Belizean Court upholds finding that LGBT people are protected by non-discrimination laws in a victory for human rights

The Court of Appeal of Belize delivered a judgment on 30th December 2019 denying the Belize Government’s appeal of a 2016 ruling that decriminalised adult consensual same-sex relations. SRT grantee the Human Dignity Trust made a submission in the case along with a range of national and regional organisations and the University of West Indies Rights Advocacy Project. These submissions supported the position that the Constitutional prohibition on ‘sex discrimination’ includes ‘sexual orientation discrimination’.

The Court reaffirmed the Belizean Chief Justice’s 2016 decision that Section 53 of the Belize Criminal Code – which criminalised ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’ – disproportionately discriminated against the LGBT community in Belize, in contravention of the constitutional rights to dignity, equality before the law, privacy, freedom of expression and non-discrimination on the grounds of sex, and thus was void in so far as it extends to consensual sex between adults in private. The Belizean Government was initially accepting of the 2016 decision, but later appealed following pressure from the country’s Roman Catholic Church.

The Church filed an appeal against the entire 2016 ruling, which it withdrew in March 2018. Human Dignity Trust and fellow SRT grantee International Commission of Jurists jointly intervened along with the Commonwealth Lawyers Association in support of the Respondent in the case, Caleb Orozco of the United Belize Advocacy Movement, making successful legal submissions on the interpretation of sex discrimination and freedom of expression.

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