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Belize’s Highest Court Decriminalizes Same-Sex Activity

by Sarah McBride August 10, 2016

Today, the highest court in Belize, a country in Central America issued a verdict that found the law criminalizing male same-sex sexual activity to be unconstitutional and ordered the law to be amended, a much-anticipated move hailed by HRC.

“This is a momentous victory for Belize, and I congratulate the LGBTQ advocates of Belize, as well as the countless legal experts and supporters who fought for this win,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global. “While Belize is the third country to decriminalize same-sex intimate relationships this year, advocates and attorneys from India to Kenya are diligently working on decriminalization efforts in the 72 countries where such laws remain."

The decision, striking down Section 53 of the Belize criminal code, came as a result of the case Caleb Orozco v. The Attorney General of Belize.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Embassy in Belmopan raised a rainbow flag to commemorate LGBTQ Pride Month. 7 News Belize reported that it was the first time the symbol of LGBTQ equality was flown in the country. U.S. Ambassador to Belize Carlos Moreno said of the event, “LGBT rights are human rights, human rights are LGBT rights, there is no distinction, and there is no difference.”

With this ruling, the number of countries that criminalize LGBTQ people drops to 72.

Belize is the third country to decriminalize same-sex sexual activity this year, joining Nauru, a small island state in the Pacific Ocean, and Seychelles, an island state in the Indian Ocean.

While gradual progress continues to be made, there have also been setbacks. India’s Supreme Court re-criminalized same-sex sexual acts in 2013, overturning a lower court’s 2009 ruling to decriminalize by “reading down” the notorious Section 377, which had been declared unconstitutional.

Belize’s decriminalization verdict follows the May release of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) and Logo Entertainment’s historic report on global attitudes towards LGBTI people. The report found that 53 percent of respondents say that being LGBTI should not be a crime. This is the first survey showing that a majority of the world’s population supports the decriminalization of same-sex sexual activity.

Sarah McBride
Sarah McBride


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