Belize’s Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling that said the country’s colonial-era sodomy law is unconstitutional.
Belize Supreme Court Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin in 2016 issued his ruling in a case against Section 53 of the country’s Criminal Code that Caleb Orozco, a prominent LGBTQ activist in the Central American country, brought. The Belizean government challenged portions of Benjamin’s ruling, but the Court of Appeal on Dec. 30 upheld it.
“I have proven as a citizen that our fundamental rights have value and can be upheld by our courts, and that any alienated section of society can stand on principle and can go to court and use the fundamental rights to ensure that the state leaves no one behind,” said Orozco in a statement after the Court of Appeal issued its ruling.
“Today is a renewal of hope in the substance of the chief justice’s decision in 2016, which still stands,” added Orozco.
OutRight Action International Deputy Executive Director Maria Sjödin on Friday noted to the Washington Blade the Belize Supreme Court is the first court in the English-speaking Caribbean to strike down a colonial-era sodomy law. Activists throughout the region have said Orozco’s case continues to resonate in their countries.
LGBTQ people in Jamaica, Dominica, Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in recent years have challenged their respective countries’ sodomy laws in court. The government of Trinidad and Tobago has appealed a 2018 ruling that declared the country’s sodomy law unconstitutional.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights last fall held a hearing in D.C. that focused on challenges to Jamaica’s sodomy law.
The three LGBTQ Barbadians who have challenged their country’s colonial-era statute brought their case to the commission. A decision in their favor could have sweeping implications throughout the Caribbean, especially in countries that continue to criminalize consensual same-sex relations.
“We urge authorities in Belize to embrace and fully implement the ruling, and to work with civil society to promote genuine equality for its LGBTIQ inhabitants,” Sjödin told the Blade.