30 December 2019
Media Contact: Ifáṣínà Efunyemi 501-633-7962
Belize Court Of Appeal Does Not Disturb 2016 Ruling In The Orozco Case That Section 53 Is Unconstitutional
On Monday morning, December 30, 2019, the Belize Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Chief Justice in 2016 that section 53 contravenes sections 3, 6, 12, 14 and 16 of the Belize Constitution which are the rights to dignity, equality before the law, freedom of expression, privacy and non-discrimination.
In 2016, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin ruled in favour of Caleb Orozco, Executive Director of UNIBAM, and declared that section 53 of the Criminal Code, which criminalized “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, violates these constitutional rights.
Awich JA said the Chief Justice did not exceed the court’s power when he assigned the meaning “sexual orientation” to the word “sex” in the anti-discrimination section, 16, of the Constitution. He added that,
“...consensual sexual intercourse between adult gays or between adult lesbians in private does not harm the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, nor does it intolerably harm contemporary public interest...”.
Caleb Orozco welcomed the court’s decision to uphold the Chief Justice’s findings in relation to the constitutional breaches. He said,
“I have proven as a citizen that our fundamental rights have value and can be upheld by our courts, and that any alienated section of society can stand on principle and can go to court and use the fundamental rights to ensure that the state leaves no one behind. Today is a renewal of hope in the substance of the Chief Justice’s decision in 2016, which still stands.”
The Court of Appeal felt it was sufficient to make a declaration that section 53 contravenes the various sections of the Constitution and is unconstitutional. However, the Court of Appeal did not consider it appropriate for the Chief Justice to add language to section 53.
Derricia Castillo-Salazar, Managing Director of Our Circle, said that,
“Today affirms the value of the Orozco case to us individually, to our families, to our communities and to our country. We have spoken the words of “all a wi da one” on numerous occasions and now is the time for Belizeans to come together and push for positive action to be done.”
Orozco and UNIBAM were represented by a distinguished team of Belizean and Caribbean attorneys that includes Christopher Hamel-Smith SC, who is lead counsel, Lisa Shoman QC and Westmin James of the Faculty of Law The UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP).
Published on January 3, 2020 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization