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Special Envoy for Women, National Aids Commission issue clarifications regarding Equal Opportunities Bill

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Posted: Friday, January 17, 2020. 4:39 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: The consultations for the Equal Opportunities Bill continue throughout Belize.

The bill has been rejected in the Toledo district and the the evangelical community has firmly opposed the bill.

Therefore, stakeholders involved which include the Special Envoy for Women and Children, Kim Simplis Barrow and the National Aids Commission issued a statement in an effort to clarify some major concerns among Belizeans.

According to the statement, the draft legislation seeks to promote equal opportunities in particular sectors of public life and to provide access to remedies for all Belizeans.

“This law is necessary in order to ensure that the values and principles of our Constitution are translated into action. Our Constitution establishes that all citizens, without qualification, are equal before the law and must have the benefit of the protection of the law,” the statement says.

The statement explained that the Equal Opportunities Bill is giving life to this principle by establishing mechanisms to promote equal opportunities and prevent discrimination by removing systemic barriers, improving public services and providing avenues for legal protection. 

And, in direct response to some of the concerns emerging out of consultations, they explained some points that the bill does not intend to achieve:

  • The Equal Opportunities Bill does not seek to affect the institution of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The Marriage Act will not be amended or otherwise affected by this Bill, which does not deal with the same subject matter.
  • The Bill does not seek to address abortion in any form or fashion. Abortion is not included or otherwise established by this Bill.
  • Freedom of Religion, including the right to share religious views, to witness to others and to invite persons to share your faith is not in any form and manner restricted or altered by this Bill. Freedom of religion, as established in the Constitution remains untouched;
  • The Bill is regulating civil matters and does not create new crimes.
  • This Bill does not establish hate speech, which is regulated by existing provisions of the Criminal Code that are not amended or modified by this Bill. This is a forward-looking piece of legislation resulting from over 20 years of data collection and analysis conducted by a variety of agencies, including the National AIDS Commission, the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation and the Office of the Special Envoy for Women and Children. This work is done with a view to ensuring that our children and the generations to come can live in a fairer society in which they can thrive and to which they can contribute to with their full potential.

The stakeholders thank all Belizeans who attended the consultation sessions in San Pedro, San Ignacio, Belmopan, Dangriga, Punta Gorda and Belize City.

Belizeans have until 31 January 2020 to send their views, suggestions and feedback either by post or email to the National AIDS Commission.

The stakeholders will then review and analyze input for the publication of the final consultation report.

 

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