Posted: Friday, May 22, 2015. 4:44 pm CST.
Friday, May 22nd 2015. Aaron Humes Reporting: Speaking to the New York Times Magazine for a personal , executive director and former president and founder of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), Caleb Orozco, has said that his fight against Section 53 of the Criminal Code that officially outlaws sexual acts “against the order of nature” between two persons, among other things, has been a lonely one, and that he has not expected the kind of backlash he received since starting the case in December 2012 – backlash that even now results in routine insults as he goes about his daily life and occasionally expands to threatened and in one case actual assault, and the constant threat of death.
“I’ve come to realize that I’ve sacrificed my life to this work,” he said to author Julia Scott. “And I wake up to an empty bed and a pillow. And what does that say about me?” He adds that his larger goal is to “survive to the end of my case” and avoid having “something happen” to him.
Two years this month after the case was heard in the Supreme Court before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin, no decision has been given. Orozco’s attorney, Senior Counsel Lisa Shoman, who revealed she was subjected to rape threats, told Scott, “Unfortunately, civil matters in this country do proceed at a very slow pace, but I could never have imagined that something of this magnitude, a case regarding the personal liberty of the citizens, should take so long.”
Scott’s report details several instances of Orozco’s being shunned and outright criticized for bringing the case, and his mother, Perla Ozaeta, who says she is proud of her son, is willing to move back into his Zericote Street home which also houses UNIBAM, and watch over him to prevent his death.
She says that she has been told that regardless of the outcome of the case, Orozco’s life is under threat. Even in the underground LGBT community, according to Scott, Orozco is not publicly acknowledged, and his love life, such as it is, is severely hampered.
According to Orozco, the idea for the case came at an HIV conference in Jamaica in 2009 when he spoke with attorneys for the UWI Rights Advocacy Project (URAP) who had been studying bans on same-sex relationships.
Belize, it was said, has a Constitution with stronger personal privacy and equality protections that other Caribbean countries. Orozco says now that, “I realized the case was simply a tool to create a national dialogue. It isn’t just Section 53. It’s adoption.
It’s Social Security. It’s not having the first say of the health of your partner. There’s the dignity issues, which haven’t been recognized.” He also categorically denied that a win would lead the way to legalizing gay marriage in Belize.
Arif Bulkan, the Guyanese lawyer Orozco met at the H.I.V. conference, told the Times that he spoke to a range of Belizean civil-society groups and local leaders, including those in the church establishment. Bulkan recalled an important meeting with the president, at the time, of the Belize Council of Churches, which encompasses Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians. “He said they wouldn’t support us openly,” Bulkan said, “but they wouldn’t oppose us either.”
Of course, the BCC and Evangelical Association of Churches joined the case as interested parties; UNIBAM was removed from the case by court order as an interested party, and the rest is history.
The case is expected to go all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) once a decision is finally handed down and appealed as expected.
Photos in this article are courtesy of The New York Times.
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