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Jamaica LGBT organization welcomes ruling by Inter-American Commission of Human Rights; work still needs to be done in Belize 

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Posted: Friday, February 19, 2021. 4:50 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Executive Director of Belize’s United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) says Belize still has some ways to go in recognition of the rights and status of LGBT persons, as conferred by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in September 2019 in a decision released this week. 

The Jamaica Gleaner reports that the island’s government has been charged with violating the rights of a gay man and a lesbian in separate cases before the body. 

The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG) welcomed the ruling, which the Commission had kept confidential until Wednesday. 

The United Kingdom-based Human Dignity Trust, which presented the case on behalf of complainants Gareth Henry, now a refugee in Canada, and Simone Edwards, now living in Europe, in 2011, called it “the landmark LGBT human rights case for the entire Caribbean region.” 

But UNIBAM’s Caleb Orozco, who won his case at the Supreme Court here in August of 2016 and at the Court of Appeal in December of 2019, said Belize is not at present even bound by such a decision, as it has yet to sign on to the relevant convention enforcing such provisions. He went on to add that “legal recognition is not the same as the political will and commitment to advance,” citing his recent letter to the office of the Solicitor General querying their interpretation of Section 53 of the Criminal Code, which the court read to include same-sex couples as an exception to the provision banning acts “against the order of nature.” (Additional language making clear the exception was struck out by the Court of Appeal as unnecessary). 

Orozco explained that the IACHR judgment is part of a transnational framework available to LGBT persons and others who feel their constitutional rights have been violated, to “break down the political resistance and cultural bigotry that is the State.” “What it shows is that despite marginalization, bigoted parliament, we still have space to not be regulated as second-class citizens,” he said, speaking of a “psychological boost with regard to the culture of complicity by omission, inaction, and indifference by parliament.” 

And while the judgment has “diplomatic value” in his words, but not legal value, the president of the Commission has notably said that it is an authority to be used in regional cases. 

J-FLAG says the ruling is reflective of the positive wave within local and regional judicial bodies as noted in Belize, Trinidad, and Guyana, to affirm and protect the human rights of lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender persons in the Caribbean, according to The Gleaner

However, the Jamaican Government has yet to respond. 

Gareth Henry sought asylum in Canada in 2008 after facing police brutality and repeated attacks by homophobic gangs, including being chased by a mob of some 200 people who were chanting that gay people must be killed, according to the Trust. 

Simone Edwards was shot several times outside her home in 2008 by people who tried to kill her and her two brothers, one of whom is also gay, attorneys said, adding that she lost one of her kidneys and part of her liver. She has since been granted asylum in Europe. 

The Commission is an autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS).  

Jamaica is one of nine nations across the Caribbean that still have laws prohibiting consensual, same-sex intimacy, according to the Trust, though they are rarely enforced. These include Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent, and the Grenadines, St Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda. The colonial-era laws call for penalties that range from 10 years to life in prison, with one including hard labor as well. 

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