Belize: Supreme Court hears closing arguments from attorneys urging strike down of anti-sodomy law

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At the end of a second day of hearings around the country’s anti-sodomy law, Belize’s Supreme Court heard closing arguments from attorneys pushing for the country to remove the law, citing its unconstitutionality.

Under the Central American country’s code, gay citizens currently face a penalty of up to ten years’ imprisonment.

Section 53 states: “Every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for ten years.”

The United Belize Advocacy Movement, UNIBAM, is part of a constitutional challenge to overturn the ban on same-sex sexual activity, in the case of Caleb Orozco v the Attorney General of Belize.

Chris Hamel-Smith, the lead counsel for claimant Mr Orozco, yesterday urged the court to look carefully at the constitution, citing the right to privacy, home and family life, and the recognition of human dignity of every individual.

Hamel-Smith on Wednesday made closing arguments in the case, quoting Desmond Tutu, the Anglican, humanitarian South African leader.

He said: “’Our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters across Africa and elsewhere are living in fear, and they are living in hiding…Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared path to freedom and justice.'”

The closing arguments were followed by submissions from Lord Goldsmith, an attorney representing three law-related organisations who have intervened in the case, in support of the claimants.

Lord Goldsmith examined the issue from a global perspective, noting the fact that many Commonwealth and other countries have decriminalised same-sex sexual activity, including India, Armenia, the Balkans, New Zealand and Azerbaijan.

He added, “It somewhat ironic that so much ink has been spent in characterising my clients as foreigners…when in fact the law they are trying so hard to preserve is a colonial import; it is a legacy of British rule.”

The court hearing is set to last from 7 – 10 May. Advocates of the measure will be using the hashtag #UNIBAM to track its progress.