Decriminalising Homosexuality In The Caribbean 1

02-03-12 Institute for the Study of the Americas

Caribbean Seminar Series: Decriminalising Homosexuality In The Caribbean: The Belize Case In Commonwealth Perspective And Beyond

Lord Goldsmith QC of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, former UK Attorney General, leads the legal team representing the Human Dignity Trust, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, and the International Commission of Jurists in the UNIBAM case.

The criminalisation of homosexual acts is currently being challenged in the Central American and Caribbean nation of Belize. The United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) has mounted a legal challenge to Section 53 of the Belize Criminal Code which currently criminalises consensual intercourse between adult males. While UNIBAM argues that this provision represents a violation of constitutional rights, the Belize Action Movement (an alliance of churches) has joined the case to oppose any changes to the law. The implications of the Belize case are international in dimension.

  • First it is being seen as a test case for the Commonwealth Caribbean where, with few exceptions, homosexual acts are still criminalised, and gays, lesbians and trans-sexuals face intense discrimination.
  • Secondly the legal challenge mounted by UNIBAM in Belize has attracted support from international organisations including the Human Dignity Trust and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association — prompting accusations of ‘foreign intervention’ from opponents of the campaign.
  • Thirdly, the Belize case is unfolding against a backdrop in which donor nations such as Britain and the United States have begun to press for changes in discriminatory legislation as a condition of aid. David Cameron’s recent suggestion that Commonwealth nations should decriminalise homosexuality as a condition of aid has been vigorously rejected by a number of African nations.

This seminar will consider the Belize case in local, regional and international context and its implications for the decriminalisation debate.

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