Gay rights group in Belieze wins case against country’s constitution

The Court of Appeal in Belize has upheld a 2016 ruling by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin that Section 53 is inconsistent with the country’s Constitution.

The appellate court agrees with the chief justice that the section violates the right to human dignity, privacy, freedom of expression and non-discrimination and equality before the law and equal protection of the law.

The 2016 judgment was partially appealed by the Office of the Attorney General on the grounds that the Chief Justice had stepped outside of his jurisdiction to extend the meaning of sex to include sexual orientation. The Solicitor General had argued that the decision to extend the meaning of the word sex should be left to elected officials.

In 2013, lawyers for Caleb Orozco, the executive director of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM)—a policy and advocacy human rights non-government organisation (NGO) working to advance rights enforcement protections for the LGBT persons—argued that Section 53 of the Criminal Code is inconsistent with the rights guaranteed in the Belize Constitution to human dignity, privacy and equal protection of the law to the extent that it criminalises various forms of consensual sex between adults, particularly adult men.

The legal team for Orozco and UNIBAM was led by Trinidad and Tobago’s, Christopher Hamel-Smith, SC, and included Westmin James, Deputy Dean and constitutional law lecturer at the Faculty of Law University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados.

—CMC