Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Art Exhibition, Belizean LGBT Advocacy and Social Statements

18th December, 2013

We rarely think of art as a powerful expression of the time, but with the coordination effort of the Mexican Cultural Institute, I have come see art an emotional expression of the times that may reflect corruption, violence, gender inequality, social disparity and division.  The work of this Mexican illustrator Jose Guadaloupe Posada makes the point very clear that art can mirror social reality. While the art is intended to be satirical about difficult social issue, it makes the point that in Belize, like else where, we have social inequity and that ignoring it like this man did on the left, is not going making social problems go away.












Last night I was invited to an exhibition called the "Alignment" done by Nelson Young, a Belizean. He spoke of his exhibition representing the pass and present, he spoke of people moving away from the bible and forgetting the basics of right and wrong.












When one looks at the exhibition as an observer, labels such as "liviticus" and "Apocalypse" trigger raw reactions as these paintings solidify labels and a history of intensified institutional prejudice that has cause both psychological and physical harm to me and my community. The UniBAM effigy comes to mind where church leaders denied the symbol of hanging was infront of their so called constitutional march done in the Toledo district, in July 2013. Additionally, getting hate mail on facebook like this does not help to solidify personal security issues. Nelson Young art exhibition, maybe abstract, but its message of remembering the basics of right and wrong reverberates in anyone, whose social consciousness believes in social justice for all.


An opportunity, arose, with just such a person in private conversations. In that conversation about daily lives, I was reminded that the violation of individual dignity has a medical cost, but the psychological harm is cumulative when symbols of the state choose to inflict unnecessary harm to a citizen  in the course of an arrest. In this case, the hair of a dreadlocks was cut in the process of a rub down for evidence of marijuana. Ultimately, the conversations turned into a need to strengthen current human rights systems that would allow penalisation and investigation of cases of abuse or discrimination; the need for child advocates to represent children more effectively in cases of horrible sexual and physical violence among other issues. 

What gives me hope in the art exhibition of both Jose Posada and Nelson Young is that both recognise the need for quality of life to be improved and that there is a vision of "better must come" For Nelson Young, his paintings  speaks of being enlightened using parables and having a vision that addresses social inequity with compassion. 

 

Christians often speak of compassion, opponents like Belize Action, however, who do not support advancing the dignity and right of L.G.B.T citizens in any concrete way have sought to stir up mud in the public mind, in a way that deviates from the long held culture that has been inclusive, supportive and tolerant. Even the Constitution of Belize , expresses a basic principle of inclusiveness because it gives the option for redress to all citizens if they feel that they experienced a level of discrimination. The piece below highlights the hope that future dialogue will be about function, pragmatism and about upholding the dignity and worth of not only L.G.B.T persons, but all citizens in a systematic way. Until then, the work of Posada and Young will continue to deliver the message  that basic colors may express diversity and spaces of division, but it does not mean that humanity need remain divided by ideology, despite its diversity. Ultimately, what unites us is our desire for peace, family  and  quality of life. Respect for diversity and upholding the ideals that dignity and rights matters doesn't change individual beliefs, it serves only to improve our humanity.














Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The challenge of Advancing LGBT Rights Protection and Enforcement in Belize

Dated: 11th December, 2013



Yesterday, UNDP celebrated International Human Rights Day. The guest speaker was current Bar 
President Eamon Courtney (seen on the right) who spoke about the broader issues of functional impunity. As the current dialogue about rights protection and enforcement continues for LGBT citizens, his speech broaden the audience understanding that human rights discussions has broader implications for existing human rights systems. In his speech he shared:

"The Judiciary in Belize is challenged. It remains underfunded and understaffed. Three years ago, the Supreme Court was staffed by a chief justice and eight puisne judges. And yet, this complement was unable to cope and a backlog... Today, through promotion and attrition, we have only the Chief Justice and six puisne judges.This is a critical situation that demands urgent attention. Three years ago there were five judges hearing civil cases including constitutional claims. Today there are only three. A denial of access to the Supreme Court for the prompt determination of constitutional claims undermines the guarantees enshrined in the Constitution..."

He continued...

"A recent study (unpublished) of the Kolbe facility revealed some startling details. There are interminable delays for persons on remand awaiting trial – in one case of up to seven years. Thirty-seven percent of the prisoners are awaiting trial; not yet sentenced. Of the 183 foreign inmates 71 are awaiting deportation hearings. There are six persons detained in Kolbe who have been found to be insane or deemed mentally unfit to stand trial. In the most egregious case, a person stood trial for manslaughter in 1976, aged about 20. He is held in a cell of his own in a unit housing other inmates with mental health problems. He was found to be insane and has been kept in prison ever since, for 37 years. Unless the judicial system is able to provide effective relief to all persons who are incarcerated, the hope and promise eloquently expressed in the Universal Declaration and the Constitution is as if writ in water."

He goes on to remind the audience about the importance of system strengthening where he speaks of Civil Society long history of rights advancement. He shared;

The history of human rights advocacy in Belize has in large part been written by non-governmental organizations like the Human Rights Commission of Belize, the National Organization for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect and the Women’s Issues Network. It is neither sufficient nor is it right for the burden to carried by civil society. It is high time that we move to the creation of a properly staffed and funded institution for the promotion and protection of human rights in keeping with the Paris Principles (2003). We already have the Office of the Ombudsman. But it has met with measured success. All of us have a duty to advocate for its strengthening. And I daresay there is a need to expand its remit and powers to effectively address allegations of human rights violations. " 

I could not agree more with his statement, but what is not lost as an advocate, is observing how many in the system are complicit, by indifference, inaction or omission who willingly allow, systems to remain weak, rights violations to occur, and rights protection and enforcement for L.G.B.T citizens to be ignored or be negotiated away for the sake of political convenience. This picture of below represents the delicate balance between political considerations and the absolution of constitutional responsibility. To me it is very simply, the nation of Belize created and approved a Belizean constitution that speaks to the dignity of the individual and their inalienable rights. Yet, many have shirk their responsibility from that ideal.


Courtney was rights as he quoted Mandela “Our single most important challenge is therefore to help build a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual.” After 32 years of independence, however, we have not gotten it right, and are still saying we need more time to address L.G.B.T citizens needs.So what should L.G.B.T citizens do as they are harassed on the streets, discriminated in education, workplace and family. How much patience should they have when violence is perpetuated and individual symbols of the state decide to violate their rights along with other non-state actors? By silence, do we allow our rights to be negotiated away as a community or do we watch as politician speak of more time?















Saturday, November 30, 2013

The value of PETAL Belizean Lesbian and Bisexual Women Conversations

30th November, 2013

 The work of Promoting Empowerment Through Awareness for Lesbian and Bisexual Women (PETAL), interventions called "Conversations" is a concept started by Marla Simone Hill which seeks to highlights the nuances of issues impacting the LB  women in Belize.  Conversations, tends to look at Sexual and Sexual and Reproductive Rights issues in broad terms, its participatory and self-generating in its approach. Inspired by the lack of visibility of women in the current human rights dialogue, she has become a powerful force leading LB women in this groundbreaking intervention  to address the nuances of cervical cancer, relationship violence and section 53 education among other issues. Proof in the value of the intervention is reflected in the cases below which indicate the intervention is just touching surface of LB women  social concerns..

 

We don't often think of rights violations occurring among Lesbian and Bisexual women in Belize, but incidence of abuse do occur in immigration, in relationships and in the community. As the United Belize Advocacy Movement encourages capacity building through conversation among Lesbian and Bisexual (LB) women we have found rights-violations occurring differently in the community. The reality remains that while discrimination might be different, violence remains a threat to all. Here is an example of a young woman injured in 2012 in a little village in northern Belize. While family member put a beating on the fellow, the fact remains that most persons from the LB community do not have that kind of social capital to challenge intimidation.




In another case, on 17th March , 2013, a young women reported being punched on the left side of her face at the Queen Street Police Station around 4:00 o’clock in the morning. The officer was a creole male about 5”3 to 5’9, dark brown in regular uniform. To add insult to injury there were 4 other officers who was present, but just laughed. The partner 20 witness the punch and she tried to intervened, because she felt her partner was going to be punched again, so she sought to defend her partner, by hitting the officer who blocked her and eventually grabbed her roughly and in the process of being dragged by the arm was hit across the right of the face. After the 2nd hit, the officer walked outside the station. The mom was eventually called to pick up her daughter because the partner was not finished making her statement. After the mom arrived and consulted one of the officers, she was told that they should just drop everything because one of the women tried to assault an officer. All this happened after one of the girls phone was stolen and they decided to pursue the robber who was on a tiny bike.



The individual reported that she was robbed of a cell phone and shared,"The robbery happened at the corner of Baymen and 9th Street and happened around minutes to 2 o’clock in the morning. We pursued the robbers with the help of friends who picked up us while in pursuit and who helped us fine them. In a hurry, they left behind their little bikes which we took as evidence because they could not move fast with it. We took the bikes to my partner house and decided to go to the police station to make our report on the robbery. We were taken to the house where the bikes were and waited while my partner changed her clothes, the police wanted me to go alone, but I said no and that when their cooperative mood changed. While in the car, the driver of the car was listening to me over the phone talking to my sister who works at the hospital as I expressed my frustration that they were not listening to our concerns about scouting out the place to see if they could fine the robbers. While talking, one of the officer kept saying things like” Da Good!” referring to my comment and other words like “ nobady tell unu no fu be outa unu home. So I place the phone over the officer ear, where he said, “Just do it!” “Do it!” “Do it!” and I proceeded to shove him in his head. As I walked into the police station to make a report about the robbery, the police officer, upon entering the building punched me infront of at least 4 other officer who laughed. The officer was a dark brown creole man in regular uniform, about 5’3” to 5”9. Upon punching me, my partner witness the punched and intervene because she felt like he was going to punch me again and walked behind him to hit him, but he blocked the punched and upon the block, he hit her in the right side of her face while dragging her along while this was happening I was crying. Officer came out to see what was happening, but did nothing. After the 2nd punch the officer walked outside, as the four other officers watched and still did not do anything. I was left in the room to make a statement while my partner got picked up by her mom. I had to go get a medio-legal form which classified the injury as harm and did not leave till 5:00am. I returned to deliver the medio-legal form much later."



The 3rd case, Pamela Perez reported murder by partner Rosalilia Castillo 2012 http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=24137&frmsrch=1  highlights the point that when the state shirks its responsibilities in promoting the legislative protecting all its citizens, the dignity and constitutional rights will be lost with or eroded with impunity. Perez death and the young lesbian above injury, highlights the importance that legislative action matters. Whether in defining hate crime or addressing the broader definition of spouse  in the domestic violence legislation.











Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Transgender Europe’s Trans Murder Monitoring project reveals

Posted: 13th November, 2013
Transgender Europe: TDOR Press Release November 13th 2013
Transgender Europe’s Trans Murder Monitoring project reveals
238 killings of trans people in the last 12 months
In total, since January 2008 the murders of 1,374 trans people have been reported

The 15th International Transgender Day of Remembrance is being held on November 20th 2013: Since 1999 the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), on which those trans people who have been victims of homicide are remembered, takes place every November. The TDOR raises public awareness of hate crimes against trans people, provides a space for public mourning and honours the lives of those trans people who might otherwise be forgotten. Started in the USA, the TDOR is now held in many parts of the world. In the past, the TDOR took place in more than 180 cities in more than 20 countries in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
Sadly, this year there are 238 trans persons to be added to the list to be remembered, mourned and honoured.
The Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) project started in April 2009 and systematically monitors, collects and analyses reports of homicides of trans people worldwide. Updates of the results, which have been presented in July 2009 for the first time, are published on the website of the “Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide” project two to three times a year in form of tables, name lists, and maps:
http://www.transrespect-transphobia.org/en_US/tvt-project/tmm-results.htm
Every year in November, Transgender Europe provides a special update of the TMM results for the International Transgender Day of Remembrance so as to assist activists worldwide in raising public awareness of hate crimes against trans people. The TDOR 2013 update has revealed a total of 238 cases of reported killings of trans people from November 20th 2012 to November 1st 2013:
http://www.transrespect-transphobia.org/en_US/tvt-project/tmm-results.htm/tdor-2013
The update shows reports of murdered trans people in 26 countries in the last 12 months, with the majority from Brazil (95), Mexico (40), the USA (16), and Venezuela (15), followed by Honduras (12), Colombia (12), and El Salvador (5). While Brazil, Mexico, and the USA have the highest absolute numbers, the relative numbers show even more worrisome results for some countries with smaller population sizes. Honduras, for instance, has a rate of 1.5 reported trans killings per million inhabitants, for El Salvador the rate is 0.71, while for Brazil the rate is 0.49, for Mexico the rate is 0.36, and for the USA the rate is 0.05. In Asia most reported cases have been found in India (8), and in Europe in Turkey (5) and Italy (5).
Attached to this press release you can find a map, which demonstrates the absolute figures of reports found worldwide from November 20th 2012 to November 1st 2013.
Another worrisome result of the TMM TDOR 2013 update is that from January 1st to October 31st 2013, the TMM registered the highest numbers of reported murders of minors since TGEU started the TMM. In the first 10 months of 2013 already 22 trans persons under 20 years have been reported murdered. Half of them have been under 18 years. Among these 11 murdered minors was a 13-year old trans girl, who has been found strangled in the city of Macaiba in Brazil on June 9th 2013, a 14-year old trans girl, who has been found strangled in the city of Ibipora in Brazil on October 15th 2013, and also 16-year-old „Dwayne“ Jones, who was kicked out of her home with 14, and on July 22nd 2013 attended for the first time a party in female clothing in St. James, Jamaica, where she was chased and brutally murdered by party-goers, who formed a mob, when they realized that she was a trans person. In total 108 murders of trans people under 20 years have been reported since 2008: 14 in 2008, 19 in 2009, 13 in 2010, 21 in 2011, 19 in 2012, and 22 in the first ten months of 2013.
The TDOR 2013 update reveals a total of 1,374 reported killings of trans people in 60 countries worldwide from January 1st 2008 to October 31st 2013. It is important to note that these cases are those that could be found through Internet research and through cooperation with trans organizations and activists. In most countries, data on murdered trans people are not systematically produced and it is impossible to estimate the numbers of unreported cases.
The alarming figures demonstrate once more that there is an urgent need to react to the violence against trans people and to seek mechanisms to protect trans people. Some international trans activists even started to introduce the term ‘transcide’ to reflect the continuously elevated level of deadly violence against trans people on a global scale and a coalition of NGOs from South America and Europe started the “Stop Trans Genocide” campaign.
Cases have been reported from all major World Regions (Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Europe, North America, and Oceania), evoking an evermore gruesome picture, especially given the very partial knowledge we are able to gain in many places. More detailed information and a map showing the 1,374 reported murders of trans people is available at:
Throughout all six world regions, the highest absolute numbers have been found in countries with strong trans movements and trans or LGBT organizations that do a professional monitoring: Brazil (539), Mexico (144), Colombia (76), Venezuela (70) and Honduras (60) in Central and South America, the USA (85) in North America, Turkey (34) and Italy (26) in Europe, and India (30) and the Philippines (29) in Asia.
The close connection between the existence of strong trans movements and professional monitoring on the one hand, and highest absolute numbers of reports, on the other hand, point to a worrisome question: the question of unreported cases. Beside the need for mechanisms to protect trans people, this connection also shows the need for strong trans communities and organizations, which are capable of professional monitoring and reporting of violence against trans people. Furthermore this connection results in the fact, that the figures show only the tip of the iceberg of homicides of trans people on a worldwide scale.
More than 1,000 reported murders of trans people in Central and South America since 2008
The new result update moreover reveals that in the last 70 months:
1,074 killings of trans people have been reported in Central and South America, which account for 78 % of the globally reported murders of trans people since January 2008. In this region, there has been the strongest increase in reports and with 22 countries Central and South America is the best documented region.
117 killings of trans people have been reported in Asia in 16 countries;
87 killings of trans people have been reported in North America;
84 killings of trans people have been reported in Europe in 12 countries;
8 killings of trans people have been reported in Africa in 4 countries;
4 killings of trans people have been reported in Oceania in 4 countries.

Attached to this press release you can find tables showing the details and a map, which demonstrates the absolute figures of reports found worldwide since January 2008.
While the documentation of killings of trans people is indispensable for demonstrating the shocking extent of human rights violations committed against trans people on a global scale, there is also a need for in-depth research of various other aspects related to the human rights situation of trans people. Therefore, Transgender Europe developed the Trans Murder Monitoring project into the ‘Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide’ research project (TvT). TvT is a comparative, ongoing qualitative-quantitative research project, which provides an overview of the human rights situation of trans people in different parts of the world and develops useful data and advocacy tools for international institutions, human rights organizations, the trans movement and the general public. In November 2012 Transgender Europe published the TvT research report “TRANSRESPECT VERSUS TRANSPHOBIA WORLDWIDE - A Comparative Review of the Human-rights Situation of Gender-variant/Trans People”, which discusses and contextualizes the key findings of the TvT project. You can download the research report here:
 http://www.transrespect-transphobia.org/uploads/downloads/Publications/TvT_research-report.pdf

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Report on Hearings of Belize and TnT Immigration Law Challenge

Reposted 12th, November, 2013
Day One Report of Hearings into Belize and TnT Immigration Law Challenge: 
Today, 12th November,  the Caribbean Court of Justice heard arguments via teleconference by legal representatives of Maurice Tomlinson, the state of Belize and the state of Trinidad and Tobago. Lord Gifford, representing Tomlinson, petitioned the court to allow Tomlinson leave to bring a case before the court, seeking redress for violations of his free movement rights guaranteed under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to nationals of CARICOM member states. He alleges that sections of the immigration laws of Belize and Trinidad and Tobago which prohibit the entry of homosexual persons into those countries, violate his rights. The hearing today was simply to determine whether Tomlinson, a homosexual, can bring the case which, if granted permission, he will bring in the near future.

Gifford presented his case that leave should be granted, to which Belize and Trinidad and Tobago responded. Gifford was then allowed to respond to the states’ arguments. Both Belize and Trinidad and Tobago argued that Tomlinson should not be granted leave to bring the case.

Belize, by its lawyer, Nigel Hawke, argued that the term ‘homosexual’ as used in the Belize Immigration Act referred to a homosexual prostitute and not just a homosexual, although the Act prohibits ‘homosexuals’ on a plain reading of it. Hawke argued that his interpretation reflected the Belize government’s position and referred to the written testimony submitted on behalf of the Belize government, saying that Belize Immigration Authorities do not prevent homosexuals from entering Belize. He referred to the fact that Tomlinson himself had entered Belize four times.

Tomlinson says in his written testimony that he had been to both Belize and Trinidad and Tobago on multiple occasions, prior to knowing of the laws. He says that since he came to know of them, he has had to refuse invitations to visit both countries. Gifford Q.C, relied on cases to show that even if the government claimed they didn’t enforce a law, it could still operate to restrict people’s rights. The essence of the argument runs that the law makes de facto criminals of homosexuals who enter, forcing some people to alter their behaviour. In Maurice’s case the behaviour which was altered (travelling to Belize and to Trinidad and Tobago) was a behaviour he was entitled to by right as a national of a CARICOM member state.

The court seemed unsatisfied by the Belize government’s written evidence that they didn’t prohibit homosexuals, questioning Hawke as to whether they should require further evidence. Justice Nelson even asked Hawke what was the relevance of state practice, inviting him to respond to Gifford’s arguments that the law in and of itself restricted Tomlinson’s rights, irrespective of whether the state enforced it or not. Hawke contended that Belize’s practice of not prohibiting homosexuals evidences the Belize government’s interpretation of the law as argued by Hawke.

When asked whether the court should issue a declaration that the allegedly offending section of the law referred to homosexual prostitutes only as argued by Hawke, Hawke responded that that wasn’t necessary because the Belize government already understood it to mean that.

Trinidad through its lawyer, Seenath Jairam, appearing with Wayne Sturge and a host of other attorneys, argued that what is relevant in determining whether a treaty had been violated was the impeached state’s practice. He argued that Trinidad and Tobago had a policy of non enforcement of the law, which he interpreted to refer to homosexuals and not homosexual prostitutes as Belize argued. The allegedly offending provisions in both laws (primarily s. 5(1)(e) of the Belize Immigration Act and 8(1) (e)of the Trinidad and Tobago Act) are almost identical. Jairam supported his arguments with such cases as the recent Shanique Myrie decision (http://www.caribbeancourtofjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/2013-CCJ-3-OJ.pdf

Jairam argued that because Trinidad and Tobago’s state practice was such that it didn’t prevent homosexuals from entering and that because Tomlinson was not prevented from entering before, the application was “an academic exercise”. He drew a comparison to hanging, saying that Trinidad and Tobago had laws on its books which allowed hanging but that they nonetheless did not hang. When asked by the court whether that meant that hanging was illegal, he responded that that was a matter for the constitutional court. He alluded to the fact that governments had financial constraints and that there were costs involved in repealing laws. Incidentally that has not prevented Trinidad and Tobago from repealing other laws it wished to repeal.

Jairam argued further that Tomlinson could have applied for a special permit from the Minister responsible for immigration as Sir Elton John did back in 2007. Gifford had earlier pointed the court to the section of the Trinidad and Tobago Immigration Act which permitted the Minister responsible for Immigration to grant the special permit, spoken of by Jairam, to a specific group of prohibited persons only. This group did not include homosexuals, a fact it seems that was overlooked by Trinidad and Tobago authorities in 2007 when Sir Elton John was granted a special permit to enter.

Justice Nelson expressed concern over whether a policy was sufficient protection of the rights guaranteed to nationals of CARICOM countries, asking rhetorically, “what happens when government changes?” He also asked Jairam non rhetorically whether the court should strike out the allegedly offending sections since they weren’t enforced. Jairam responded, to the bemusement of many in the court, that the court should not strike out the sections because that might allow terrorists to enter the country.

Lord Gifford Gifford responded to the State’s arguments by reiterating that a policy was just a policy and was subject to change with any given government. He also reiterated that the mere existence of the laws, whether they were enforced or not, was sufficient to restrict a person’s rights.

The court reserved its judgment which we expect will be delivered tomorrow.
http://www.facebook.com/events/605091346224139/permalink/606166622783278/ 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Parliamentary Dialogue in the DR, does it matter in Belize

Posted 21st, October, 2013 

I met two important persons at a meeting entitled, "Protecting Human Rights, Combating Discrimination and Addressing HIV/AIDS of Persons with Diverse Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities" that was organized by the Parliamentarians Global Action (PGA) which is network of 1,000 lawmakers in about 130 countries. The meeting was held at the Deputy of Chambers building, not too far from our hotel.

 The first important person on my trip to Santo Domingo  from the 9th to 11th October, 2013 was Fox Odoi Oywelowo a Ugandan parliamentarian who has a history of speaking about human rights issues like, violence against women and girls from prevention to legislative enforcement . He has also spoken against the the "Kill the Gay Bill" and reports confirm only two MP moved to block the bill.  Sam Owor Otada of Kiryandongo confirmed attaching his signature to a minority report, but Oywelowo  who was chairman of the Rules and Parliamentary Privileges Committee, did not confirm nor deny his authorship of the report, but simply responded, he could not " comment on something which is not yet on the floor of parliament."  In a blog written by Melanie Nathan, February, 2013, she confirms the Odoi did write the report which had a number of conclusions:

 The Minority report which was written in November 2012 notes:

3. While the Members agree that there is the need for children to be protected against recruitment by homosexuals, The Members disagree that this is the law to protect the children since a closer analysis of the Bill also reveals that there are no specific clauses that provide for the protection of children against recruitment. The Members argue that in that regard there is a need for a comprehensive law to protect children against more than just homosexual recruitment and sex. This other law can protect  children against child labour, violence, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, slave:ry and trafficking.
4. It should be noted that Uganda belongs to an International Polity and cannot afford to exclude herself from the rest of the world by way of enactment of this law. The introduction of this law contravenes many International conventions and treaties. which are already ratified by Uganda; Such as;
• The .African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (The Banjul’s Charter) ratified by Uganda on 10th May, 1986.
• The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
Fox Odoi Oywelowo  is a very unassuming man, but dig deeper and one discovers that he is part human right advocate, all politician and a product of his environment where a lack of understanding about sexuality can permeate public statements and influence legislative process in parliament. 

Whether one agrees with the conclusion of his minority report or not, as an advocate, his parliamentary responses to the "Kill the Gay Bill" offers an important intellectual journey on lessons about communication and dialogue between parliamentarians in Belize. I did ask him in person what makes him carry on and he believes that the violation of one groups rights, is a threat to all. Professionally, he has been a Senior Principal State Attorney, worked at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, acted as presidential adviser, Legal Affairs and has been a member of Parliament. What I like about this parliamentarian, is that he took a parliamentary stance in a time of great band wagon mentality among his colleagues, he is open to learning about the issues of gender and sexuality and is humbly enough to say he does not know.

 The next important person I met was MP Minou Travarez Mirabel, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee for the Chamber of Deputies of Dominican Republic and Chair of International Council of PGA.  Minou, is a philogist, professor and politician Mrs. Tavárez has served as deputy for the National District in the lower House since 2002; and served as deputy foreign minister from 1996 to 2000. Minou is daughter of Dominican lawyers and activists Manuel Aurelio Tavarez and Maria Argentina Minerva Mirabel both founders in 1960 of the opposition movement that sought the overthrow of dictator Rafael Trujillo. Her mother was killed by the dictatorship in 1960, and her father was murdered by the Tirumvirate (three-member junta) that overthrew Juan Bosh's legitimate government in 1963, becoming an orphan of both parents at the age of 7 years. Her parents are considered martyrs and national heroes.

 This incredible MP shared that a few years ago the church had organized a slanderous campaign against her and 31 other parliamentarians who oppose language around abortion to be placed in the constitution. Though they lost the war on preventing the language, what she herself proved was that a politician can take a principal stance on an issue and still survive the church opposition. She shared that she not only got re-elected, she got the highest votes in her area. This is not her only time, she recently took a public stance, in response the the de-nationalisation of Haitians borne in the Dominican Republic, in a speech, recently, she can be quoted as saying, " One of the first consequences of the decision of the Constitutional Court is that it has brought to the fore the worst of ourselves"

The importance of profiling parliamentarians cannot be over stated as it has parallels for Belize 's PM speech on September 21st, 2013, Lisel Alamilla willingness to called the UniBAM effigy for what it was when it was shown in the constitutional march in the South of Belize, the Leader of the Opposition statement of inclusiveness and the Special Envoy comments on the Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Transforming public statements and policy documents like the Revised Gender Policy, the current legal review of the National AIDS Commission, the current legal challenge to section 53 will remain a balance of dialoguing with litigation. Nevertheless, academic engagement like this panel below had as opportunity to promote understanding and to refine parliamentary perceptions that allows for an honest conversation about gender and sexuality from a legislative prospective.Learning that the use of the word sexual orientation and gender identity need not be in a constitution for the constitution to offer protection was evident by the Uruguayan presentation.

The Uruguayan MP Berta Sanserrino spoke of the many laws on the books for her country and that much could be done to address the social inequalities in her country. She spoke of the gradualism process around relationship protection and the additional considerations around education and health law. See below for the reference and language of the laws:

Law against Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination (2004):
National interest is declared the fight against racism, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination. Discrimination means any exclusion, preference, performance of physical and moral violence on the basis of race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, disability, aesthetics, gender, sexual orientation or identity, that undermines equality, human rights and freedoms.

Rights an obligation to health services (2008)
In Article 2 states that patients and users of health care services have a right to be treated equally and not be discriminated against for any reason, such as race, age, sex, religion, nationality, disability, social status, educational level , property, choice or sexual orientation.

Right to Sexual and Reproductive Health Law (2008)
The law states that the State shall ensure the conditions for the full exercise of sexual and reproductive rights of all people. For this, national policies promote sexual and reproductive health, and design programs according to the principles of the law ..

General Education Law (2009)
In Article 18 that the State shall give specific support to those who are vulnerable, and will seek to include people who are discriminated against culturally, economically or socially. Also stimulate the transformation of discriminatory stereotypes based on age, gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Article 40 states that the national education system as transverse lines contemplate human rights education and sex education (among others).

Sex education will aim to provide appropriate tools to promote in teachers and learners, critical reflection to gender relations and sexuality in general for responsible enjoyment of it.

Sexual Harassment (2009)
The law seeks to prevent and punish sexual harassment and protect victims. Sexual harassment is defined as any behavior of a sexual nature made ​​by a person of the same or opposite sex, unwanted by the person to whom it is addressed, and whose rejection causes him injury in their workplace or education, or creates an environment intimidating or hostile to the recipient.

Civil Union Law (2008)
Concubinary union  is considered community life of two people, regardless of their sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or preference, that maintaining a loving relationship of a sexual nature, unique, singular, stable and permanent, without being united in marriage.

The benefits of the law apply to couples who live in these conditions at least five years, couples who have lived at least five years and are separated, people whose partner has died after living at least five years

Some Benefits include:
  • The joint ownership of property acquired during the adoption of concubinage and in subsequent
  • The possibility of separate property
  • The ability to receive child support after separation or death
Marriage Act 2013:
This bill makes changes to the Civil Code to ensure access to marriage for couples whose members are of any sex or gender identity.

Article 83 of the Civil Code now states that civil marriage is a permanent union, under the law of two persons of the same or opposite sex. The children born within marriage homosexual (adopted or conceived) take the surnames of their parents in the order they choose

Right to gender identity and change of name and sex on identity documents - 2009
Article 1 states that everyone has the right to free development of his personality according to their own gender identity, regardless of their biological sex, genetic, anatomical, morphological, hormonal, or other assignment is.

This right includes freedom to be identified in a way of recognizing their gender identity, and the right to have their identity documents match identity and name

Those who can benefit from the law:
  • Those whose name and / or sex does not match their gender identity.
  • Seniors with at least two years living with their identity (even without having had sex reassignment surgery)
  • People who have had sex reassignment surgery
  • Minors with parental consent. If the parents do not agree, you can perform the procedure with a guardian and a lawyer to assist him.
Law Content:
  • Access to an identity card, passport polling card and identity and name recognition with which the person chooses to live.
  • Change the necessary documentation on your behalf.
  • Access to social benefits to sex recognize that recorded in the document.
Modification of provisions of the Code on Children and Adolescents on adoption – 2009
  • They can take individuals or couples who are spouses or partners, over 25 years.
  • They may take one of the partners, with respect to the son of another member, if it has no legal relationship with the other parent.
  • The adopted child's affiliation links are replaced by the adoptive family, but the child can maintain regular links with their birth family.
  • The adoption means that the child will have the same rights as if born of the adopter. The goal is to ensure children's rights to family life and to ensure their integration into the new family with all the rights

Belize had the chance to speak about its liberal constitution, section 3 protections, its sexual harassment laws, its gender neutral reference to adoption, constitutional redress clauses, the PM statement, the Gender Policy and its opposition as well as the effects of the state indifference and tendency by omission to exclude LGBTI citizenry out of legislation. The result is the intensification of functional impunity by non-state actors who publicly justifies why mistreatment should occur and why harm is acceptable. This creating a pool of denialists who sees rights protection and enforcement as an affront their their beliefs. What we learned from this session is that gender neutral or generic language will suffice in advancing LGBT concerns. We learned from our peers in Santo Domingo when they wanted to march, they pulled out section 39 of their constitution which spoke of non-discrimination base on any human condition.

 

The 2nd day of the meeting was about refining a parliamentary declaration that called for parliamentarians of the Dominican Republic to act and repeal discriminatory laws, act to enforce and implement protective laws around SOGI issues and to invest in public education efforts around human rights among other things.  At the end of negotiations, parliamentarians present agreed to sign on the declaration. CARIFLAGS issued its own call pointed out Caribbean state inadequate responses to international treaties like only 5 are party to the American Convention on Human Rights, just two accept the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court etc. The call issued 15 points which called n Caribbean Lawmakers to 1). Approve, ratify and bring into force in domestic law the inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination 2).Ensure full implementation of the commitments contained in the five annual organization of American States General Assembly resolutions on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender identity/expression in their domestic law and policy;3) include  LGBTI communities in governance, public planning and consultation among the 15 points for a call to action among parliamentarians.



The history of the Dominican Republic is a history of racial tension and dictatorship. The dictator back in 1961 was Rafael Trujillo. It was reported he massacred an estimated 20,000 Haitians in a border dispute along with 20,000-50,000 of his own people during his rule of the country. What triggered an end to his rule was the murder of the mirabal sisters, four Dominican political dissidents who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. On November 25, 1960, three of the sisters were assassinated. They were, Antonia María Teresa Mirabal, Patria Mercedes Mirabal, María Argentina Minerva Mirabal, Bélgica Adela Mirabal-Reyes survived.  In 1999, the sisters received recognition by the United Nations General Assembly designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women n their honor.
Belize does not have this kind of violent past as a country, it has never has an assassination of our PM or mass killing sanctioned by the state at the level of Rafael Trujillo dictatorship. We have never had the level of experience in parliament around the Ugandan, "Kill the Gay Bill" so we have no reason to not to advance quickly in rights protection and enforcement legislation.  Time will tell whether the Belizean LGBT community will express a desire to push things forward or remain passive aggressive in how it addresses its needs.


 


 


 




 

 


Hon. Fox Odoi, MP West Budama North and Sam Owor Otada of Kiryandongo have authored a minority report condemning the original work and general report made by the committee. - See more at: http://chimpreports.com/index.php/news/politics/9316-mps-move-to-block-anti-homosexuality-bill.html#sthash.IeL5DOUF.dpuf