Friday, June 20, 2014

Belize: Nation of GOD or Nation of Laws.

Posted: 20th June, 2014

Author: Nuri Muhammad

We find ourselves in a dilemma in Belize today; are we a nation of God or a nation of laws? The answer is not as easy as some would believe. Belize is in a transitional time warp that can be better understood if we saw our collective consciousness in two parts: pre-independence and post-independence.
If the same question was posed fifty years ago the answer would be resound: we are a nation of God! While we were never a theocracy by any means, the Christian religious values which underpinned our collective value system made it no question that the majority of us acknowledge the supremacy of God in our personal and collective lives and thus it is not surprising that that God consciousness forms a part of the first principle in the preamble of our constitution. During those days none would have dared challenge the constitutionality of that fundamental principle, out of reverence, or out of fear of being ostracized by this powerful collective consciousness. Questioning God was evidence of blasphemy.
Ask the same question today, however, and the answer is less convicted. Post independent Belize has evolved a new set of values that challenges some of the old values that were taken for granted in pre-independent Belize. One such conflict is in the answer to this simple, yet complex question: are we a nation of God or a nation of laws?
Clearly the politically correct answer is we are a nation of laws governed by the principles of our constitution and all the conventions and declarations we have signed. So while the acknowledgement of God remains the first principle of the document the definition of supremacy is intrinsically challenged by other principles contained in the body of the document itself, especially those which says that every citizen has equal human rights under the law.
The reason there was no challenge to the legal definition of supremacy in pre-independent Belize was because supremacy meant that God’s moral code, as outlined in the Old Testament of the Bible, underpinned all our laws and the preservation of public morality was based on those religious principles. While the principle of privacy was respected in pre-independent Belize, if there was evidence of any display of public immorality there was an immediate reaction from the public and the law.
This is not the case in post-independent Belize. Our social rules are no longer governed by strict adherence to the old definition of public morality as defined in Judo-Christian ethics. In an era where soft and sometimes hard core pornography can be seen by 24 hours cable channels; where graphic dancehall lyrics coupled with hard-core sexually suggestive videos can be consumed on public media without censorship, where women and children continue to be victims of sexual assault, Belize, as far as public morality, now find itself at a place where the question again arises: are we a nation of God or a nation of laws.
The gauge for public display of immorality has been so totally blurred today that the definition of what is morally right or wrong is now reduced to personal opinion and protected by the constitutional principle of freedom of conscience. And if you want to extend your peculiar definition of morality to a group of like minds, you are protected by the constitutional principle of freedom of association.
While these constitutional protections are enshrined within our constitution our exercise of those freedoms was different in pre independent Belize. There would have never been a UNIBAM challenge in a Supreme Court of pre independent Belize. Same people, same country, but different times. While there were the cross-dressing “Carmen Mirandas and Shirleys” in pre-independent Belize there was no perceived threat from their lifestyle as there now appears to be in post-independent Belize with the mob attack on “Vanessa Champagne Paris”.
This mob attack was indicative of this underlying clash of old values versus new values. The mob, and the spectators who did nothing to intervene, felt the victim deserved his ‘punishment’ for breaking “God’s law” which condemns men wearing women’s attire. The mob’s attack was spontaneous and irrational but fueled by an innate sense of rightness and justice in their action. So despite church leaders later distancing themselves from the actions of the mob it was clear that the root justification for this mob attack was religious.
The law on the other hand takes the view that there is never justification for assault on a person regardless to your personal or collective disagreement with them. So despite the moral indignation of the mob and onlookers at the behavior of ‘Vanessa’ and their Old Testament instinct to punish him, the law protects ‘Vanessa’ and condemns the actions of the mob.
It was said by one esteemed Jurist that you cannot legislate morality. By this I think he meant you cannot set out laws governing how individuals will choose to act or not act on a particular moral question since moral conscience is the preview of the individual and no one has a right to direct a persons’ conscience – each is personally responsible; this is a principle in law.
Following this reasoning then, the proponents for repealing S53 say that, “to legislate that a certain kind of moral behavior is illegal, based on “God’s law”, is unconstitutional. The state cannot legislate a person's moral behavior or prevent a person from behaving in a certain way as long as those ways do not affect the rights of others or disrupt the public good”.
While the proponents for keeping S53 as is say, “But isn’t it equally true that if you can’t legislate morality, you also cannot legislate the acceptance of a behavior that a sizeable part of the population finds repugnant and therefore, immoral? Can the state legislate that my child be taught certain material I find immoral; does the state have the right to legislate a morally offensive agenda? Isn’t this the same principle in reverse?”
This is an example of the conundrum that Caribbean Jurist faces today. The legal traditions of the west are based on Judo-Christian ethical foundations and have always had moral and ethical excellence as the goals of good governance. However, as western societies have evolved over the last century they have moved drastically away from a God centered society to a man centered paradigm with a result that “God”, as perceived in the traditional Judo-Christian ethical frame, is no longer the source of law: this has been replaced by a UN system of declarations and conventions called ‘human rights’ which are enshrined in the constitutions of most former colonial states in the region.
What does this all mean for us in Belize, in 2014, and how do we answer the question: are we a nation of God or a nation of laws today? Clearly our recent history shows that we lean more to the latter definition, but are the two mutually exclusive or is it possible to be both? The dynamics surrounding the UNIBAM case brings that question into sharp focus. The battle lines are drawn and the long awaited decision of the Chief Justice will be interpreted as an affirmation of one or the other.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Review of The Lies of our Opponents

June 18th, 2014

Yesterday, on facebook, for the first time, we saw Scott Stirm admitting to Dominonists Theology in a thread started by Nefretery Nancy Marin. In the thread, Stirm said,"I am grateful for the truths we were taught at Youth With a Mission, and the" 7 influencing areas in society", once called the ”Mind Moulders” that shape our society, now called,”The 7 mountains Areas of Society”. Church, Education, Family, Gov’t, Business & Commerce, Media, Art & Entertainment. Loren Cuningham taught us that when the Church pulls back from any of these areas, then darkness takes over. It’s always important to discern the grace from our lives, for which of the areas He calling into- AREAS plural, because they do overlap. We need that “Issachar anointing” 1 Chr. 12, the “sons of Issachar who really had understanding/discern of the times to know what Israel ought to do...” We have our work cut out for us! Roll up our sleeves! Pray, hear, then GO GET EM!

While Louis Wade said in another thread that," BFLA 3000 babies aborted in 2013, most of them, just as in the US/black Creole babies...what did human rights say?" The Executive Director actually said it was 13. See actual snapshot below:

The lies do not end there, as Belize Action in a flyer said that " Orozco Files International Complaint Against Belize at the OAS." The sad thing about this accusation was that it showed they have little knowledge of the OAS system and failed to do an research to clarify their accusation. It was simply a hearing to discuss a broad area of concern. It was not a legal hearing, it was a presentation that required no formal decision.

This flyer builds upon previous lies which shows that Scott Stirm integrity is low. In a news report on channel seven about the so called constitutional marches, he reported that there were 10,000 people. His comments were made July 29th, 2013 in response to a Southern Poverty Law Center Report. The report read,"According to him, this report was a weak attempt which was timed to try to distract the nation from a month of Constitutional marches across Belize which, quote, “mobilized almost 10,000 Belizeans to stand for Constitutional values and opposed to the 2013 Gender Policy in its present form.”  Even if, Dangriga rally was added to the the numbers, it still would not be 10,000, but such is the hype of Belize Action Scott Stirm.

Not enough to mis-characterise the gender policy,  they sought to malign the Executive Director of the National Women's Commission, Ann-Marie William, regarding statements of the gender policy being a done deal. As usual Belize Action, used a right-wing blogger to make its point. 

Opponents continue with their lies, speaking of orchestrating the mob attack of Vanessa Champage Paris in April of this year. The facebook comments below reveal their ability to twist an event of inhumanity- despite saying they do not support violence- to ignoreand dismiss the abuse and harm experienced by this individual. Furthermore, laying blame on "the orchestrating" and not the perpetrators of violence.

We have countless examples of outright lies being told as fact to the Belizean Public for consumption. We will continue to document each moment as it occurs.

Dangriga Rally

Stirm Strikes Back

Vanessa Champagne Paris

Meeting with PM on Gender Policy Updates

Right Wing Bloggers

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Freedom under Attack! Bain, freedoms and a complicated way to dialogue

Posted June 13th, 2014

For the first time ever, Belize and Jamaica has almost simultaneous protest regarding professor Bain termination. The debate pitted the issue of religious-base bigotry which has a moral stamp of approval against a collective who is concern about the intersecting issues of rights enforcement and protection as part of an overall health policy concern. Historically, CARICOM member states, have not constructively and responsibly addressed the rights concerns of its L.G.B.T citizens in any substantive way. The Bain case, offers the region an opportunity to teach us all about the limits of free expression and thought and the obligations of individuals in a fiduciary relationships that involves vulnerable groups.

The broader concern for the region, is does religious-base bigotry gets a moral stamp of approval to undermine the rights of L.G.B.T citizens in the region and what happens in the struggle for rights acknowledgment which are already in many states constitutions.  The recent debate about Professor Bain termination was argued as an issue of Freedom of Speech in both Belize and Jamaica. Bain, as a result, filed for an injunction on Wednesday to hold on to his job at CHART that he has held since 2001. The article says he is suing on 15 grounds and that Bain is arguing that said disagreement and subsequent termination conflicted with his right to freedom of expression, thought and conscience. He was granted his request for an injunction to prevent his dismissal from Chart on Friday this until his case is heard.

If he is really suing on the basis of "his constitutional rights of freedom of expression and thought," the case has more to do with legal limits on employee behavior than it does on contractual provisions. Interestingly, as I am researching this matter, it does not appear citizens of Commonwealth nations have a protection for "freedom of speech" as contained in the US constitution. Instead, they have laws that protect "freedom of expression and opinion," which may be lawfully restricted to respect the rights and reputation of other persons, national security, public order, public health or public morality. Basically, the distinction limits the actions of people breaching the expression of others to obscenity, defamation and discrimination.

The filing base on "his constitutional rights of freedom of expression and thought," will be interesting as the case moves through the court. In the US, there have been a whole slew of decisions (Garcetti v. Ceballos, Connick v. Myers, Pickering v. Board of Education, Waters v. Churchill, Schumann v. Dianon, Perez-Dickson v. City of Bridgeport, etc.) which uphold that neither employees in the public or private workplace are entitled to First Amendment protection if their speech: is “extraordinarily disruptive” to the workplace or work being done, interfered with the employees job performance, placed strain on his relationships with co-workers, created division within the company, or is insubordinate.

In on case precedent, out of Canada which is extremely interesting and pertinent. "Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission v. Whatcott - The decision rests on a compelling premise: that published statements treating members of vulnerable minority groups as somehow less worthy of dignity or respect – as less human – than the rest of society don’t warrant the same degree of Charter protection as other exercises of expressive freedom." (Please read case link for conclusion)

In another case, Burns v. Dye out of New South Wales is also interesting. Basically a man filed a complaint under the anti-vilification laws (the Australian equivalent to Hate Crimes discrimination laws). The ruling is interesting because it states that just because a homosexual might find the words used offensive, they are not necessarily covered by the law. (I would argue that the absence of such legislation in the Caribbean would equate to the situation where language was not covered by law.) HOWEVER, the court ruled in favor of the complainant because of the public nature of the verbal abuse.

Eweida and Others v. the United Kingdom was a decision that was appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. It ultimately is applicable under 2 provisions. One of the litigants Ms Ladele was employed by the London Borough of Islington, which had a “Dignity for All” equality and diversity policy, from 1992. When in 2004 the Civil Unions law was passed, Ladele, a Christian, refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies. The court ruled that her view of marriage was not the same as her right to practice her religion and stated that "Islington was not merely entitled, but obliged, to require her to perform civil partnerships" as part of her employment agreement. Another litigant, Mr McFarlane, was a practicing Christian who worked for Relate, a national private, confidential sex therapy and relationship counseling service, as a counsellor from May 2003 until March 2008. He initially had some concerns about providing counselling services to same-sex couples, but following discussions with his supervisor, he accepted that simply counseling a homosexual couple did not involve endorsement of such a relationship and he was therefore prepared to continue. He subsequently provided counselling services to two lesbian couples, which did not consist of sexual therapy, without any problem. However, in 2007 he refused to offer psycho-sexual therapy, on religious grounds, to gay, lesbian and bi-sexual clients. Throughout 2008 employer and employee met many times to resolve the issue. In 2008, McFarlane was dismissed for stating that he would comply with company policy when he had no intention of doing so. McFarlane appealed to the the Employment Tribunal, and the Employment Appeal Tribunal, losing both times as they found he not suffered direct discrimination on the basis of conscience. He had not been dismissed because of his faith, but because it was believed that he would not comply with company policies. With regard to McFarlane's claim of indirect discrimination, the Tribunal found that Relate’s requirement that its counselors comply with its Equal Opportunities Policy did put McFarlane’s religious beliefs at a disadvantage; however, those were legitimized by the aim to provide of a full range of counseling services to all sections of the community, regardless of sexual orientation. The European Court of Human Rights concurred that the decisions limiting religious freedoms were acceptable for the greater good. This case seem to Mirror the issues around Bain and will be interesting to see how the conservative Jamaica court responds in its final decision.

The case of Bain is going to be interesting in its discourse, as there is an issued about intersection of rights which the Court will be ask to define. What has happened in this bi-national case, is an ensuing discourse about the limits of free speech and its impact on vulnerable groups; the limits of employer/employee relations regarding persons in substantial leadership in carrying out the mission of his employer.

Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine wrote on the termination of Professor Bain contextualising the issue best: "At the core, it is about a program leader publicly undermining the very program and principles he was mandated to support. By his words and action, he voluntarily aligned himself with and gave endorsement to, a diametrically opposed, unacceptable message on an issue of grave import for the UWI.

The essence of the harm, therefore, more so than the content of the words that Professor Bain spoke, is the fact that an authoritative leader of the UWI, spoke with one voice with a litigant partywhose purpose and objectives are in direct conflict with the policies of CHART and the UWI. This litigant clearly advocates the retention of a discriminatory regime that excludes persons from enjoying rights of equality on the basis of their sexual orientation. Consequently, the testimony instantly became associated with the UWI in deeply negative and enduring ways, placing deep question marks on the UWI’s integrity and on its public commitment, not only to progressive notions of public health and HIV programming, but more fundamentally, to non-discrimination, equal opportunity, justice and human rights.

It is a fact that the elimination of discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is a key ingredient of the UWI’s HIV programming which Professor Bain had the honour to lead for many years and about which he testified. Anti-discrimination training is a vital part of CHART’s own program, as conceded in the expert testimony. Significantly, too, the mandate of PEPFAR and the Global Fund for Aids, which funds CHART, is “to develop programs aimed at reducing HIV related stigma.”The mission of UWI’s HIV programming, HARP, as well as CHART, from the very beginning, has co-existed with a human rights agenda, a central plank of which is the need to abolish discriminatory laws on sexual orientation. This is incontestable and no one associated with itcan ever claim to have been unaware of this. I can speak authoritatively to this as one who has been intimately involved with the work of the program from its inception. Further, as an HIV & Law consultant who has been actively engaged for over 20 years in policy development across the region, for governments, international organisations and NGO’s, including on important issues of human rights and justice, I understand why this must be so.

Professor Bain’s longstanding and excellent work on HIV and public health, is without question. Ironically, it is precisely because of his high profile that his remarks and chosen association are so damaging to UWI’s reputation and credibility. The retention of Professor Bain in such circumstances threatened to destroy much of the hard-fought gains and trust that UWI has won in the fight against the scourge of HIV and discrimination in general and seriously undermined its own institutional interests. In this context, such testimony cannot be viewed as a mere personal viewpoint, isolated and insulated from CHART and the UWI’s policy position.Indeed, typically, the very reason authorities like Professor Bain are called upon to speak is because of their professional capacity which is inextricably linked with the institution, the UWI. Thus, Professor Bain cannot separate his personal views from these comments that have come to represent the institution that is the UWI, which is why they are viewed as harmful and irresponsible.

While intellectual freedom is to be protected and encouraged, the UWI has a duty to ensure that on issues where it holds itself up as perpetuating a particular policy for the benefit of the community, the persons who are chosen to take the lead on the matter, are demonstrably in accord with that policy. I cannot think, for example, that UWI could ever appoint an academic known to be a racist, or supporting racist ideology, to head Departments devoted to Race Studies or even History Departments, or a person demonstrating that he or she believes or asserts that women are unequal and their place is in the home, to head the Gender Department! There have been several ‘scientific’ studies that claim that blacks are lazy and intellectually inferior, or women the ‘weaker sex’. Does this mean that in the name of academic freedom, the UWI should compromise its core principles of equality and allow its very integrity to be highjacked? I think not.

Professor Bain, as Head of CHART, was in a fiduciary relationship, where one is placed in a position of great trust, which in turn, induces greater responsibility and duties of care. Professor Bain, and by extension, the UWI, with this testimony, violated these fiduciary duties owed to persons living with HIV, the LGBTI community and to the many who look to it for protection and guiding principle.The bottom line is this: Having given this testimony, it would be impossible for this community, the very constituency that he is supposed to serve, ever to trust Professor Bain again. Thus, the UWI had no choice, after careful review, but to change the leadership of CHART. "

The interesting thing is all this, is what will the Jamaican court decide?  We will have to wait, as the drama unfolds. What we do know is that CARICOM member states have failed to uphold the fundamental rights and freedoms of their L.G.B.T citizens in any substantive way. What Bain case may do, is amplify the concerns and needs of L.G..B.T citizens in the region and finally visibilised the fundamentalists movement in the region as well as among CARICOM member state once and for all. Only time will tell.

Take a Principled Stance
R v Keegstra case:
Saskatchwan Human Rights Commission v Whatcott: 
 Burns v.Dye New South Wales:
Bain takes UWI to Court

Bain gets injunction to prevent dismissal

Eweida and Others v. the United Kingdom

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Life In a Gay: Memoirs of Gay Paul-UniBAM Director Speaks

Reposted June 12th, 2014

So today, after my work shift I decided I would go out and grow my little direct selling business. For most of you that did not know before, I started selling Avon back in 2010 and had to slow down in 2012. Recently last week, I picked up from where I left off and back to that good old Avon guy that everyone knew me as.
Maybe back then, while running here and there, waiving down taxis, jumping in and out of buses, picking up payments, dropping off deliveries, I really never had to stop and think of my safety. I have always been an OUT PROUD GAY MAN! If anyone would ask me, there would be nothing to hide and ALL and I MEAN ALL my customers that I used to serve back then in 2010 to 2012 knew exactly who I was and that was never a problem, and hopefully it remains that way.
On this journey of re-joining the Avon family, I’ve decided to take on two young gay men, one 19, young and excited about life and the other, my partner’s little cousin, a business major from high-school at the age of 16, under my wings and apprenticeship. I try my best to ALWAYS look out for the best interest of young people, especially that of my own – the LGBTI. I hope that I can be an example for them and that they continue living life, with dignity and with pride.
Unfortunately, it seems that Belize or rather, some of my fellow Belizeans do not see me as apart of the economic machinery of this country and of course sees me less than human. I got on the Ladyville bus from the PUMA gas station with my two apprentices, found our seats and sat down. And the jeers and mockery begins, ”who you think da d lady?” ”Da one have bigga titty!” ”3 UNIBAM de pahn D BUS!” one of them belted and alerted! Of course, I am one who simply does not care what comes out of my my mouth and I responded with the same tone, ”and so fucking what?!” The bus grew quiet and serious, no one said a word. We continued our journey from where we picked up to the Belize City Pound Yard area, with the continuous taunts, and announcements of “Orozcos” on the bus. All I did was grew more and more angry and hoped to the divine that I did not react in a violent way. We got off and while the back seat hate mongers, who I might add were 4th form Ladyville Tech students, passed remarks to have us continue off the bus, so as to avoid any conflict at that point, while all the while, all I did was remained quiet after my burst of profanity on the initial start of the journey.
We continued down Orange Street, passing Euphrates Ave and again, a man shouting from the near by store, “FUCKING BATTYMAN!’ Another man riding along side, stood up and notified a police officer around that corner where we were at, “da bally d harass d young man dem,” luckily the police was around to make his presence known; for that, I am grateful. However, I only had one thing in mind, AVON SALES! One of the friends, called his mom asking her if she could pick us up. Determined as I am, I told him, we are simply walking through and I need to worry about my customers and have no time to wait. So, we pressed forward unto Regent street.
We stopped by at our local district sales manager, Rialto Caribe Ltd, not before hearing the taxi drivers, upset that we refused their taxi services, yell out, ”de nuh need we, de have Orozco money!” I asked myself, ”Fuck, someone, please show me this money.” I did what I needed to do, I bought some brochures, and a couple products and off to LoveFM, to visit another customer. It did not take too long, when I saw some kids, about 12-15 passing taps on each others’ shoulders, as if to say, “look at these three” and of course, one of them, tantalized by picking up a rock from off the ground. Of course I remained alert and continued.
Mind you now, this was all on foot. I finally, finished up with all my customers, drop offs and could not wait to get to my safe space. Well, at least that is what I hope and is at least what anyone hopes for, to have a sense of security. But NOT TODAY! Some random guy visiting my neighbor, rode off but not before saying, “BUN FAYAH!” Ah yes, the good old, brimstone and fire, the good old ”bun fayah” had to be used today and why not? We are after all NOT HUMAN! Is that not what the backward far right wants for us to think?
And so I leave you with this. Today I had only ONE “agenda,” and that was TO SELL SELL SELL! To live, to survive, to be able to provide for my family unite, my partner of 6 years, my 2 dogs, my cat. That was my only agenda. To be able to go back home to the man that loves for who I am and to LIVE FREELY WITHOUT FEAR OF MY LIFE! Will I continue to speak my mind on the issue of human rights? YES! Do I blame UniBAM? No, it is moments like these, that drive me to continue to press the issue, speak my mind and to fight until truly, we can say, ”freedom comes tomorrow’s noon” FOR ALL BELIZEANS.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Posted June 9th, 2014
The Coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite, transgender, transsexual and intersex (LGBTTTI) in Latin America and the Caribbean made ​​up of groups of more than 20 countries, meeting in the framework of the 44th General Assembly of the Organization of American States held in Asuncion, Paraguay, from 3 to 5 June 2014, reports on developments in the Assembly as well as the work done by the Coalition in previous days.
The OAS adopted in this House the seventh Resolution "Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression" that:
·          Condemns all forms of discrimination, violence and human rights violations based on those factors.
Invites Member States to:
·          Eliminating barriers to equal access to political participation and other areas of public life for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender and intersex and prevent interference in their private lives.
·          Adopt public policies against discrimination and for preventing and investigating violence against this group and to ensure that victims of the same judicial protection of equal.
·          Produce data on homophobic and transphobic violence and ensure adequate protection and human rights defenders.
·          Ensuring adequate protection for intersex people and implement policies and procedures, as appropriate, to ensure conformity of medical practices with recognized human rights standards.
This year fundamentalists and anti-rights groups held a lobbying and advocacy work before the Assembly, in and out of the same against the adoption of this resolution and in favor of traditional family life and supported by senators and Paraguay. In this context, the participation of LGBTTTI Coalition has been instrumental in the adoption of this Resolution.
Legislative advocacy events
During the days prior to the completion of the 44th General Assembly, held preparatory events Coalition advocacy and involvement in the OAS with the participation of officials of that agency.
On 3 June, the Coalition organized a Dialogue on Human Rights of LGBTI people in Latin America and the Caribbean, which was attended by the President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Commissioner Tracy Robinson, also in charge of the newly created Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex people. Likewise, he was attended by Dr. Rosa Maria Ortiz, Commissioner of the IACHR and Rapporteur on the Rights of Children and Adolescents. Both commissioners referred to the situation in the region on the issue. The Commissioner Robinson reported that the Commission has received numerous reports of violence against LGBTI people, particularly against trans women and gay young people aged 20 to 30 years. It also expressed concern about the reported attacks against defenders of human rights of indigenous peoples and noted that the states of the region are not helping to address this problem. For his part, Commissioner Ortiz addressed the taboo that exists in the region on the very existence of children and young lesbian, gay and trans. And because of this invisibility and lack of recognition, hundreds of thousands of children are victims of harassment and bullying in schools and physical and verbal violence in families. This spiral of violence and humiliation ends in suicide ideation and realization. And he said it is vital to put in relevance soaring levels of violence to which they are subjected.
This box also has attended the Alternate Representative of Brazil to the OAS, Marco Kinzo Bernardy, who gave an account of the progress of the integration of the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity within the system of the OAS and mentioned in particular the importance of the mandate of the General Assembly of the OAS to the IACHR to conduct a study of laws that hinder the recognition of human rights for LGBTI people in the region.
To assess the prospects of advancement of LGBTI rights and participation of civil society in the context of the OAS, discussions were also held with Ambassador Alfonso Quinonez, Secretary for External Relations of the OAS, Dr. Dante Black, director Department of International Law of the OAS, and Dr. Fanny Gomez-Lugo, of the Special Rapporteur for the Rights of LGBTI Persons of the IACHR. Likewise, in another session was attended by Mr Edgar Carrasco, regional advisor on Human Rights and Gender Equality of the UNAIDS Regional Office for Latin America; Ms. Clarisa brezzo, UNAIDS Programme officer; and Ms. Maria Tallarico, Regional Practice Team Leader HIV / AIDS UNDP in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Dialogue between civil society and the OAS
During the informal dialogue between the Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, and civil society held on June 2, members of the LGBTTTI Coalition, thanked the Secretary General for his efforts and support for the adoption of the Inter-American Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance and requested they continue with these efforts to persuade States to sign and ratify. In a polarized and intolerant controversial positions by pro-life groups against sexual and reproductive rights and LGBTI rights, environment Mr. Insulza said the reality of families in the region is much more diverse than the family type they advocate, they likewise reiterated that States have the right to be involved in decisions of people in their private lives. We must find a way to respect the rights of all, he said, and stressed the importance of combating discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the region. It also recognized the work of LGBTTTI civil associations in advancing this issue within the OAS system.
The next day, June 3, in the formal dialogue between civil society representatives and heads of delegations of the member countries of the OAS, the representation of the people belonged to LGBTTTI Camila Zavala, lesbian activist who exposed the Paraguay situation of violence and social exclusion against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. "There can not be fully developed when people LGBTTTI are marginalized the right to education, work, health, justice," he said delegates at the Assembly with the theme Development Social Inclusion, and asked the members to sign and ratify the Convention on Racism, States and Discrimination and All Forms of Intolerance adopted by the General Assembly held in Antigua, Guatemala the previous year. speech we reproduce below.
This time, a greater number of ambassadors and heads of delegations reaffirmed their countries' commitment to the promotion and protection of rights of persons LGBTTTI, Belize, Uruguay, Argentina, Mexico, Ecuador, United States and Colombia. Dialogue with civil society was pa rticularmente controversial participation by Provida activists in opposition to the recognition of any rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Panama, in the end, signed the Convention against Discrimination and All Forms of Intolerance, joining Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador and Argentina, countries that signed the previous year when it was approved.
Astraea Lesbian Foundation thank for Justice, COC Netherlands, UNDP, GISHR - Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, AIDS Alliance, ARCUS Foundation and the Department of International Affairs of the Organization of American States for its support for our participation in this House.
Participating Organizations
I participated for the Coalition of LGBTTTI of Latin America and the Caribbean working within the framework of the OAS:
Argentina Akahata Task Force on Sexuality and Gender
Belize United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM)
Bolivia National Network of Trans Women in Bolivia (REDTREBOL)
Diversencia Foundation
Chile Transsexual Organization for Dignity Diversity (OTD)
Amanda Jofre Union
Colombia Association Leaders in Action
Colombia Diversa
Mulabi Costa Rica - Latin American Space for Sexualities and Rights
Ecuador Bishop Association
Taller de Comunicación Mujer
El Salvador Aspidh Rainbow Association
Guatemala Organization Trans Queens of the Night (OTRANS)
Guyana Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD)
Honduras Collective Unity Pink
Letter S Mexico AIDS, Culture and Everyday Life
Nicaragua Nicaraguan Red Trans Activists (REDTRANS)
Panama Panamanian Association of Transgender
Paraguay Aireana Group for Lesbian Rights
Climbing Association
Dominican Republic Women and Health Collective
St Lucia United & Strong
Suriname Women's Way
Trinidad and Tobago Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO)
Uruguay Uruguay Trans Association (ATRU)
As regional partners of the Coalition:
·          Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities (CARIFLAGS)
·          Global Initiative for Sexuality and Human Rights - Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights (GISHR-HA)
·          Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender People (REDLACTRANS)

Determining property rights of cohabiting gay couples: A lesson from The Bahamas

Reposted june 9th, 2014
Written:June 9, 2014

Prince Neto DCB Waite is a Doctoral Candidate at the New York University School of Law. He is a graduate of the University of the West Indies (Mona Campus and Cave Hill Campus) and Harvard Law School.

By Prince Neto DCB Waite
The global fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) rights sits on a continuum from the fight for mere survival to the fight to live with equal dignity to heterosexual couples. In general, the Commonwealth Caribbean rests at the lower end on that continuum where survival—freedom from violence (vigilante killing hate crimes and abuse), freedom from criminal sanction and access to basic amenities (e.g. healthcare and housing)—is the central goal of LGBT rights advocacy. In this region, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas’ position as somewhat of a regional outlier was confirmed by its Court of Appeal in a recent decision.
20130916diasporaTwo men, BJ and AJ (not their real names) were in an intimate relationship for some fifteen (15) years. After dating for a period of about three (3) months they decided to see each other exclusively. They fell in love and pursued a genuinely committed relationship. Unfortunately, like many couples, BJ’s and AJ’s once loving relationship irretrievably broke down. During the course of their relationship, the couple purchased numerous properties; one was used as their home and the others as investments. Throughout the relationship they also purchased pieces of art work, a boat and a truck. Even though BJ provided all the purchase monies, the investment properties were held in their joint names, either as tenants in common or joint tenants. The couple’s home, however, was held in the sole name of BJ. The boat and truck were held in joint names and the art works, purchased by BJ, were on display in the family home.
Following the dissolution of the relationship, BJ began legal proceedings against AJ in The Bahamian Supreme Court contending that as he was the one that provided all of the purchase monies, he was the sole owner of the legal and beneficial interests of all of the real and personal properties. AJ contended that they shared the properties equally. The Supreme Court agreed with BJ’s assertions. AJ appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Applying the Common Intention
Principle to a Cohabiting Gay Couple

The Court of Appeal separated the properties into two categories: (1) Investment Property and (2) Domestic Property. What is notable about the decision is how the Court dealt with the domestic properties. The Bahamian Court of Appeal shared the view of the UK House of Lords (as expressed in a case concerning a heterosexual cohabiting couple that contributed unequal money towards the purchasing of the family home) that “cohabiting couples are in a different kind of relationship. The place where they live together is their home. Living together is an exercise in give and take, mutual co-operation and compromise. Who pays for what in regard to the home had to be seen in the wider context of their overall relationship. A more practical, down to earth, fact based approach is called for.” It follows then that monetary contribution towards purchasing domestic properties is not the sole deciding factor as to where the beneficial interests lay. The Court of Appeal disagreed with the Supreme Court Judge that the sentiments expressed by the Law Lords did not apply to the case between BJ and AJ. The Court stated that “[t]his aspect of the case is clearly about the rights of a cohabiting couple in a house which they occupied together.” As such, the determining factor in the present context is whether there was a “common intention between the parties [that] they were to share the beneficial interest in [the home].”
The two most remarkable things about the Court of Appeal’s decision are: (1) the recognition that a cohabiting gay couple is a domestic context, and (2) cohabiting gay couples are on the same legal footing as cohabiting heterosexual couples. In recognizing the couple, the Court said: “The evidence before the court below [the Supreme Court], although the parties shied away from making any reference to it in this Court, was clearly that [BJ] and [AJ] had an intimate relationship for the nearly 15 years they lived together.” Even in the men’s shyness, the Court of Appeal recognized that as they were a former couple it was only fitting to characterize their relationship as a domestic context. The Court could have treated the men as cohabiting friends, but it did not. In a matter-of-fact way, the Court of Appeal Judges had before it two men and treated them with human dignity by recognizing their intimate relationship and cohabitation as a proper domestic context for the purpose of deciding where the beneficial interests in the property lay.
Having treated the former couple’s home as a domestic context, the Court went on to apply the common intention principle to determine who held the beneficial interest. The Court’s apparent thought process was this: Is this a domestic context? Yes, because they were a cohabiting couple. What legal rules are we to apply? We apply the rules that are relevant to cohabiting couples. The sexual orientation of the men was irrelevant. Having identified them as a couple, the principles of non-discrimination and equality before the law were embedded in the Court’s decision—For the purpose of disposition of property in relation to a former cohabiting couple, heterosexual couples and gay couples are on equal footing before law.

The Court’s decision shows that, at least in The Bahamas, the law is no longer blind to the familial arrangements of gay couples. So, as gay couples embark on life together and entangle their affairs as ordinary couples do they should know that there are rules of family law and property law that apply to them. Where a court is asked to determine the shared interests (if any) of the domestic property of a former cohabiting couple (gay or straight) it is well to be aware that the court will look at the wider context of your overall relationship. Some things that the court may consider include: (1) advice given at the time of purchase of the property, (2) reasons for registration in joint names or sole name, (3) purpose for purchasing the property, (4) how the purchase of the property was financed, initially and subsequently, (5) whether couple is jointly liable for the mortgage, (6) how the couple arrange their finances, separately or together, (7) nature of couple’s relationship, and (8) whether there are children for which both are responsible to provide a home.

Regional Applicability
It is wise to note that even though the decision is situated in a context specific to The Bahamas, that is, Parliament’s failure to account for common law or long-term relationships in the property law regime and the decriminalization of same sex sexual relations, it is not unreasonable to suggest that these facts do not prevent the application or adoption of The Bahamian approach in other countries in the region.

Absence of Property Law Rule for Cohabiting Gay Couples
The common intention principle effectively empowers a court to determine the property rights of couples or cohabitees. The principle arose in the UK where the House of Lords felt that the British Parliament failed to devise a scheme for the disposition of domestic property that was in-keeping with the ‘changing social and economic circumstances’. These circumstances were the diversity of domestic circumstances or contexts other than marriage. Consequently, the court had to step in. The relevant question in the Commonwealth Caribbean is whether there is a diversity of domestic circumstances, which the parliaments have failed to take into account when shaping the relevant rules on property rights. In The Bahamas the answer is yes; The Bahamian Parliament enacted rules only for married couples, not heterosexual common law unions, or any other type of long-term relationship or cohabitation. It follows to reason that the basis on which the UK House of Lords acted also exists in The Bahamas. Similar failings of the legislature exist across the Caribbean but in a different form. While jurisdictions like Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Belize devised a scheme that takes account of long-term heterosexual relationships they fail to apply them to cohabiting gay couples. This failure was long recognized by a judge of the Jamaican Supreme Court. This legislative failure creates the basis on which other courts in the region can find persuasive the approach taken by the Bahamian Court of Appeal.

Irrelevance of the Criminalization of Same-Sex Sexual Relations
As early as 1991 in the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act, The Bahamas decriminalized same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults (males and females) in private (see now, Section 5B, Sexual Offences Act). As such, there was no basis, in the case of BJ and AJ, for questioning the legality of the domestic affairs of the parties before the Court of Appeal. This is not the same reality in the wider Commonwealth Caribbean, where same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in both public and private.

In any event, for the purposes of disposition of domestic property of former cohabiting gay couples the legality of their sexual relations is hardly decisive. Firstly, what the law criminalizes is sexual relations, not cohabitation or the formation of a relationship. As such, a court’s legal characterization of a gay couple’s cohabitation as a domestic context for the purpose of property rights does not turn on the sexual relations of the couple. For that reason, criminalization of same-sex sexual relations should be an irrelevant consideration. Secondly, the constitutional guarantee of the right to privacy fortifies a dispensation that excludes concern with adults’ sexual relations in a domestic context.

To conclude, The Bahamian Court of Appeal’s decision may be seen as less than innovative or groundbreaking because it’s just the application of existing rules to a first-in-time set of facts. However, when viewed in the broader social context of rampant anti-LGBT sentiments in the Commonwealth Caribbean the progressive hue of the decision shines bright.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

OAS General Assembly 2014: UniBAM prospective.

June 7th, 2014

Last year in Guatemala, fundamentalist groups clash with a coalition of Afro-descendants, Feminists, LGBTTTI and  the Campaign. They argued we had nothing in common, we argued that we did. In Paraguay, the polarization was as intense as the left and far  right vy for the attention of the Secretary General at the Civil Society Dialogue on June 3rd, 2014. Alliance Defending Freedom, Yes To Life Guatemala and others asked their questions as well as our coalition. CARIFLAGS representative, helped a Young Guyanese activists Tiffany Barry worked the room to get her questions out as the far right had lots of questions regarding family that only Tiffany could respond to. We move from one side of the room to the next, while our fellow activists from St. Lucia Daryl Williams was able to chat with the microphone holder, long enough to direct his attention to us. Our Latin American activists worked the rooms as intensely as well.



  The battle continued later in the day when Ambassador Quinones announced who would speak. A a ruckus of opinions erupted in the room, as folks began to expressed their dissatisfaction about the presence of the family group and being paired with them. We saw who was making the ruckus and it about supporting the idea that the Campaign must have their space. This is important as it defines who speaks at the General Assembly that is the only space for hearing Civil society declarations. During the the dialogue, it was clear that the Secretary General was not going to take a position on abortion and did respond to Tiffany questions. He said essentially, there is a reason why there are two conventions, it was because of the Caribbean who did not want one. He spoke of the 11 countries which criminalizes same sex activity and recognize that more needed to get done to reach out to Caribbean organizations as there was confusion regarding the visa process and getting to Asuncion Paraguay. One of things we realized is that indigenous and Afro-descendant groups were competing for attention of the General Secretary as well.


We saw as well the organized nature of the fundamentalists in the room and who spoke. We saw how they were prepared to lie in one instance saying there was consensus on one document between them and the Campaign, but instead pulled out their declaration and spoke to the General Assembly.
Here are some highlights of their presence.

Later that day, we had a dialogue on Human Rights and discrimination at the Sheraton. Present was Tracy Robinson President of the Commission and Rosa-Maria Ortiz, Commissioner responsible for Belize, a Brazilian representative, President of the Aireana Carolina Robledo-a group for the rights of Lesbian and Caleb Orozco. of UniBAM.

Belize task was to speak about the Caribbean region and  that presentation spoke to," CARICOM member states have traditionally believed that because it lacks a history of mass human rights violations that it has the moral standing to say its a better region when compared to Latin countries. It has failed, however, to acknowledge and define either a regional or national position about the dignity and rights of its individual L.G.B.T citizens in any substantive way. States individually and within CARICOM have failed to deliver a clear political, constructive or responsible position in responding to its L.G.B.T citizens. It neither studies violence nor look at legislative laws that discriminate that impact benefits, health, decisions nor impact family  situations. It has failed to look at how discrimination affects L.G.B.T Youth. The result in the region and among many states have been complicity, by their inaction in supporting state sanction discrimination. It is time for states to look within and understand that development with exclusion is not an efficient approach , in improving human capital. It is clear that some political leaders have chosen to mix religion with governance. It is time for them to understand  silence, indifference and inaction is not governance. There is no true democracy without rights expressed in practice, laws that protect and policy that respect diversity. The solution to solving discrimination, is not delays, its action today, not tomorrow."

Enter June 4th and 5th, where there was the General Assembly with Foreign Ministers, but, few CARICOM member states where in their seats with the exception of the Foreign Minister of Belize, the Trinidadian ambassador.

In his speech to the General Assembly the Belize Foreign Minister spoke of government as the creator of wealth and that its government that corrects inequity. He said that its not the private sector, for they exists to create profit. He goes on to say, “Government, is the Guarantor of All Rights!” and goes on to acknowledge, all Interventions at the General Assembly, including the Latin American and Caribbean  LGBTTTI coalition. The statements, follows, the Belize Prime Minister Speech of 2013 that the State will not shirk its responsibilities to all its citizens,” This was important for the coalition because in 7 years of attending the OAS General Assembly, we had not heard him mentioned the coalition. He then, quickly moved to the plenary meeting along with the other countries in the region. Later, we monitored the General Committee decisions on draft resolutions and found that Belize had issued a resolution for the Belize and Guatemala adjacency zone and had gotten 21 co-sponsors. We found out too that Belize did re-issued its footnotes from last year resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression.

The fundamentalists were out and we were out, the Belize Ambassador was spoken to more than once, professional man, whose future should be long at the OAS.  Spoke to the Foreign Minister as well, who provided an education with respect. Spoke to Antigua and Barbuda, Haiti, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidadian ambassador, Guyanese Chief Of Mission and St. Lucia Foreign Minister. Now in discussing the footnote with the St. Lucian Foreign Minister, he said that there was " no discrimination or violence" against LGBTI people in his country. In fact, he says they live freely. He did say that he was against violence to be fair. He added," Minority Rights must be protected, but the will of the majority must prevail!"He went on to say that the issue of women and LGBTTTI "is a foreign imposition." I failed to tell him, that when a person who experience abuse and violence the issue is not foreign, its personal. I failed to tell him that when women experience sexual or physical violence that its not a foreign, it personal. He even asked me what does a man and a man or a woman and a women get out of having having children. I apparently did not answer, his question properly and closed with the comment all human being deserve dignity and rights. I did discuss my experiences in Belize around violence and discrimination and that people who have experience an accumulation of discrimination would not necessarily report it to the police and that bully in school and the invisible issues of family violence remains. But it was clear,  and it left an impress on me in the following way. Bigots can hide behind title of Ambassador and Foreign Minister titles using the power of the state to ignore, justify, abdicating their responsibility of governance by being guided by their fundamentalists belief. It dawn on me, that political engagement, public education would not be enough in certain countries that litigation is a requirement is advancing the responsibilities of the state. The  point is reinforce when he told me, " minority rights must be protected, but the will of the majority must prevail. Suriname, remains a confusing place as well.

 Another person I spoke to from another country said, " if CARICOM were to have a common position of L.G.B.T citizens, it would not be in your favor, as we are in the minority!" It clear CARICOM is divided into ideological blocks, conservative, moderately conservative and a few moderate countries.
This is important as work continues to profile each country and to refine political engagements.For this year,  we were able to get two less CARICOM states to refrain from footnotes, but the footnotes remain from an unofficial 13 countries with some additions from Latin America. Last year, the footnotes for 2807 resolutions were as follows:
  •  The Government of Belize is unable to join consensus on this resolution given the fact that several of the issues and principles addressed therein, directly or indirectly, are at present the subject …
  • The delegations of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Dominica are unable to join consensus on the approval of this resolution. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is of the view that the term “gender expression” …
  • Government of Jamaica is unable to join the consensus on the approval of this resolution, given that the terminology of gender expression, as proposed, is ambiguous and has the potential…
  • The Government of Barbados is unable to join consensus on the approval of this resolution given that a number of the issues and terms contained in the resolution are neither reflected in its national …
  • The Republic of Suriname remains committed to promoting and defending all human rights for all and, based on the principle of equality, under which all who are within … 
  • The Government of Guyana is unable to join consensus on this resolution given the fact that several of the issues addressed herein are currently the subject of deliberation by a special select … 
  • The Government of Honduras wishes to state its commitment to human rights and to the international conventions that it has signed to that effect. Furthermore, it does not consider itself … 
  • Like Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia is unable to join consensus on the approval of this resolution because the term “‘gender expression”‘ is one that is not thoroughly defined or has …
  • the context of existing policy and legislation, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is unable to support the resolution. However, Trinidad and Tobago is signatory to the Universal Declaration... 
We also found protest outside the General Assembly with folks demonstrating for better land rights and the local gay organization SOMOSGAY. One show a protest just outside the CONMEBOL building where the General Assembly took place and one was downtown Paraguay. While the fundamentalists setup stage a well. The history of freedom in Paraguay,  was marked by dictatorship and regime change which cost the lives of many. The work of state recognition in the region will be interesting to see, as each state define their responsibilities to their L.G.B.T citizens. For now, the lessons are, for some countries, they will negotiate away the rights of the minority for power and pandering, while others is open to be constructive and responsible.

Its clear to me that CARIFLAGS as a network has a lot of work to do in the region, as we have not begun to do proper political engagement, or profile the bigots who are called Ministers that exists in the region. Until we break the mold on political barriers, we will not get very far in any deeper response to their LGBTI citizens in the region. One person shared, the region does have a common policy, its a negative one that involved keeping buggery laws in 11 countries in the region, refusing to substantively invest resources in reducing stigma and discrimination and developing strong human rights institutions that supports not just LGBTTI citizens, but all. The region through PANCAP has paid lip service to the issue after 20 plus years of the epidemic. We have yet to see significant change in the region around homophobia and transphobia issues. The context of all this among CARICOM states is that it seems states are out of step with the times.  CARICOM Member States include: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. It is not in effect in Suriname or Haiti. 

Of note, There are no legal barriers to homosexuality in 19 of the Caribbean countries. (20 if you count Suriname.) There ARE legal barriers in 9 Caribbean countries (10 if you count Guyana) and all of those 9 are CARICOM countries. There are also anti-discrimination/hate crimes protection laws in 7 of the 30 countries in the Caribbean, which is 23%. (To put that into perspective, 4 of the 7 Central American states have such laws; 30 of the 50 US states (60%), in South America 9 of 14 (64%), in Europe 42 of 55 countries (76%) (in the EU 20 out of 28 (71%)), in Asia (excluding the Middle east) 5 of 33 (15%), 1 of the 14 countries in the Middle East (0.07%), in Oceania 12 of 27 (44%), and in Africa 5 of 51 (0.09%) (excluding the 6 Indian Ocean states of which 4 have discrimination protections).

Resolution 2807 can be found on page 221 called Human Rights Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression. It was at the 43 session in Guatemala that it was approved. Note, the footnotes have no real legal value as decisions are made by consensus.

2014 Draft resolution Promotion and protection of Human Rights Subtopic: Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression (Presented by the delegation of Brazil)  CP/CAJP-3223/14 rev. 1 The reference to the LGBTTTI resolution can be found at the following link below: