Thursday, March 28, 2013

Belize Concluding Observations of 107th Session of ICCPR

Posted 28th, March, 2013
It is clear government has a long way to demonstrate its commitment under the international Covenant for Civil and Political Rights as the UN Committee issues its concluding observations at a public session done on March 15th, 2013 on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, women and girls, mentally ill persons among a few issues raised. Here is the unedited advance report in its entirety.

Human Rights Committee:

               Concluding observations of Belize in the absence of a report
                   Prepared by the Committee
1.   In the absence of a report by the State party, the Human Rights Committee considered the situation of civil and political rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Belize at its 2960th meeting (CCPR/C/SR. 2960), held in a public session on 15 March 2013. In accordance with rule 70, paragraph 1 of the Committee’s rules of procedure, the failure of a State party to submit its report under article 40 of the Covenant may lead to an examination in a public session of the measures taken by the State party to give effect to the rights recognized in the Covenant and to adopt concluding observations.
2.   At its 2974th meeting (CCPR/C/SR.2974), held on 26 March 2013, the Human Rights Committee adopted the following concluding observations, pending submission of the State party’s initial report and the Committee’s examination of that report.
               A.      Introduction
3.   The Covenant came into force for Belize on 9 September 1996. The State party was under an obligation to submit its initial report by 9 October 1997 under article 40, paragraph 1 (a), of the Covenant. The Committee regrets that the State party has failed to honour its reporting obligations under article 40 of the Covenant and that, despite numerous reminders, the State party has not submitted the initial report. This amounts to a breach by the State party of its core obligation under article 40 of the Covenant.
4.   The Committee regrets that the State party did not send a delegation, which prevented it from engaging in a constructive dialogue with the authorities of the State party. The Committee is, however, grateful to the State party for sending replies to the Committee’s list of issues, which provided some clarification on a number of issues, albeit scanty in their coverage of the issues raised by the Committee.
               B.      Positive aspects
5.   The Committee welcomes the ratification by the State party to the following treaties:
       (a)           The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, on 2 June 2011;
       (b)           The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, on 14 November 2001;
       (c)           International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, on 14 Nov 2001;
       (d)           The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, on 1 December 2003;
       (e)           The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, on 1 December 2003; and
       (f)            The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, on 9 December 2002.
               C.      Principal subjects of concern and observations
6.   The Committee notes that the State party maintains a reservation to article 12(2) on the ground that national interests justify the statutory provision requiring persons intending to travel abroad to furnish Tax Clearance Certificates (arts. 2 and 12).

The State party should consider withdrawing its reservation to article 12(2).  
7.   The Committee regrets that the State party continues to maintain a reservation to article 14(3)(d) of the Covenant because the State party cannot fully guarantee the implementation of the right to free legal assistance. The Committee is concerned that the lack of free legal assistance affects the delivery of justice particularly the juvenile justice system (arts. 2, 14and 24).

The Committee recalls its General Comment No. 32 (2007) and reiterates that “article 14, paragraph 3 (d) guarantees the right to have legal assistance assigned to accused persons whenever the interests of justice so require”. The Committee notes that a blanket reservation to article 14(3)(d) has the effect of depriving accused persons of the minimum guarantees set thereunder when the interests of justice may require that such persons be provided with legal assistance The State party should consider withdrawing its reservation. In the meantime, the State party should give urgent priority to providing legal representation to juveniles facing imprisonment in order to meet its obligations under article 24.

8.   The Committee regrets that although the State party claims that it accepts the principle of compensation for wrongful imprisonment contained in paragraph 6 of article 14 of the Covenant, it maintains a reservation to this article arguing that problems with the implementation of this right compel it not to apply this principle (art. 2).

The Committee recalls its General Comment No. 32 (2007) and reiterates that “it is necessary that States parties enact legislation ensuring that compensation as required by this provision [article 14(6)] can in fact be paid and that the payment is made within a reasonable period of time”. The State party should consider withdrawing its reservation to article 14(6).

9.   While welcoming the appointment of an Ombudsperson in December 2012, the Committee is concerned at reports that the Office of the Ombudsperson lacks sufficient human and financial resources. The Committee is concerned that the State party has not yet established a national human rights institution (NHRI) in line with the Paris Principles (General Assembly resolution 48/134, annex) (art. 2). 

The State party should provide the Office of the Ombudsman with sufficient financial and human resources. Furthermore, it should report on the measures that it has taken, since its review by the Human Rights Council under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, to establish a NHRI in accordance with the Paris Principles (General Assembly resolution 48/134, annex).  

10. While noting the State party’s replies to the list of issues that the provisions of the Covenant can be invoked in the courts, the Committee regrets the lack of information on instances when provisions of the Covenant have been invoked or referred to in national courts. The Committee notes that the State party has not enacted enabling legislation to put into effect the provisions of the Covenant, and that there is no specific training for judges, lawyers and law enforcement personnel on the Covenant (art. 2).

The State party should provide in its initial report information on instances of when and how domestic courts have referred to provisions of the Covenant. It should also undertake specific programmes aimed at providing training and to raising awareness of the Covenant among judges, lawyers and prosecutors to ensure that its provisions are taken into account, where appropriate, by national courts.   

11.                 The Committee regrets the lack of information regarding the extent to which the State party’s legislation prohibits discrimination on the basis of language, religion, opinion, social origin, property, birth or other status as provided for in article 2 of the Covenant (arts. 2 and 26).

The State party should provide such information and, if necessary, bring its legislation in line with the scope of articles 2 and 26 of the Covenant.-

12. The Committee regrets the persisting wage gaps between women and men. The Committee also regrets the lack of information on whether temporary special measures to improve the participation of women in politics will be undertaken despite the recommendations by the Political Reform Commission made in 2000 not to support temporary special measures such as quotas. The Committee also expresses concern about the lack of information on measures to promote women’s representation in decision-making positions, particularly in the private and public sector (arts. 3 and 26).

The Committee urges the State party to adopt a comprehensive and integrated approach to its policies to ensure that gender mainstreaming is practised at all levels. In this regard, the State party should take concrete measures to close the wage gap between men and women. It should further improve the participation of women in public and political life as well as decision-making positions in all spheres of life through, inter alia, the introduction of temporary special measures.

13. The Committee takes note that certain individuals in the State party have instituted proceedings challenging the constitutionality of section 53 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits same sex relations, and of section 5(1)(e) of the Immigrations Act, which includes homosexuals on the list of prohibited persons for purposes of immigration. The Committee further notes that as such these matters are sub-judice. However, it is concerned that the State party lacks any constitutional or statutory provision expressly prohibiting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Committee is further concerned at reports of violence against LGBT persons (arts. 2, 12 and 26).

The State party should review its Constitution and legislation to ensure that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity are prohibited. The Committee further urges the State party to include in its initial report information on the outcome of the case challenging the constitutionality of section 53 of the Criminal Code and section 5(1)(e) of the Immigration Act. The State party should also ensure that cases of violence against LGBT persons are thoroughly investigated and that the perpetrators are prosecuted, and if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions, and that the victims are adequately compensated.

14. The Committee notes the State party’s explanation in its replies to the list of issues that since provisions on the right to life, the prohibition of torture and freedom of thought, conscience and religion are not listed in article 18(10) of the Constitution as derogable rights in a state of emergency, it follows that these rights are non-derogable in a state of emergency. However, the Committee is concerned at the lack of a clear provision in the Constitution and legislation to dispel any doubts that other rights made non-derogable under the Covenant, including rights protected under articles 8(1) and (2), 11, 15 and 16 of the Covenant, cannot be derogated from during a state of emergency (arts. 2 and 4). The Committee recalls its General Comment No. 29 (2001) and notes with concern that section 18(10) of the Constitution of Belize only requires that a derogation is reasonably justifiable in the circumstances of emergency.

The Committee reiterates its General Comment No. 29 (2001) and urges the State party to ensure clarity in its Constitution and legislation governing states of emergency so that all rights protected under article 4 of the Covenant are not derogated from during a state of emergency, and to ensure that the requirements of such derogations are consistent with the Covenant. In this regard the State party should ensure that legislation provides that measures derogating from the State party’s obligations under the Covenant may be taken to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation provided that such measures are not inconsistent with the State party’s other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination, solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin. 

15. While taking note of the efforts by the State party to combat violence against women including domestic violence such as the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act which came into force in 2007, and the establishment of a Family Violence Unit, the Committee notes with concern the continuing reports of violence against women. The Committee also regrets the lack of information and statistical data on all types of violence against women and of the steps taken to assess the effectiveness of measures undertaken to combat violence against women including domestic violence (arts. 3 and 7).

The State party should adopt a comprehensive approach to preventing and addressing gender-based violence in all its forms and manifestations. In this regard, the State party should continue to improve its research and data collection methods and systems, such as the Gender–Based Violence Surveillance System, in order to establish the extent of the problem, its causes and consequences on women. The State party should ensure that cases of domestic violence and marital rape are thoroughly investigated and that the perpetrators are prosecuted, and if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions, and the victims adequately compensated.

16. The Committee is concerned at reports that the Eligibility Committee that was mandated to conduct refugee status determination (RSD) is non-operational and that the last RSD exercise was conducted in 1997. The Committee is concerned that as a result of the non-existence of an asylum screening system and the alleged reluctance by authorities of the State party to consider claims for protection, persons facing a real risk of treatment inconsistent with articles 6 and 7 of the Covenant are in danger of refoulement (arts. 6, 7 and 13).

The State party should re-establish a mechanism for refugee status determination.  The State party should observe its obligation to respect the principle of non-refoulement.

17. While welcoming the enactment of the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Act of 2013, which repealed the Trafficking Persons Prohibition Act of 2009, with a view to introducing stiffer penalties for trafficking in persons and related offences, the Committee remains concerned at the prevalence of trafficking in persons and that the State party remains both a country of destination and transit. The Committee is also concerned at the lack of disaggregated data on the progress made to combat trafficking in persons, and the lack of information on training programmes for judicial officers and law enforcement personnel on trafficking in persons since the Covenant came in force for the State party (art. 8). 

The State party should provide data on the magnitude of the problem of human trafficking in the State party which should be disaggregated by age, sex and ethnic origin, and should also focus on trafficking flows from, to and in transit through its territory. The State party should train its police officers, border personnel, judges, lawyers and other relevant personnel in order to raise awareness of this phenomenon and the rights of victims. Furthermore, the State party should ensure that all perpetrators of trafficking in persons are investigated, prosecuted, and if convicted, adequately sanctioned, and should guarantee that adequate protection, reparation and compensation are provided to the victims. 

18. While welcoming the enactment of the Education and Training Act of 2010, which prohibits corporal punishment in schools, the Committee remains concerned that corporal punishment remains lawful under the Criminal Code. The Committee regrets the State party’s response in the replies to the list of issues that there has never been an initiative to repeal the provision in the Criminal Code which permits corporal punishment (arts. 7 and 24).

The State party should take practical steps to put an end to corporal punishment in all settings. In this regard, the State party should repeal the provisions of the Criminal Code, which permit the use of corporal punishment. The State party should act vigorously to prevent any use of corporal punishment under the Criminal Code as a form of punishment for criminal offences until it repeals the provisions in the Criminal Code.

19. The Committee is concerned at reports that excessive use of force by law enforcement officers is widespread in the State party. The Committee notes the existence of the Professional Standards Branch which is mandated under section 24(i) of the Police Act to investigate complaints from aggrieved citizens who allege unlawful conduct and violations by law enforcement personnel. However, the Committee is concerned at reports that the Professional Standards Branch lacks adequate resources and that it refuses to investigate cases that come to its attention without an official complaint by the victim. The Committee is also concerned at reports that the Independent Complaints Commission is not functional. The Committee is further concerned at the lack of information on allegations of torture and/or ill-treatment in places of deprivation of liberty, particularly committed in juvenile facilities (arts. 2, 7and 9).

The State party should take concrete steps to prevent the excessive use of force by law enforcement officers by ensuring that they comply with the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990). It should also take appropriate measures to ensure that the Independent Complaints Commission is functional, and that the Professional Standards Branch is adequately resourced to ensure that they effectively carry out investigations of alleged misconduct by police officers. In this connection, the State party should ensure that law enforcement personnel continue to receive training on the prevention of torture and ill-treatment by integrating the Istanbul Protocol of 1999 (Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment) in all training programmes for law enforcement officials. The State party should also ensure that allegations of torture and ill-treatment are effectively investigated and that alleged perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions, and that the victims are adequately compensated. The State party should also provide information on allegations of use of torture and/or ill-treatment in places of deprivation of liberty, including juvenile detention facilities.

20. The Committee is concerned at reports of inordinate delays in the delivery of justice and the acknowledgment by the State party’s judiciary that delays are attributable to lack of adequate resources provided to the judiciary (art. 14).

The State party should provide adequate resources to the judiciary to ensure that the delivery of justice is expedited. Furthermore, the State party should provide information in its initial report on the efficiency of the measures taken by the State party to deal with delays in the delivery of justice particularly those related to management of cases and ensuring efficiency in the Registries of the State party’s courts.

21. While noting that section 12(1) of the State party’s Constitution protects freedom of expression, the Committee regrets the lack of information on the impact of the State party’s libel laws on the freedom of expression (art. 19).

The State party should provide information in its initial report on the impact of its libel laws on freedom of expression. 

22. While taking note of the efforts by the State party to improve birth registration such as the establishment of points of registration at major hospitals, the Committee remains concerned at reports of shortcomings and cumbersome steps for birth registration such that most children in the State party remain without birth registration certificates. The Committee is concerned at the lack of information on how the failure to register and obtain birth certificates affects claims for nationality and social benefits (art. 24).

The State party should strengthen its efforts to realise birth registration and the provision of birth certificates for all children, particularly in the rural areas, through appropriate interventions such as awareness-raising programmes on the need to register births and to simplify procedures for registration. The State party should provide information in its initial report on the impact of the lack of birth certificates on claims to nationality and access to social benefits.
23. The Committee is concerned at the high dropout rates of pregnant teenage girls from school and the poor return rates after pregnancy. The Committee is concerned at the lack of data on the State party’s efforts to improve this situation (art. 24). 

The State party should enhance its efforts to raise awareness on the importance of women and girls’ education. In this regard, the State party should adopt specific measures aimed at reducing the school dropout rates of teenage pregnant girls and at encouraging pregnant teenage girls to continue school after giving birth. The State party should also provide statistical data on this phenomenon in its initial report, particularly focusing on efforts undertaken to improve the situation at the primary and secondary levels of the education system.

24. The Committee is concerned that persons found to be suffering from mental disabilities under any law in force in the State party are disqualified from voting and registering to vote (arts. 25 and 26)

The State party should revise its legislation to ensure that it does not discriminate against persons with mental intellectual or psychosocial disabilities by denying them the right to vote on bases that are disproportionate or that have no reasonable and objective relationship to their ability to vote, taking account of article 25 of the Covenant, and article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

25. The Committee is concerned at reports regarding the refusal by the State party to comply with court orders following the decision of the Inter- American Human Rights Commission of 12 October 2004 and the decisions of the Supreme Court of Belize of 18 October 2007 and 28 June 2010 restraining the State party from issuing concessions for resource exploitation and parcelling for private leasing of Mayan land. The Committee regrets reports that the State party continues to grant concessions to companies involved in logging, oil drilling, seismic surveys and road infrastructure projects in Mayan territories thereby affecting the rights of the Mayan peoples to practice their culture on their traditional lands (arts. 14 and 27).

The State party should provide information on allegations that it has not been complying with decisions of the Supreme Court with regard to Mayan land. The State party should desist from issuing new concessions for logging, parcelling for private leasing, oil drilling, seismic surveys and road infrastructure projects in Mayan territories without the free, prior, and informed consent of the relevant Mayan community.

26. The Committee reminds the State party of the possibility of soliciting technical cooperation from the appropriate United Nations organs/agencies as well as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to assist it in developing its capacity to meet its reporting obligations under the Covenant.

27. The State party should widely disseminate the Covenant and the present concluding observations so as to increase awareness among the judicial, legislative and administrative authorities, civil society and non-governmental organizations operating in the country, as well as the general public. The Committee also requests the State party, when preparing its initial report, to broadly consult with civil society and non-governmental organizations.

28. The Committee requests the State party to submit its initial report before 28 March 2015.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Gender Identity Politics: Not Western, but a human reality!

Posted March 25th, 2013
 Belize Action and its partners has said that sexual oreintation and gender identity are western concepts, research done by supporters have showed that western concepts actually have a history if criminalizing sexual orientation and gender identity. The research below on gender identity looks at particular countries and region where the issue of gender was local, not western.Their attempt to label our work as a foreign import ignores that evangelical churches, by their nature, are importations of a fundamentalist agenda from the US. One group comes to mind is the FourSquares Churches where they claimed that are supporting The Calvary Temple and Open Bible churches in Belize City as well as others in the western part of the country. We have seen pastor Scott Stirm connection to to Dominionist theology and really odd beliefs about raising the dead. The blog toucan view points out brilliantly the ideology along with the lack of integrity which  evangelicals have are know for in their opposition of their work. The following youtube video shows how displaced the evangelical message is from the reality of human rights. Please see full video =iupj5ns6s8w&list=UU5O114-PQNY kurl Tg 6h ekZw&index=1 However, the work to bring the issue of rights enforcement to life will continue as the irrational seek to replicate hate with diplomatic language that the public could swallow. Beyond that here are a list of names about gender, that most of us may have not heard about.

.just off the cuff I come up with India recognizes 3 genders: Male, Female and hijra (and in some areas sadhin); Indonesia recognizes 5 genders: Male, Female, Bisu, Chalalai, and Chalabai; Pakistan also recognizes male, female and hijra; The Philippines recognize 3 genders, Male, Female and bakla; Thailand recognizes 3 genders: Male, Female and kathoey. If I researched, I could probably find more. Glad they are owning that alternative sexuality is part of their cultures

Middle East – Oman recognized 3 genders: male, female and xanith

Europe – Albania recognizes 3 genders: males, females and sworn virgins, who are female but dress and act as men. They are not allowed to marry but take on the role of a man if there are no male heirs to be the “head” of the family.

Africa – Benin recognized 3 genders: male, female, and mino (females taking on male traits); Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mbo people, recognized 3 genders: male, female and Mangaiko; Ancient Egypt recognized 3 genders: male, female and sekhet; Ethiopia recognized 3 genders: male, female and ashtime; Kenya recognized 3 genders: male, female and Mashoga; Madagascar recognized 3 genders: Male, female, and sekrata; Tanzania recognized 3 genders: male, female and Mashoga

Polynesia – Samoa recognizes 3 genders: Male, Female and Fa'afafine; Tonga recognizes 3 genders: Male, Female, and fakaleiti; Traditional Hawaiian culture recognized 3 genders: Male, Female, and Māhū; Cook Islands recognized 4 genders: Male, Female, 'akava'ine, and 'akatāne; New Zealand Māori recognized 4 genders: Male, female, whaka-wahine, and whaka-tāne; Fiji recognized 3 genders: male, female and Vaka sa lewa lewa; Tahiti recognized 3 genders: male, female and rae rae

North America -- Blackfoot Indians recognized 3 genders: ninauposkitzipxpe were women who took on male roles; Cheyenne Indians had two spirit people who accompanied men in battle, were healers and served as matchmakers; Crow Indians had 4 genders though I have not found their traditional names. An 1833 account by Edwin T. Denig described men and women who dressed and took on roles of the opposite sex; Lakota Indians recognized 3 genders: Winkte were men who took on female roles and were ritual keepers; Mohave Indians recognized 4 genders: hwame, males who identified as females and alyha, females who identified as males; Navajo Indians recognized 4 genders nadleehi were men who also had female spirits and dilbaa were women who also had male spirits. Both were usually healers; Zapotec Indians of Mexico recognizes 3 genders: Muxe are men who dress as women or wear mens clothes but use make-up as women; Zuni Indians recognized 3 genders: lhamana were men who also had female spirits and were priests and mediators. These are just a few of the ones I found. According to a notation Charles Callender and Lee Kochems (1983), 113 native North American societies provided a third gender status…I thus assume they published a book on the subject. And my guess would be that as the phenomenon of Two-Spirit peoples is studies in more depth, more will be identified.

South America – Inca recognized a 3rd gender: quariwarmi were shaman and expected to be androgynous, living in both present and past, and both living and dead.

Caribbean – Dominican Republic recognizes a 3rd gender which is biological. Guevedoche are typically raised as women but have hermaphroditic or pseudo-hermaphroditic genitalia. This is the only instance of 3rd gender I found that was specifically based upon a genetic mutation.

Monday, March 18, 2013

F*Ck!53 Campaign-Collective Action?

Posted March 18th, 2013

           The presence of Belizean's for the Constitutional Challenge  as part of the United Belize Advocacy Movement communication infrastructure cannot be undervalued in its contribution to movement building. It became part of the community effort to get the word out through a virtual approach to support L.G.B.T Movement Building. While UniBAM does not administrate the close group on face book, the 900 plus members have been able to educate each other about what is going on in the world, monitor news coverage locally and share testimonials about their experiences of the the WE ARE One wristbands. The group has come to offer free media advice, provide promotional support, conduct analysis of the political environment and  also served as a uniting force to refine approaches to political engagement. 
        Its an example where the silent majority have sought a safe space to share ideas, political views on L.G.B.T rights and to support cross-messaging in the area of crime and violence. Allies and L.G.B.T individuals have provided wonderful insight into quiet diplomacy actions in the churches, the media and the community. It helps to refine our approach towards building political currency and galvanise the silent majority who have no issue with government addressing fundamental rights and freedoms of its L.G.B.T citizens.
    The group, has shown that a launch can be done outside the box, that we are more united than divided and although many will not march in a walk for rights and dignity. There are many who will do their part. One such person is Kelvin Ramdarace, he is bold, blunt and the co-administrator for Belizean's for the Constitutional Challenge. He is part of a larger group that forms the We Are One! Human Rights Campaigners. Here he is, not only as a creator of an idea, but proof of the power of quiet diplomacy and how the community can wage virtual war peacefully:

There are very few place where an L.G.B.T individual can wage war on conservatives peacefully, in silence  and also assert  right to expression as an individual. Kelvin offers free advertisement on the section of the law that UniBAM is challenging. No! its not having sex with 53 persons, its a reference to the criminal code which speaks to: "Every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for 10 years." 

       One may argue why support such a message.Its very simply, if a group of people who are marginalised through omission in law can enhance visible support of a community through a silent majority, it allows that community to claim political currency, and as such, the state cannot  presume that its course of action is justified in new legislation. The bottomline is about pulling out the policy closet the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity and mainstreaming it.
       The L.G.B.T Community and its allies are many and together we can tackle gender inequity, L.G.B.T human rights, older Persons Rights, Disable rights as part of a larger vision that the state has a responsibility to address the rights of all citizens. The message, as well, offers a political statement that people in the silent majority are dissatisfied with the current status quo and that there is a silent majority which is calling for the state to commit to its L.G.B.T citizens. Also, it has signed on to International treaties for the disabled, children women, its time it looks at its L.G.B.T Citizens. It time for rights enforcement to occur.

I believe that if just 40 persons  who have 300 friends, wear this shirt and post it to all their friends list, they would have reached 15,000 persons, by passing the Amandala, Belize Times and Reporter in circulation. I believe that if every person would tag it to a politician to show a campaign is on, it would have an effect in showing how much influence the silent majority can have over a process. The power in not just in words, but in circulating the words and accompanying stories. Joining us in this effort, as well, is Adrian Anderson  from Corozal asserting his right to expression with style. To the next generation and beyond.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Mexico's Court:Freedom of Expression does not extend to homophobic language.

Posted: 8th March, 2013

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Mexican Supreme Court: Homophobic language is not covered under freedom of expression

In a landmark 3-2 ruling released after a session held today, the First Chamber of the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice has determined that homophobic expressions such as "maricones" or "puñal" are not only offensive and discriminatory but also not protected under under freedom of expression laws.

The full text of the ruling will not be available until a later date but a press statement released by the Court states the following (my full translation):
In a session held on March 6th of the current year, the First Chamber of the nation's Supreme Court of Justice - at the request of Justice Arturo Zaldivar Lelo de Larrea - resolved an issue in which it analyzed the complex conflict between freedom of expression and discriminatory demonstrations - particularly homophobic expressions - a first for Mexican jurisprudence.

In finding a resolution for the Direct Appeal for Revision 2806/2012 (Amparo Directo en Revisión 2806/2012) the Chamber's starting point was the strong influence language has on people's perception of reality and which can cause prejudice that can take root in society through expressions which take for granted the marginalization of certain individuals or groups.  In this introductory stage, the Chamber also studied the role of dominant discourses and stereotypes. Thus, in the opinion of the Chamber, the language used to offend or disqualify certain groups gain the characteristic of being discriminatory.

In this sense, the First Chamber determined that homophobic expressions or - in other words the frequent allegations that homosexuality is not a valid option but an inferior condition - constitute discriminatory statements even if they are expressed jokingly, since they can be used to encourage, promote and justify intolerance against gays.

For this reason, the Chamber determined that the terms used in this specific case - made up of the words "maricones" and "puñal" - were offensive. These are expressions which are certainly deeply rooted in the language of Mexican society but the truth is that the practices of a majority of participants of a society cannot trump violations of basic rights.

In addition, the First Chamber determined that these expressions were irrelevant since their usage was not needed in resolving the dispute taking place as related to the mutual criticism between two journalists from Puebla. Therefore it was determined that the expressions "maricones" and "puñal", just as they were used in this specific case, were not protected by the Constitution.

It should be noted that the First Chamber does not hold that certain expressions which could be taken as having homophobic intent in abstract can never be validly used in scientific research or in artistic works. That does not, in itself, imply employing hate speech.

To conclude, it should be noted that this resolution is consistent with the various First Chamber rulings on freedom of expression and the right to one's honor since they set the parameters for the analysis of such rights. They are consistent in establishing that offensive and impertinent expressions are not protected by the Constitution and the current case offers and update.

The vote in this decision is as follows: 3 votes in favor (Ministers Pardo Rebolledo, Sánchez Cordero de García Villegas and Zaldívar Lelo de Larrea) and two votes against (Ministers Cossio Díaz and Gutiérrez Ortiz Mena).
UPDATE: Mexico's Milenio provides some background for the ruling.

In 2010 the owner of the Puebla newspaper Síntesis took the owner of rival publication Intolerancia to court and charged him for causing him "moral damage" (I am not a legal expert but I assume it's similar to accusing someone of defamation).

Intolerancia publisher Enrique Núñez Quiroz had written and published a column in which he referred to Síntesis publisher Armando Prida Huerta as a "puñal" (a slang term used in certain regions of Mexico akin to calling someone a fag) and in which he claimed all the people who worked for Síntesis were "maricones" (faggots).

Two lower courts ruled in favor of Prida and ordered Nuñez Quiroz to pay damages and, on appeal, the case reached the Supreme Court.

La Jornada indicates that the ruling might be limited to the use of homophobic expressions in media when the intent is to cause derogatory harm. Their interpretation of the ruling is that "the words maricón and puñal when used in a journalistic article constitute discriminatory terminology and are part of 'homophobic' discourse towards gay people."


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Strategic Approaches to L.G.B.T Movement Building

Post 6th, March 2013

The United Belize Advocacy Movement is and advocacy organization that uses a rights-base approach to reduce stigma and discrimination. In its quest for advocacy, it can be said it is vocal, efficient and use of technology have helped to intensified its message, national dialogue and effect on the national psyche. Below is a summary approach of how things have been done so far.
Activism through Communication Infrastructure: Social networking has been a powerful tool, Belizean's for the Constitutional Challenge, Pride Belize, Belize Gay Community, Se la vee have all played a role in disseminating information when newspapers like amandala kept us out of their circulation. It has allowed us to communicate in safety and engage opponents to the point that debates on facebook ended up generating over 3,000 comments and forcing Belize Action to do a close group. Social networking is cheap, fast and impactful as it even allowed channel 5 to pick up a story that was in a London newspaper, without a phone call. I estimate that we reached an audience of 5,000 persons between all the groups that exists, but if one adds individual listing its even more globally. We have even seen our opponents monitor facebook to help to reframe their messaging.

Wearing symbols as political statements!:  The UniBAM wristbands and the We Are One Launch! gave communal action life. We produce 1,000 bands, but the impact was donations, wives and husbands wearing it, persons in the Caribbean region, the US, Africa asking for it, lesbian women owning the band among others. We have gotten reports that the bands are being stolen at a high school in Dangriga among the young people; it triggered a free ride at the Corozal junction. We have received reports of experiences of  individual saying, " UniBAM instead of battiman over and over again. Allies and LGBT may not march, but they will wear a band. A logo was created by the community along with promotional ideas for free. In-kind contributions have been numerous. The impact goes on an ona

Quiet Diplomacy as political action: The community organized two pride parties around a central location, plus a Halloween bash, while psychological, they create a space to assert freedom of expression, association and movement. They allowed engagement between journalists and activists, it allowed for community to have it say in a non-threatening environment. It showed the power of the community collectively and although we have our fears, we have the power to create a safe place to party and have fun. Symbolically, if  we used that collective power to do good, we would be one powerful political voice in both parties.The process has inspired the development of a trans pageant organizer for this year, pageants are powerful statements that the L.G.B.T community have visible allies who are silent, but present and that they are not extremists in their views. We have seen Allies engage the church system adding value to the process.

Public Education through Cross-messaging: We have done national dialogue on Gender-base Violence and L.G.B.T Human Rights on July 24th, 2012, participated in the Purple Movement walk on crime and violence in Belmopan, participated in Dr. Ivan Garcia Walk against crime, conducted sessions on human sexuality with B.D.F., Allies joined  the Jasmine Lowe candlelight at battlefield park and shared meals with the homeless. They have appeared on TV to demonstrate visible support; Angela Gegg allowed us on her Show on Krem Radio and later an editorial was triggered "UniBAM divides Belize!" We have always seen HIV as an important space.More and more the system is looking at guiding principles of non-discrimination and acknowledging diversity and human rights principles in policy documents.

Think Locally, but act Globally! We have ensure that rights enforcement concepts are integrated into any new policy development such as the current strategic plan for HIV in the national response. We have worked with LAC allies and Global Rights, back in 2007, then switched over to Heartland International Alliance and continued our work at the OAS General Assembly, countering the Vatican representatives effort to undermine S.O.G.I resolutions from 2008 to 2012. We have worked on ensuring Belize supported the UN Resolution on Extrajudicial Killings that included Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (S.O.G.I), circulated the joint UN Statement on S.O.G.I issues and have ensured we did shadow reports for the Universal Periodic Review in 2009 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2013. We network with CONGA, entered Global list like I.T.P.C, rectal microbicides, L.G.B.T SOGI list, commonwealth law, OAS LGBT google groups,cflags,UNGASS to be engaged in the global  and regional politics of advocacy.

Communal War is waged peaceful: We have seen persons inspired to tell their discrimination experience;persons willing to report on a conversation at a policy meeting; persons offering donations to implement a lesbian workshop; persons offering their home to do group sessions;  persons offering PR advice and helping to map allies in the system; designing logos and offering to write articles in the newspapers. We have seen training occurred around discrimination; teachers calling and student wanting information on section 53 and L.G.B.T Human Rights work; individual calling certain media personalities and persons engaged in dialogue with the church on a sustained basis. Wearing wristbands in church and shaking hands with opponents.We have inspired the group Everyday People in San Ignacio who are an independent group seeking to build community confidence. Individuals essentially have acted as community monitors proactively being the eyes and ears of the response to garner support.

In battling conservatives, be Fierce conservatives:

We have sought to reclaim the public message, and reframe the debate, its now about reminding conservatives that their accusation of L.G.B.T rights advancement damaging the families being an inaccurate position. Our work  is really about strengthening family relationships and securing stability of the family. For us the current position of our opponents only divides families, by forcing families to choose to express  conditional of love. We say that the current Christian position of love the sinner, but hate the sin, is hurting families, not helping, and that such statements divide, they do not unite a community in the grips of crime and violence.

Legal Advocacy: Challenging section 53 was about giving life to the fundamental rights and freedoms for L.G.B.T citizens in Belize. It recognizes that social debate in an intrical part of cultural change, it allows for hearts and minds to evolve and it allows society to test its governance structure. It requires a communication plan that is flexible and a legal team that's regional. The simultaneous strategy of legal and social dialogue cannot be planned, but can be managed. We borrowed the strategy from the US and Latin America, but its the Caribbean that drives this approach with a goal to perfecting the process in the region.

Strategies Evolved:

The debate around section 53 have allowed us to recognize the trans formative process of section 53 in pulling out the issue of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms out the policy closet. COLA, the PUP, the UDP, the Churches are being challenged to take a stand whether for us or against us. Over 100 articles have been written about the issue in various forms, 50 on Belize News alone. We are demanding that the state do its job of ensuring that there is no disparity between citizens and for it to recognize that moral position and votes cannot triumph their job of doing the right thing. We have naturally evolved in letting our opponents teach us a thing our two about communication and analysis of our work. without them we would not have a national debate, a clear legislative agenda and could not have imagined the possibilities. We have assess the women's, labor and political rights movement in Belize to teach us about what to expect in community building, defining political currency and messaging. Where opportunities avail itself, is where the movement follows to fit into its message and increase support.

The Next Generation: New leaders

We recognized that its the next generation that will finish the work, so we must cultivate the capacity of young people to envision greater legislative change and to use their access in parliament, between the parties, in the private sector and among media personalities and the upper class to strengthen the process. We see them as calling for equal treatment under the law and more spaces that are inclusive. We see them ensuring gender equity and ensuring the state carry out its mandate of addressing policies that addresses social disparity between citizens.

Institutional Visibility Counts:

Whether discussing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the health system or at Universities, the process allows for community engagement. Each time a teacher asks students to write a paper or a student decides to write a paper, it allows for social reflection and dialogue that act as secondary communication sources of action. Whether HIV, Global Fund, Gender Equity, Crime and Violence, Sexual Abuse, party evaluation of national budgets, or a workshop on care and treatment or sexual violence, it allows for the humanizing of a population that engages and educates the system about itself.

The work continues, the interest continues and opportunity continues. It may be the younger generation who will finish the work while the older heads figure out their place and allies impart institutional history. Old networks will be used and new networks will evolve as time passes. The key is to led a core group of folks in the community push things forward, while the others support behind the scenes. For its clear, rum and parties as a main vision in the community is not longer the only vision, the status quo for legislative and cultural change has been challenged, now we need to see the effort reach the end of the journey with a look to address the hearts and minds of all involved.