with it his dignity, and one went to jail. Did any of them curb rising crime, stop the drug trade, truly protect children, give us worldclass healthcare, take us to developed-nation status, or put a stop to gutter politics or tribal politics?

 They built roads, paved roads, gave us unnecessary public holidays, and distributed Christmas hampers to the poor. Equal civic rights to gay citizens were not important to them because they did not seem important to anyone. That’s the thing about human rights.

 People are often satisfied with their ways of life simply because it is all they’ve ever known. But looking in from the outside, from the future or from a different perspective, it can be seen people may lack many inalienable human rights. Women can’t drive, the differently abled are denied jobs, children aren’t schooled, child labour still exists, rape camps still exist, albinos are murdered for their “good luck” properties…

 While social change takes time, legislative change ought not to take longer. Yet, a draft national gender policy has been floating around for more than a decade. The People’s Partnership was elected in no small part on the presumption of progressive ideals on social and civic policy.

 There was the belief among some voters the Government would not “imitate foreign countries” but in its own right correct the laws that do not serve the people and enact new ones that better protect us. Instead, newspapers are conducting polls on whether protester Dr Wayne Kublalsingh should be arrested on another archaic law, one that criminalises suicide attempts.

 The Prime Minister, as a lawyer, leader and woman, can take the lead in ensuring our laws match up not merely to the times but to the fundamentals of human dignity. Decriminalising homosexuality, ensuring equitable rights to all and protecting citizens with the law is not a matter of opinion or religion but of something far more inherent.

 Brimstone and other BS
Public discussion on the topic will no doubt bring heated debate. No doubt the main naysayers are the ones who will take out full-page ads using the money of their congregations. Yet one would ask all parties come to the table with facts. If decriminalising homosexuality will bring fire and brimstone, let’s see an example of when this has happened (from real life, not from a parable).
 
If changing our immigration law such that people like Elton John are not categorised among prostitutes and imbeciles would make T&T one big orgy, show us how. If protecting the rights of gay citizens through equal opportunity laws would somehow spark economic ruin, then show us the proof.

 With a little education on the topic all citizens and their respective leaders will see being gay is not a choice and being gay never hurt anyone else. The fact is these laws would really affect only the citizens they protect. The fact is some people are born with tight curls or of Indian origin or female or gay.

 No one should be discriminated against by the protective services or employers or the State for any of the things they cannot change. This simple thing can be the Prime Minister and her Government’s most significant act, one on which history will shine. Let everyone really “find an equal place” in our rainbow country. Maybe this can redeem Persad- Bissessar and make her one of our “great leaders.”

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJnaUpns4Tk

Saturday, December 29, 2012

To not be safe in ones Bed



 Posted December 29th, 2012 

We don't often profile crime and justice issues that impact the L.G.B.T community in Belize and the impact of random crime. Samuel Sho is an example of how crime can affect an individual while sleeping. Samuel, an openly gay man living between San Ignacio and Punta Gorda experienced the ultimate violation when he lost a finger, was chopped in the face, wrist and skull. His Father Jose Sho lost his life in the home invasion incident, but the psychological scars remains. I found out about his story while attending the funeral of Rene Vera at the scared heart church. I was horrified at see the many scars on this young man. Amazingly, I found out later that he was roomate with Rene Vera, but was in Punta Gorda visiting is mom when he learnt of Rene Vera death. The idea of a repeat truama so close to home could sent a person to spin emotionally out of control. All i could remember of him as I was on the bus returning to Belize City are these scars that he must live with for the rest of his life. 

 
 






As a matter of course, The United Belize Advocacy movement is concern about the 300 plus murders that have taken place since 2010 as well as random crimes like these experience in the home. It is clear that the right to movement comes with inherent dangers of being murdered or injured. As a country, it is clear we have a weak justice system that supports investigative and psychological needs of victims of crime.

Samuel sho story of his family being injured is told below in a channel 5 news television story below.

PG Sho Family members still in hospital after murder and chopping


In other news from the south, a home invasion on the outskirts of Punta Gorda town has left one man dead and two others hospitalized. Care-takers of Tropic Inn, the Sho family, was asleep when around four on Sunday morning a man entered the building and inflicted numerous chop wounds to three members of the family. Pablo Sho was chopped to the head and both hands which caused him to succumb to his injuries at the K.H.M.H. on Monday morning.  Forty-nine year old Patricia Sho, who was chopped to the head, is in a stable condition and underwent surgery today.  Twenty-four year old Samuel Sho whose left wrist was amputated during the attack, also suffered chop wounds to the face, forehead, and mouth; He remains hospitalized in a stable condition.  The Sho family declined comments to the media.

Source: http://edition.channel5belize.com/archives/71282

Dignity and Death in the Cayo Community

Posted December 29th, 2012

When we received word that Rene Vera, 36 was killed in his house and was found him around 3 o'clock the following day, I was stunned. Rene was funeral services was held at the Sacred Heart Church at 10:00am. To my surprise the church was almost filled, but more important, San Ignacio citizen's did not judge his death, but proceeded to mourn his passing as a human being. The fact that people came out is an acknowledgement that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights, and as such not state can remove that acknowledgement in death.


At the funeral, relatives  mourned his  his death, friends were emotional as prayers were said, songs sung and as he was being placed in his final resting place. He may have been stabbed 9 times, his partner may have been held as a person of interest for 14 hours, an experience that adds insult to trauma, but what remains in this community is that one of their own died and that he deserved respect in death as in life. 


What we know of his death is that he was seen in Sunset and left with one person. He was seen at the Princess Casino where he left with two persons, at the Credit Union where there was a 3rd person in the car. Video from the Credit Union captured his presence withdrawing funds the night around 2:30 before he was found dead the Saturday. Rene became a statistic of the 300 plus murder that has been committed from 2010 to 2012. His lost is became part of a larger issue of the need to strengthen our investigative and justice system mechanisms. The question all Belizeans must ask is how many must die before we improve justice in the country.




Kamla praised for moves to remove laws against gays

December 29th, 2012
 
 Kamla praised for moves to remove laws against gays
 
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been congratulated by regional and international organisations on her commitment to end discrimination against gay people in T&T. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an organ of the Organisation of American States (OAS), issued a statement on December 20 welcoming Persad-Bissessar’s comments in a letter to Lance Price of the UK-based Kaleidoscope Trust. 
 
Price had written to the PM complaining about T&T’s immigration law and the Sexual Offences Act, which he said discriminated against homosexuals. Section 8 of the Immigration Act bars entry to homosexuals, describing them as a “prohibited class.” In her response, dated August 14, Persad-Bissessar said her Government was giving due consideration to the issues raised by Price.
 
IACHR noted the PM’s position was consistent with “the commitment made by OAS member states on June 4, 2012 to ‘consider, within the parameters of the legal institutions of their domestic systems, adopting public policies against discrimination by reason of sexual orientation and gender identity.’” 
 
The organisation said it had received “ample information” on the extreme violence and discrimination faced by lesbians, gays and trans- bisexual and intersex people throughout the Americas, including the English-speaking Caribbean, and “is acutely aware that several countries of that region, including T&T, still have laws criminalising same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults and other laws used to penalise individuals because of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
 
Amnesty International, also on December 20, noted the PM and her Cabinet “have now an historic opportunity to ensure that the Prime Minister’s words become a reality.” Amnesty pointed out that T&T’s Sexual Offences Act criminalises consenting same-sex relationships, making them punishable with up to 25 years’ imprisonment, depending on the age of those found guilty, and that the Equal Opportunities Act 2000 (EOA) explicitly excludes discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. 
 
Also referencing to Section 8 of the Immigration Act, Amnesty acknowledged that those provisions were not enforced but they contributed to creating a discriminatory environment. Meanwhile, the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) applauded the PM, saying it stood in solidarity with its Caricom sister.
 
“Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, who continues to display firm political judgment, will definitely set a legacy by recognising the rights and humanity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens in the twin-­island republic,” said GEF representative Alistair Sonaram. “Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar should to be seen by the rest of the region as a bold female politician who took a firm step towards human rights and equality and we hope her bold leadership inspires other Caricom heads of state,” he added.
 
The Rev Dr Sid Mohn, president of the Chicago-based NGO Heartland Alliance, said the PM’s comments demonstrated an awareness of and respect for human rights.
 
Source: http://guardian.co.tt/news/2012-12-29/kamla-praised-moves-remove-laws-against-gays

C-FAM 2010 Five Best Moments

Posted: December 29th, 2012
 
Dec 27, 2012
 
C-FAM’s 2012 Five Best Moments For Life and Family at the United Nations
NEW YORK, December 27 (C-FAM) The United Nations is not a place where you expect human life and dignity, or the natural family to be valued. But on rare occasions life and family are defended at the United Nations. Below are five such instances from the past year.
Touted as the most important UN conference ever by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the long awaited UN Conference on Sustainable Development proved a bitter disappointment for environmentalists who were far from reassured that the world’s continuing dependence on fossil fuels is stronger than the green agenda. Environmentalists were not the only ones disappointed. Abortion advocates and population control groups were left fuming after UN member states rejected language linking sexual and reproductive health to population control, and the controversial term “reproductive rights” because of its close association with abortion on-demand, from the final outcome document of the conference. C-FAM lobbied UN delegations throughout the year and was in Brazil during the conference exposing the lies of the population control movement.
Despite continued resistance from European nations and the United States, as well as insistent protests from homosexual rights groups, the Russians led a broad coalition of UN member states in passing a Human Rights Council resolution that affirms the positive links between traditional moral values and human rights. The resolution, echoes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in recognizing the “inherent dignity and worth” of all human beings. The third of its kind since 2009, the resolution is well on its way to becoming a permanent feature of human rights dialogue at the United Nations. Life and family advocates hope it will be a vehicle for nations to affirm the positive role of the family in society, as well as to recognize the right to life of children in the womb.
In December, the US Senate refused to ratify a controversial UN treaty that fails to provide adequate assurances for US sovereignty, parental rights, as well as the right to life of the unborn. The senate rejected the treaty even though its proponents, among whom were several disability groups, had been mislead into believing that while the treaty would be binding on other nations it would not straightjacket US citizens and their legislators. Following requests for information on the disabilities treaty, C-FAM advised senators that the more prudent course of action would be to hold out on ratifying the treaty.
For the last twenty years UN treaty bodies have conducted their business of reviewing compliance with UN human rights treaties without oversight. This independence has been used as a license to promote controversial social agendas that include abortion and homosexual rights, leading to fears that the treaty bodies have been captured by special interest groups and are no longer independent. UN member states have decided enough is enough and have launched a reform process through the UN General Assembly. C-FAM welcomed this new initiative and is supporting the inter-governmental process, calling the attention of UN member states to the limited mandate of treaty bodies.
5. UN General Assembly Rejects Attempt to Redefine Family by European Nations
UN Resolutions rarely mention the family, even though the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights recognizes the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society. This is because European nations and the United States fear that recognizing the importance of the natural family undermines the clamoring for same sex unions and same sex marriage by homosexual groups. During the 67th plenary session of the General Assembly which just concluded the European union attempted insert a mention that “various forms of the family exist” in a resolution about preparations for the 2014 anniversary of the UN Year of the Family. The G77, the largest voting bloc at the United Nations, shot the proposal down despite repeated protests from the European Union.

Source: https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=2466730759387026669#editor/target=post;postID=8900136791892064203

C-FAM at the UN

Posted December 29th, 2012
Jan 12, 2012
Russia and Other States Move to Reform Broken Treaty System
 
NEW YORK, January 13 (C-FAM) Wresting many delegations from their vacation slumber, Russia held an informal meeting early this week to propose a resolution calling for states to take a central role in the restructuring and reform of treaty monitoring and compliance. Until now, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, a bureaucratic office located in Geneva, has dominated the reform process and limited the role of member states to the submission of formal statements. Russia has intervened and demanded that more power in the reform process be placed in the hands of governments. Russia wants to “conduct open, transparent, and inclusive negotiations on the issue of the reform of the human rights treaty body system” giving them a leading role in the reform process.
Intertwined with reform process, there are two underlying issues. First, treaty monitoring bodies are years behind in their work. The reason for this is that they are notoriously short staffed and inefficient. Moreover, the reporting requirements are onerous and voluminous. Small states in particular find it very difficult to keep up with the requests of the treaty monitoring bodies.
As important as the work load and the inefficiency of the process, there is also the problem of the treaty monitoring bodies overstepping their mandate and giving governments directives that have nothing to do with the treaties themselves. Additionally, states are critical of treaty monitoring bodies that rewrite these hard law treaties and then try to hold states accountable to the revisions. But this week, it was a fight over the reform process itself. In fact, the meeting was held outside of the formal reform process and pitted the EU, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland and Norway against Russia, Benin, Pakistan and the Caribbean nations.
Smaller countries, like those in the Caribbean, complain that they do not have a real voice in the reform process and that their concerns will therefore not be met. They were quick to point out that the Russian resolution would allow countries that can’t afford offices in Geneva to be more directly involved in the process of reform. Benin echoed these sentiments and made it clear that with most of the reform process being conducted from Geneva under the auspices of OHCHR and the Human Rights Council (HRC), many countries felt their presence marginalized.
Benin and Pakistan went on to emphasize that treaty bodies were created by states, and that states have a vested interest in remaining their beneficiaries. If the reform process were to remain solely in the hands of a UN agency like the OHCHR, the voice of states runs the risks of being overshadowed by advocacy groups like the Center for Reproductive Rights, which do have the money to attend proceedings at the HRC, and who have used their presence to influence the debate on issues like abortion in the past.

Source:http://www.c-fam.org/fridayfax/volume-14/russia-and-other-states-move-to-reform-broken-treaty-system.html

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Rene Vera 140th murder in 2012

 36 year old Rene Vera is stabbed to death
Date: Mon 24, Dec 2012 
 
Christmas Day is tomorrow but there are some Belizean families who are mourning instead of celebrating. That's because there was a murder in Santa Elena and another one in Dangriga over the weekend, both caused by stabbings. We'll begin this evening  with the Santa Elena murder. 36 year old Rene Vera is the victim who was stabbed to death in his home and it appears to be a crime of passion. Vera's body was found inside his home on Bishop Martin Street in Santa Elena town where three males reside.  When Rene's partner  arrived home on Saturday afternoon after a month of being away at work in Pine Ridge, the sight that greeted him  was gruesome; a ransacked house with blood everywhere and Vera's lifeless body with multiple stab wounds. Vera was found in his bedroom with nine stab wounds to his heart, neck and lungs.

POLICE OFFICER:

Inside one of the bedrooms, Police saw the lifeless body of Mr Vera lying on the left side of his body, in a pool of blood, with multiple stab wounds on his chest area and his neck. Also seen was blood all around the house, in the living room, and in the other bedroom also.   The Christmas tree that the gentleman has was somewhat leaning against the wall.  The dining table was moved from its original position, which indicated  that apparently there was a struggle inside the house.

Reports are that Vera was last seen alive  singing at Sun Set Bar and was seen leaving the bar with another man.  By 3 o'clock the following afternoon, Vera was dead. A neighbour reported that he passed the house at about one o'clock Saturday morning and saw the house door open and lights  on but didn't go to check if something was wrong.  Police have since detained a person of interest who claims to be Rene's cousin but police say he is being highly uncooperative.

POLICE OFFICER:  
As a result of interviews conducted, we have a person in custody.  This person has been questioned.  So far we're reluctant.  He does not want to cooperate with the Police.  Apparently, he was the last person seen with Me Vera, but not in the residence of Me Vera, just in the vacinity, about two blocks from his house. We no see no sign of breakage, which indicates that it appears that the person was somehow invited by Mr Vera into his residence.  We believing that they were socializing, because we see a container where they had ice placed in it, three or four Coke bottles, and a broked Caribbean Gold bottle on the floor of the house.

According to those we spoke with, Vera's lifestyle choices may have placed him in dangerous and vulnerable situations. One family member we spoke with told us that the Rene they know was a fun loving guy.

VICTIM'S NIECE: 
My uncle, he was a friendly person.  We would say he was a people person.  He grew with everybody.  Yes, he has problems, but he would still get along with them afterwards. He doesn't hold anything against anybody.  His family comes first.  That was the main thing to him.  When I just found out, I screem, I cried for a little while, and I see my cousins crying.  I have to be strong,  He's gone.  We won,t see him, talk to him, but he's always in our heart, and I will never forget him.  They founf the person.  He's related to  us.  He's our cousin. And to make it worse, because that's a surprise that our own family gonna do this.

Police have not made any arrests as yet but say they are preparing papers to submit to the DPP's office to see if they will proceed with any charges.
Source:  http://www.plustvbelize.com/Featured/NewsDetails/tabid/63/ArticleId/4838/-36-year-old-Rene-Vera-is-stabbed-to-death.aspx

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Debate on Love FM with Christain Right Opponent

  Posted 22nd December, 2012


While the debate happened June 28th, 2012 on loveFM around our L.G.B.T Human Rights work, its historical relevance becomes important as we move into the 2013 and the full hearings on 7th to 10th May, 2013. The work of public education is never done as it is a long-term investment in changing hearts and minds. I didnt think that it was important to win the argument, but to hold ground firmly that the Christian rights wing extremist thinking should not go unchallenged in the media. I was extremely happy with my performance as every answer was engaged properly, except when wade referenced the Legal Judgement of April where justice Arana stuck out UniBAM as claimant in the case. This debate follows, efforts to educate the students at Galen University about section 53 and a debate for a student divergent forum done on the Belmopan campus at the University of Belize and on January 16th, 2012 that was aired on channel 5 called the Dickie Bradley Show where Wade and I debated on the issues.

 

An interview was done along with a promo of the big night which went over by 30 minutes, the moderators shared that it was better than the mayoral debates that they previously organized and hoped that a follow-up debate could be organized. I left feeling like I had redeemed myself from the student divergent forum in Belmopan where it was a mockery, miscommunication and deliberate set up as Wade PlusTV was allowed to document the entire debate without my consent. But like life experiences one learns to improve on the next efforts. I remain grateful that Wade accepted the invitation and that LoveFM supported the process. Their promo can be seen below for the event.

 

Love FM and Love TV Host Debate on Homosexuality Jun 28, 2012

The topic is here, there, everywhere.  Do gay people have rights and if so what are those rights limited to?  Or do they have no rights at all?  Are they just partaking in something lewd against humanity?  All of these questions and more will be discussed tonight in a one of a kind debate taking place on Love FM and Love Television.  Organizer Julia Carrillo explains:

Julia Carrillo, Love FM’s Manager
“This debate is on the topic of homosexuality.  As you will recall, Love FM and Love Television had engaged in a series of debates leading up to the elections and it is something, that when we started up the debates, we said it was something we would want to continue.  At least once every so often we’ll organize a debate and so the opportunity came up for us to talk about the homosexuality issue.  It is an issue that is out there, it is a topic that is being debated everywhere, in the home, to any restaurant you go, in the work…so we thought, let’s bring the two most, the two people who are most advocate about their side of the debate and we agreed we got Caleb Orosco and Louis Wade Jr. who will come tonight to Love FM and Love Television and they will each present their point of view on the side that they have on the topic of homosexuality.  We also want to make sure it is a fair debate so we decided to get two persons who are well known, Francis Gegg and Nuri Muhammed, each having their own view on that same topic and so we figured putting the two of them together would make it a balanced debate.  So the topic, it’s a wide topic and there are different areas of the debate.  I don’t want to give out much information rather I’d like to invite you to tune in tonight at seven o’clock on Love FM and Love Television.  It’s the first of its kind debate on the topic of homosexuality and depending on the outcome of it; hopefully we’ll be able to have more on this topic and other topics.  It’s a part of our agenda to educate, entertain and inform.”
Natalie Novelo, Reporter
“Would you say that a debate is modeled to change people’s way of thinking?”
Julia Carrillo, Love FM’s Manager
“Well, I don’t know if it would change anyone’s way of thinking but the idea is to get the information out there and then you decide which side you want to take on this issue.   It’s not geared to change your way of thinking but rather to put the information out there and then you decide.”
Once again the time for the debate is from seven to eight thirty pm on Love Fm and Love Television and you can also catch the live streaming at lovetv.com.bz.

Source: http://www.lovefm.com/local_news.php?item=447

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Belize Immigration Law Challenge

AIDS-Free World adds offensive Belize Immigration Law to the chopping block

December 19, 2012: Only two countries in the Western Hemisphere, Belize and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, arbitrarily ban the entry of homosexuals as a “prohibited class”. AIDS-Free World is working to bring that to an end.
As Legal Advisor for Marginalized Groups at AIDS-Free World, Maurice Tomlinson, a Jamaican LGBT and HIV activist, travels to all parts of the Caribbean. He has made presentations about the devastating impact of homophobia on the HIV response before UN conferences, government ministers, senior judicial officers, and national AIDS councils across the region. He has also conducted human rights documentation and advocacy training with groups engaged in the Caribbean HIV and AIDS response. Mr. Tomlinson is gay, and as such he is legally barred from entering Belize and Trinidad.
The United Belize Advocacy Movement, Belize’s only civil society group working exclusively to promote the health and human rights of LGBT/MSM citizens, has invited Mr. Tomlinson to conduct training and sensitization sessions in Belize City on 14th-16th January 2013. The aim of the sessions is to ensure greater protection for the rights of individuals infected and affected by HIV and AIDS, which is in line with the human rights approach to combatting HIV promoted by UNAIDS. Despite the invaluable contribution he can make to Belize’s HIV response, as an attorney-at-law, Mr. Tomlinson is unwilling to break the law to conduct these sessions. He also considers the ban on his entry into Belize to be a violation of his right to freedom of movement within the Caribbean Community. He has therefore been obliged to refuse the invitation and with the support of AIDS-Free World, he has initiated a challenge to Belize’s Immigration Act before the highest court in the region, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Earlier this month, Mr. Tomlinson was invited to present at a UN meeting in Trinidad and had to turn that invitation down as well. He subsequently initiated a challenge to the Trinidadian immigration law before the CCJ.
Repealing that law, and section 5 of the Belize Immigration Act, will also liberate other marginalized
groups. Among the other classes of persons prohibited from entering Belize are the mentally challenged (described as “any idiot or any person who is insane or mentally deficient…”) and the physically disabled (described as “deaf and dumb or deaf and blind, or dumb and blind,…”). It is noteworthy that in 2011, Belize signed and quickly ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In accordance with the rules of the CCJ, Mr. Tomlinson has written to his government, Jamaica, asking that it insist that the government of Belize remove this unreasonable travel restriction. Alternatively, Mr. Tomlinson wants the Jamaican government to bring the matter before the CCJ on the grounds that Belize’s immigration act breaches the provisions for free movement of persons under the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. If the government of Jamaica fails or refuses to bring the matter before the CCJ, Mr. Tomlinson intends to try and do so himself.
The offensive and overbroad prohibitions in section 5 of the Belize Immigration Act must be repealed in order to combat the crushing stigma and discrimination against vulnerable populations that still pervades most of the Caribbean, restricts the fight against HIV, and contributes to the fact that the region has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world after sub-Saharan Africa.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Protection Order for Belizean Same Sex household

Posted December 11th, 2012

The Belizean Domestic Violence Act of 2007, it seems does cover protections orders that can be extended to same sex couple household. It has been presumed for a while that same sex couldn't get a protection order of any kind. This interpretation of the law however, is not true based on consultation ,two Family practitioners agree that under S.3(2) (b) of the Domestic Violence Act, an APPLICANT for any order under the act - including Protection, Occupation, Tenancy CAN apply in respect of ANY OTHER PERSON with whom the applicant is sharing a household residence. That would include women living with women, and men living with men in the SAME household. This is important with the recent death of Pamela Perez who was stabbed by her partner. See television coverage below. Section 3 of the Act reads...
 
3. (1) A person referred to in subsection (2) may apply to the Court for any of the Orders provided under this Acton the ground that the respondent is engaging, has engaged, or threatens to engage, in domestic violence.
(2) An application under subsection (1) may be made by
(a) the spouse of the respondent;
(b) a member of the respondent’s household residence, either on his own behalf or on behalf of any other member of the household;


Woman Killed By Lady Lover in Santa Elena?


There was a murder in Santa Elena Cayo on Saturday night - when a 34 year old woman was stabbed to death. It appears to be a crime of passion - as the person presently detained is her partner. But, the case is a little unusual, because her partner is a woman. Monica Bodden went to Cayo to find out more:.. Monica Bodden reporting
The incident happened here at Las Palomas Del Norte Bar located on Carrillo Purto Avenue in Santa Elena Town.
Around 11:45 on Saturday night Pamela Perez - who is the girlfriend of the Bar owner- was rushed to the La Loma Luz Hospital fighting for her life.
She had an apparent stab wound to the neck, bruises on both arms and a cut wound to the right arm. Perez died while undergoing treatment.
Today this silver Kia Sportage - belonging to 43 year old bar owner Rosalilia Castillo- is parked in the San Ignacio police station's compound.
It was in this vehicle that Castillo transported her dying girlfriend to the hospital - Bloodstains are still visible on the left side of the vehicles doors.
We understand that after Castillo rushed Perez to the hospital, she left and went her own way.
She was later found by police at a house on George Price Avenue - and when questioned she told police that four men entered the bar that night and assaulted Pamela - then ran off.
But police noticed scratched on Castillo and a cut wound and so she was detained along with a 19 year old man.
Raphael Martinez - Police Press Officer
"Police have since detained Castillo and 19 year old worker of Teacher's Lane in Santa Elena Town pending charges."
The floors inside the bar are stained with Perez's blood - which indicates to us that she did lose quite an amount of blood.
But what happened inside this small business establishment is still left to be determined by police. We were told by friends of the couple that the two have been living together for the past 2 years. Perez was the mother of 3 children.
Luz Perez - sister-in-law
"She was a nice person and although she was separated from my brother she still keep in contact with us. She had two kids with my brother and the kids are with my mom here in Orange Walk. To say that she is a bad person - I can't say that because she never treat us bad that's why when we heard about this we felt so bad because we didn't expect that something would happen like this to her. We just saw her on Saturday morning."
But while police are doing their investigations- friends of Rosalilia Castillo believe that if she did commit the heinous crime, it had to be out of self-defense.
Pearla Masa - Friend of Suspect
"I know Lilly and she is a good person. She used to come at my place and tell me that the lady Pamela - she says that she used to be abused by Pamela. Jealousness - I don't know. I used to see her all bruise up, her face was scratch up, her neck and so forth."
"I think it was self-defence - if she did it, but I don't know."
On Wednesday of last week - just 3 days before the incident -Masa said that Castillo visited her home and showed her bruises on her body that she claimed was put there by Perez.
Pearla Masa - Friend of Suspect
"She showed me and asks me what to do and I told her to just walk away or go somewhere else and just leave that lady because you have so much problems. She used to come at my place many times crying for advice."
Marion Ali, reporter
"What did you see on Wednesday when she came to you?"
Pearla Masa - Friend of Suspect
"I saw a lot of bruises; scratches etc., she says that the lady is abusive."
Marion Ali, reporter
"This was going on for how long?"
Pearla Masa - Friend of Suspect
"I think for about a year and a half to two years."
Monica Bodden
"I understand that you knew Lilly very well."
Pearla Masa - Friend of Suspect
"I knew her from I was 14 years old. I grew up with up like family. My mom had leaved me with her and she raises me. I stayed with her for 10-11 years and she never ever treated me bad. She is a good person, that's all I can say."
Monica Bodden
"Whatever happened at the bar early Saturday or Sunday morning you would say that it may have been self-defence?"
Pearla Masa - Friend of Suspect
"If she did it yes it was self-defence."
Up to news time - Pamela Perez's partner had not been charged.

Source:http://www.7newsbelize.com/index.php#story1

Coverage Of UniBAM equal Footing with Churches

Posted 11th December, 2012

Hearing dates set for challenge to Section 53 of the Criminal Code



CALEB OROZCO
In April of this year, the Caleb Orozco and the United Belize Advocacy Movement suffered a setback in their challenge of section fifty three of Belize’s criminal code when the judge in the case Michelle Arana struck off UNIBAM as a claimant in the case. Section fifty three makes it a criminal offence for same sex intercourse, calling it carnal intercourse against the order of nature and Orozco and UNIBAM were contending that the law contravenes their constitutional rights to human dignity and fundamental rights and freedoms. The move to have UNIBAM struck off was one of the primary applications made by the church as an interested party in the proceedings.  But UNIBAM and its president Caleb Orozco are persistent if nothing else, and so when the case came back to court today for a continuation of the preliminaries, UNIBAM scored a comeback.  According to Orozco who is the first claimant in the case, UNIBAM is now on equal standing as the churches, having been accepted as an interested party in the case.  In an interview this afternoon, Orozco told Love News that a date for the full hearing of the challenge to section fifty three of the Criminal Code has been set.



Orozco and UNIBAM are being represented in court by a team of attorneys headed by Senior Counsel Lisa Shoman, and includes Westman James, Simeon Sampson and Chris Hamel Smith.  The legal tem for the churches is headed by Senior Counsel Michel Chebat.

Source:http://www.lovetv.com.bz/2012/12/05/hearing-dates-set-for-challenge-to-section-53-of-the-criminal-code/

2nd Coverage

UNIBAM Regains Ground In Court
posted (December 5, 2012)
The last time we told you about the UNIBAM constitutional challenge, they had suffered a minor loss to the Churches and the Attorney General Ministry. The attorney for the Churches, Michel Chebat, was able to successfully argue before Justice Arana that UNIBAM be removed from the case as the second claimant for highly technical legal reasons.
It meant that the Caleb Orozco, the organization's Executive President, being the first claimant, was the only one who could continue the challenge.
Well, today, the matter went back to court, and UNIBAM's attorney, Lisa Shoman, made 2 applications before Justice Arana, the main one of which to get UNIBAM to join the case once again.
The position is that this organization represents over 100 persons who wish to remain anonymous, but believe that at section 53 of the constitution violates their rights to have sexual relations with same sex partners.
Shoman was successful on those 2 applications, and outside of court, 7News asked her and Orozco about the importance of today's outcome.
Here's what they said:
Lisa Shoman - Attorney for UNIBAM
" The previous ruling was that UNIBAM as an organization had no rights, especially no rights of privacy, no rights relating to how they conduct themselves sexually. As an organization, the organization does not actually reproduce or have sexual rights, so therefore, the organization was struck off. This application was different. It is saying that the members do have those rights and want UNIBAM to represent them. Essentially, what it has come down to is that UNIBAM has been appointed not as a representative claimant, but as an interested. It is now exactly on the same footing as the churches, no different. It will have every single right that the churches have to make arguments in this case. I am sure that everyone will have realized that the active defence in this matter are really the churches, not so much the Attorney General's Chambers. They are the ones - I think - who are more passionately interested - if that's the word - and so, UNIBAM is now back in the case on exactly the same footing as the churches."
Daniel Ortiz
"Before this case arose, no one knew of UNIBAM. What sort of status does it enjoy legally?"
Lisa Shoman
"It's a registered company, a registered association. It has a membership of over 120 persons. And in the affidavits that we put before the court, all of that was set out, including the type of advocacy work that it does, which is mainly for the MSMLGBT population in Belize."
Caleb Orozco - Executive President, UNIBAM
"Justice isn't as swift as one would think, and so, you have to have a strong stomach to deal with some of the challenges that come with bringing a case. I am able to do this because nobody will fire me. I am able to do this because - I am able to operate in an organization because I know who the landlord is. And so, I have a great deal of responsibility come down on my shoulders to represent those who could lose not only those basic rights to education and shelter, but basic rights to security, which I personally have experienced over the last few years. So, at the end of the day, what boils down to is whether or not you're stubborn enough to put up with the slow grinding process of the judicial system, or whether you'll be afraid and cover your tail."
Lisa Shoman
"Let's remind the public of one thing, it is during the course of already filing this case that Mr. Orozco was assaulted, and had teeth broken and severe bruising to his face. He was assaulted in the street by persons simply because he was identified as a member of the LGBT population in Belize. So, there are not too many people who feel secure enough, or who feel safe enough to come forward and allow themselves to be identified individually. You could ask the same of the churches. Why haven't individuals come forward and ask to be joined individually."
The substantive matter in this case will be argued to completion on May 7 to May 10 of next year.

Source:http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=24097&frmsrch=1

Coverage Three:

UNIBAM becomes an “Interested Party” in court challenge to Homosexual law
UNIBAM becomes an “Interested Party” in court challenge to Homosexual law
Date: Wed 05, Dec 2012 | Views: 82
Yesterday we told you that a preliminary hearing in Claim No. 668 of 2010 between activist Caleb Orozco and his organization UNIBAM and the Government of Belize was scheduled for this morning before Justice Michelle Arana in the Supreme Court. In April, the organization was thrown out of the case as co-claimants with Orozco as the judge ruled that they had no standing as an organization to claim protection under Section 20 of the Constitution. Today, attorney for Orozco and UNIBAM, Senior Counsel Lisa Shoman, returned to court seeking to have the organization  reinstated to the case as a “representative party” under the Supreme Court rules. Shoman sought in court to distinguish between “representative party” and “interested party”, arguing that because UNIBAM’s one hundred and twenty one members feel publicly discriminated against, they have declined to personally add themselves to the case but have asked the organization to represent their interests in court.

Senior Counsel LISA SHOMAN:
As you know the Churches' interested parties had applied to have UNIBAM struck off the case.  Today's application was about the members of UNIBAM asking the Court to allow UNIBAM to represent their interests in the case.  Clearly individual members of UNIBAM have a concern, that their constitutional rights are being violated, and today they asked the court to allow UNIBAM to represent them. It is saying essentially that the members of UNIBAM do have those rights, and do want UNIBAM to represent them. Essentially what it has come down to is that UNIBAM has been appointed, not as a representative claimant, but as an interested party.  And as an interested party, it is exactly on the same footing as the churches.  No difference.

Replying for the Church Interested Parties, Senior Counsel Michel Chebat told the court that the arguments used by Shoman were similar to those used when the organization was trying to stay in the case and pointed out that the court had already ruled on UNIBAM’s status. However, he conceded that they could be added as interested parties.With that, Justice Arana declined the application to have UNIBAM be a representative party in the case but allowed them to be interested parties. Orozco was asked to elaborate on why his fellow MSM and LGBT are unwilling to come forward and are apparently hiding behind the UNIBAM umbrella.

CALEB OROSCO:

What it boils down to is whether your stubborn enough to put up with this slow grinding process of the Judicial System, or whether you'll be afraid and cover your tail. For me, nobody can accuse me of not having a strong stomach to stand up to rallies, to stand up to the idea that my efforts are opening a gateway to demon possession.  So one has to be seen, and one has to have some level of self care, otherwise the stress comes with some medication, like sedatives, to try and not loose control.

A trial date has been set in the case. The last expert reports from both sides are due by February 18, 2013; skeleton arguments will be exchanged by April 15, and the case will go to formal trial beginning on May 7, 2013.
 
Source:
 http://www.plustvbelize.com/Featured/NewsDetails/tabid/63/ArticleId/4637/UNIBAM-applies-to-be-a-representative-party-in-court-challenge-to-Homosexual-law.aspx
 
Coverage Four:
 
 
Highlights — 07 December 2012 — by Bilal Morris
The landmark case of the government of Belize and the churches versus UNIBAM continued this week as the defense and the prosecution made new statements in court.
It is believed by some UNIBAM supporters that Justice Michelle Arana, in addressing the position of UNIBAM’s preliminary filing of the case, struck out its claim for individual rights but did recognise them as an organization that can claim human rights under the law.
UNIBAM representative, Caleb Orozco, stated that he feels positive about the December 5, 2012 court decision, and that Justice Arana’s ruling in pushing the full hearing of the case to May 7-10 of 2013 has given them time to prepare for the next stage, where they will be able to submit extensions by February 18, 2013. He reiterated that UNIBAM is relentless in its struggle for what he called, “fundamental rights and freedom.”
But critics are noting an attempt by UNIBAM to exploit the recent statement made by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that governments like Belize must do everything in their jurisdiction to modify their laws to protect people who are transgender or who are engaged in same-sex relations.
Pastor Scott Stirm, a spokesperson representing the Belizean churches, still felt that the churches have made some inroads on the case and expressed deep support of the church’s position to stand its ground.
“UNIBAM is trying to use the preamble of the constitution to push a lifestyle in Belize that is unacceptable,” he stated, “They are trying to push this issue as a human rights issue. And there is an international/global agenda that is pushing homosexuality and abortion.”
“On a moral basis we disagree with the U.S. government,” said Stirm. “UNIBAM receives support from the U.S. in the name of human rights. But we will not allow them to legalize this lifestyle so that they have free course to go into the schools and teach our kids their lifestyle.”
Amandala has not been able to get any government position on the latest court proceedings on the issue, but learned through sources that Government remains firm on its position.
The Obama administration recently sent a message this year to countries in the Caribbean and Central America stating that there would be economic repercussions for non-compliance with its policies of acceptance of homosexual and transgender lifestyles.
However, most of the targeted governments – almost all of which are developing countries — have challenged the U.S.’s position as an attempt to force them to accept policies that are not supported by their respective populations.
Orozco, for his part, has expressed his group’s intentions to take the issue to the Court of Appeal and even to the Caribbean Court of Justice if the opposition against them from Government and the religious community continues to mount. Orozco says that they will continue to organize and will start a popular education campaign on the rights of transgender and homosexual individuals across Belize.
“There is a layer of comfort from the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s support for our cause here in Belize,” stated Orozco.
According to Pastor Stirm, the Belize Human Rights Commission has shown no backbone in addressing morally degrading issues in Belize. He said that they have exploited the issue for their own interest.
“The Human Rights Commission is pushing the agenda because they are getting big funding for this,” stated Stirm. “Where was the Human Rights Commission when Jasmine Lowe was murdered?” he asked.

Source: http://amandala.com.bz/news/unibam-homosexual-rights-case-slated-7-10-2013/
 
 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

UniBAM profile of Rev Mary


Posted: December, 9th, 2012

The point of this profile to recognize valued individuals for their stance and the support they provide as an effort to address hearts and minds progress. Rev Mary Martin, in is a spiritual tiger, who can reduce the loudest persons into a mere wimper. Her contribution in social movement in the United States is an untold local story.Her contribution to our efforts in Belize has been a quiet breeze, slowly, working up a spiritual storm. Rev. Mary Martin  can be scene below from Free Spirit Worship Center in Grand Rapids (center) gathers at Calder plaza in 2009 with a group in favor of gay marriage. While is was an issue intensified by the Christian right in Belize, it gives us pause as a community to ask what do we want for social protection, is it gay marriage or is it simply family acceptance.Source:( http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2012/11/state_of_the_state_survey_majo.html)

 

The issue of family will have a resurgence, but in the mean time, Mary reminded me about the importance of the heart when deal with people. This photo taken by channel five after walking in solidarity with doctors to support their community concern against crime and violence on June 19, 2012 after Dr. Ivan Garcia was killed in his home, is a pleasant reminder. The untold story is that when the walk ended, she  offered, after I had expressed concerns, to stay with me while the crowd was around. The offer came with such sincerity and reassurance, that I was able to stay  and deal with the crowd.This was why we were talking here.



In the walk, previous to the conversation above, Her sign simply said , " ‘In my tradition thou shall not be a victim; thou shall not be a perpetrator; thou shall not be a bystander." We were the only ones, but she was there.






Mary's sincerity is shared with other UniBAM supporters at a candle light vigil for Jasmine Lowe at the Battle field park along with other supporters, Ian Anderson, his wife, Brent, Nyasha  who was there to distribute 50 plates of food to the homeless as well. Such sincerity cannot me planned or  paid for by anyone. 




For 2012, our opponents can say what they want about the Rev, they can never claim she is inconsistent, rude or unpleasant. when she was asked to contributed to our national dialogue that happened on July, 24th, 2012 she said without hesitation yes. She has also offered to do ceremonial weddings for the community as well as counseling as needed. She is truly a breathe of fresh air.





Do students have Rights in Belize.



 Posted December, 9th, 2012

The question is do schools have a right to interfere with the constitutional right of privacy for a student, regardless if there is a moral disagreement. This was at the heart of the problem when it was reported that the Pallotti High School had expelled a student in the Amandala  newspaper on 30th, January.  2009. The amandala reported the news this way:

Amandala is reliably informed that the student had already had a suspension prior to last December’s incident, when she was allegedly confronted on campus by a woman over a relationship with her husband (with whom she has 7 children). If the allegations are true, it would amount to a violation of Pallotti’s school rules, which stipulate that students are not even supposed to have boyfriends. After the incident, the student was suspended—making a second suspension. Under school rules, two suspensions equal an automatic expulsion....source(http://amandala.com.bz/news/pallotti-discipline-uproar/)
 
Television reports previous to this on 28th January of 2009 was that  a student had to get an injunction so that she could return to school. The issue as reported by channel five was the following:

a student’s family has taken the administration of the all-girls Pallotti High School to court. The matter began in December when a fourth form student was expelled from the school for breaking a rule which pertains to spiritual life. Unhappy with the administration’s decision, the teen’s parents hired a lawyer and took the matter the court.
See link for full story....http://edition.channel5belize.com/archives/2632....

The result of the parent standing up for the right of their  daughter right to an education and getting an injunction was a teacher strike on January 29th, 2009. The order called for the following:

the order specifically states that the defendants, meaning Pallotti High School, the principal and the board of governors are not in any time to prevent the claimant from attending Pallotti High School in uniform and in particular not to prevent her from attending regular studies and classes or be prevented in any form or fashion the claimant from attending her exams and any regular classes. So when they go on strike they’re in contempt of this order...

What this case points out is that many schools have school rules that are unconstitutional. The lawyer Audrey Matura shepherd explains in her channel five interview the following:

 “The very school I was dealing with again lately, they have a rule that says if they suspect a child is pregnant, they can take the child to a doctor of their choice and the child will be accompanied but two teachers—not the parents—and the parent is to pay the bill but cant be present. And if it is proven that the child is pregnant, that child will be expelled immediately. But if the child refuses, that by itself constitutes a ground to be expelled immediately. Now that is totally unconstitutional. The constitution protects the right to privacy so they have to respect that person’s privacy.”

The Ministry of Education on 2nd February, 2009 responded to the Pallotti High School student being expelled and before the courts in the following way in a channel seven news story through a release:

 ..."the Ministry of Education takes very seriously that discipline in our schools must be fair and just to all parties concerned and must be consistent with the constitution of Belize. The role of the Ministry of Education is (to) ensure that schools provide an environment that is nurturing for all students but on the other hand ensure that the rights of the individual student are protected.” The release said the Ministry would not comment further as the case is before the courts. source:( http://7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=13261)

In this case, the door is open for other students to challenge unjust school rules and bring social change to the system. Time will tell if this becomes a reality.