Saturday, April 5, 2014

When Belizean Politics, Dominionism, a Senator, OAS and Expression Collide

5th April, 2014

The People's United Party recently appointed Patrick Jason  Andrew  to the Senate of Belize to represent the People's United Party. But he has a history of working with our opponents at Belize action and co-hosting the show rise and shine with Louis Wade. He can be seen below holding up a sign at the Take a Stand Rally" organized by Belize action.  Supporters and allies alike ears perked up as we realized one of the tenets of the pillars was rising quietly to the surface and that was control of government. In a recent quote from Patrick Jason Andrews facebook he pointed out his clear position on L.G.B.T concerns.

His snapshot was" Let history record that we choose to die on our feet rather than live on our knees as slaves to any man(or Foreign godless agenda). For God, Family and Country." Of note, the PUP must be acknowledged for having Lisa Shoman as Senator as well, who is diametrically opposite in view when it come the the party commitment to L.G.B.T issues.

The other noteworthy individual is Julius Espat who was at the the Belize Action Stand Against Rally back in 2011, well, at the budget reading in 2014, he was called an "Apostle Homophobe," by no other that the Prime Minister himself with good reason. Who is Julius Espat, well, Area representative for Cayo South for the People's United Party and Deputy leader for the PUP.

Let us be clear that  social conservatism is not just a  PUP thing, it also has a place with the United Democratic Party with individuals like Minister Anthony Boots Martinez who appeared at a Belize Action rally in 2011 in Belize City and Zenida Moya, former mayor of Belize City who appeared in the constitutional marches against the gender policy and UniBAM in 2013.

Boots back in 2011 spoke of the following words at the take the stand rally for Belize Action,"“My position is that God never placed anything on me for me to look at a man and jump on a man. I’ll be clear on it … How would you decriminalize that, I am sorry, but that is law. Not only is the law made by man that is a law made from the Bible. Why do you think God made a man and a woman, man has what woman wants, and woman has what man wants, it’s as simple as that. I’ll fight tooth and nail to keep that law.”At the United Belize advocacy Movement, we are not talking about religious belief, we are talking about outright hostility as hate speech. Cumulatively, governance under a constitutional framework matter, as it must serve all citizens well. While most of these people may not have incited direct hostility, their presence in government be it former or not, invites complicity of indifference and inaction that undermine fundamental rights and freedoms. When a balance of rights enforcement and protection, respect for diversity and the principle of inclusiveness can be of substance, only then, can L.G.B.T citizens be assured that government exist to support rights consideration and not rights restriction.

The issue of free speech has also appeared on the scene after our presentation at the Organization of American States headquarters that was made on March 28th, 2014. We did not imagine hate by symbols of the state. Our supporters got snapshots of a police officer named Dion Guzman saying on facebook the following:

"bun fya pan dem...dont want to say the words dats why god created eve fu adam and no steve fu adam dem worthless piece a.....bun fyaa" When a police officer is saying this despite chapter 138 of the laws of Belize police act, its a cause for concern as it builds no confidence in the police department ability to address any issue professionally.

This issue of hate speech is not something we imagine, its something that exists in the next snaphot from Armando as he can be quoted at saying"I don't think these freaks of nature should be imprisoned, they should be burnt at the stake." This comment was made right after a big fat lie mentioned by Louis Wade who spoke of "They want to jail us for saying homosexuality is a sin. They want the bible labeled as hate publication, they want to make it illegal to give money to churches that preach against homosexuality UNIBAM just wrong."

Back on  November 17th 2011,an individual with the handle General made an online comment on a channel five story regarding section 53 that we inserted into the OAS presentation that speaks to feeding individuals to sharks. A snapshot of the person online comments reveal exactly what we were saying.

"...Godfrey Smith and Lisa Shoman.....pack dem up and the rest of nasty people and drop dem out a sea pas the reef….. and let the sharks eat their body parts that they don’t know how to use.”

We dont imagine hate speech, we document it!


PM response to OAS Presentation

Thursday, April 3, 2014

When Belize Opponents Knowledge of International Human Rights System becomes embrassing

April 3rd, 2014

American Scott Stirm circulated an email  that spoke to OAS presentation made by Caleb Orozco of UniBAM and Stephen Diaz of B.Y.E.C on 28th March, 2014. The presentation can be seen here 

The email pointed out the following:

"... that Belize is “perpetuating hate speech,” because someone wrote Orozco a note saying “not even dogs do this.” (9 min 15 sec into video, also 13:30)," but if Scott Stirm listened closely, the presentation spoke to an Amandala article, not to someone writing Orozco. 

The email also spoke to a resolution to ratify the ‘Discrimination Against Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity’  at the OAS” last year in Guatemala. (6 min. 10 sec into video)." To show, how these people do not know what they are talking about, its important to note that there were two resolutions, one that spoke to Human Rights Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Gender Expression (AG/RES: XLIII-O/13 2807) and one that spoke to the Inter-American Convention against all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance (AG/RES. 2804 (XLIII-O/13). There was no such resolution named ‘Discrimination Against Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity.  The OAS website further clarified in the following way:

"The 43rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), which is taking place in Antigua, Guatemala, today adopted the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance and opened them for signature."

The email continued with saying that " This resolution was SO EXTREME that the US and Canada, both pro-gay, VOTED AGAINST IT!!"  This is rather confusing because we know that the US and Canada did sponsor  their so called, " Discrimination Against Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity" They of course need to figure out what they are talking about first. 

The email spoke as well in its subject line as "filing a complaint at the OAS". Mr. Stirm, if you simply did your home work, you would know that we did not file a complaint, but made a presentation of our concerns which was constructive, that was designed to raise awareness about areas of concern with the state and offered an opportunity for formal  and informal dialogue. Further more, There is no charge because a hearing is not a petition. The claim referred to the objections raised by Belize to the text of the resolution AG/RES. 2807 (XLIII-O/13) that was adopted by the 43rd General Assembly of the OAS. The resolution was adopted by consensus by the General Assembly, with footnotes of countries that raised objections (but did not abstain because there was not a vote, but a consensual adoption). The resolution was presented by Brazil and co-sponsored by the United States. It was supported by Canada as it results from the acts of the discussion of the General Commission on June 6th 2013, in Antigua, Guatemala. Again, it was adopted by consensus by all 34 OAS member states.

In the hearing there was no reference to failing to ratify the resolution. A resolution is a non-binding legal instrument and cannot be ratified. Only binding instruments of international law (i.e. conventions, treaties, optional or additional protocols) require ratification by member states following signature.

By signing and ratifying on January 8th, 1991 the Charter of the Organization of American States adopted in Bogota, Colombia on April 30th, 1948, whose article 106 establishes the creation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Belize recognizes the authority of the Commission, also by virtue of section (e) of the preamble of the Constitution of Belize that acknowledge the respect for international law and treaty obligations.

Added to this email was the discussion of American Scott Stirm and Belizean Louis Wade of Plus TV Rise and Shine this morning where Louis Wade spoke of UniBAM giving Belize a Black Eye and the need to declare UniBAM "persona non grata." Louis Wade calling for the "Belizean people to demand the disbanding of UniBAM", is ironic as he made that comment (for the suspension of  right to association) moments after he accused UniBAM of wanting to "take away the rights of others". That seems to be one of his new talking points… disband Unibam (hmm, maybe he likes that Nigera law against pro-LGBT associations?) Furthermore,calling the presentation,"a demonic pack of lies straight from the pits of hell!" led to a level of denial that violence and discrimination is not experience by L.G.B.T citizens in the country. Scott Stirm spoke of our Agenda, but failed to discuss the Dominionists agenda that is shaped by Belize Prayer Network led by George Ferrar whose site spoke of answering to BEAC or Belize Evangelical Association of Churches.

Which by they way is supported by  fringe leader, Rick Joyner, far rights president of The OAK Initiative. How do we know? well the site of Belize Prayer Network tells us. This snapshot shows him admitting  support below:

It is clear when they suggests that only Caleb Orozco have access to the OAS, is to ignore the schedules that existed for the week and the many hearing the IAHRC had from March 24th to March 28th, 2014. The hearings included many presentations about the death penalty, torture, indigenous people, democratic Rule, killing of Journalists, Maternal Health, Criminal Justice, gender-base violence as well as LGBTTI issues. The list can be found below in links at the end of the article.

   The inter-american human rights system was born with the adoption of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man in Bogotá, Colombia in April of 1948. The American Declaration was the first international human rights instrument of a general nature. The IACHR was created in 1959 and held its first session in 1960. Since that time and until 2009, the Commission has held 134 sessions, some of them at its headquarters, others in different countries of the Americas.
     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (“OAS”) whose mission is to promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere. It is composed of seven independent members who serve in a personal capacity. Created by the OAS in 1959, the Commission has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. Together with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (“the Court” or “the I/A Court H.R.), installed in 1979, the Commission is one of the institutions within the inter-American system for the protection of human rights (“IAHRS”).
The work of the IACHR rests on three main pillars:

  • the individual petition system;
  • monitoring of the human rights situation in the Member States, and
  • the attention devoted to priority thematic areas.
 The mandate can be further reviewed in detail at the links below that describes the guiding document of the IAHRC. Furthermore, to tell people about our desire to for special rights, takes with the other hand, what both parties have acknowledged with the other hand. They even acknowledge LGBT Human rights in an example where an assault takes place. Stirm and Wade are professional propagandists, who copy messaging for US Evangelicals groups who invert a communication to their advantage,  their skill is so good, even I can believe it, if I don't fact check.

IAHRC Schedule:


Inter-American Convention on Discrimination and Intolerance

Inter-American Cnvention on Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance

Resolution on InterAmerican Convention on Against Racism, Racial Discrimination,  and Related Forms of Intolerance (  AG/RES.2805 XLIIIO/13)

Resolution on Human Rights Sexual Oreintation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression

Belize Prayer Network 

Inter-American Human Rights Commission

Thematic Reports of the IAHRC 

Precautionary Measures

Mandate of IAHRC

Channel Five Coverage
State Response 

Civil Society Response 

PlusTv Coverage

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

If leaders cannot publicly defend their LGBT Relatives, is there any hope in governance?

1st April, 2014

Thematic hearings at the OAS was done on March, 28th, 2014, most importantly, it was the first LGBTTI thematic hearing done for Belize in 32 years of its independence. It was constructive, engaging and informative as the Inter-American Commission asked for additional evidence of discrimination in education and employment and workplace while the state was asked about data it has on crime an violence. After the hearing, we sat down with the Commission, International partners and the ambassador to discussion the process of precautionary measures issued by the the Commission along with dynamics of mechanism.

Afterwards we met with Tracy Robinson to look at different approaches to engagement with the state on LGBTTI issues. For the first time, Jamaica and Belize was side by side with our Latin American counterparts. It was clear that the approval of  laws were not sufficient to ensure rights enforcement and protection, that established mechanism require penalities for acting unprofessional or being negligent in duties, that the issue was about addressing hearts and minds along with sufficient budget allocations and personnel to carry out investigations.

The experience is shared to make the point that political engagement matters and that its cumulative in its effects at the national, regional, hemispheric and global level. The point is made as well that Belize's political leaders have families and relatives. If they have never been comfortable in publicly defending their L.G.B.T relatives, what hope is there that they would be willing to acknowledge and invest in the protection of L.G.B.T citizens that are not their relatives.

It would be historical to see the PM, a minister of cabinet, a representative of the opposition speak about their L.G.B.T families and to see in a party manifesto, their commitment to non-discrimination. It would be valuable to see how official research could transform policy and legislative framework. 

In the meantime, L.G.B.T concerns seems to require 1). political engagement that include sensitization of terms and awarenesss raising of laws that protect and discriminate. 2). It requires an investment in mechanisms that has resources to support rights enforcement and protection 3). It requires a hearts and minds approach. 4). It requires that individual come out the closet as L.G.B.T citizenry clout in not in their public stance, but their collective private stance. Politicians cannot claim, they don't know, if they can see. Religious leaders cannot say they don't know, if they can see. Families cannot say, they are the only ones, if they can see. See, that collectively, there is a presence of diversity, with lives of dignity exercising their rights to movement, expression and association.

In 32 years of independence, Belize has never had to deal with its L.G.B.T citizenry. It leaders are now challenged to look at the laws through the lens of gender and sexuality. The issues of unemployment, education access, shelter, sexual and reproductive health, relationship security, poverty, the elderly, indigenous, children, youth all have a cross-cutting theme.  It will be interesting in the years to come to see how our governance structure response or reacts to these issues. It will be interesting to see if LG.B.T Citizens becomes collateral damage as the country progress to the next general election or integrated on the basis of respect for diversity.