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Mar 8, 2019

PETAL hosts 3rd Annual Int’l Women’s Day Conference

Today, March eighth, is International Women’s Day. The day is set aside to celebrate women and advocate for gender equality. Non-profit group ‘Promoting Empowerment Through Awareness for Lesbian and Bisexual Women’ hosted a forum to discuss the criminalization of sexual and reproductive health related activities, as well as the age of consent dilemma in Belize. PETAL’S event featured two panels with speakers talking about the health and wellness of our bodies and the cultural practices around coming of age. The event wrapped up with a look at the law and age of consent. Reporter Andrea Polanco stopped in at the conference today and tells us more.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

PETAL hosted their third annual International Women’s Day conference this morning in Belize City. “Our bodies, ourselves: the age of consent dilemma in Belize” was the theme for the event.


Ruby Reyes

Ruby Reyes, 1stVice-President, PETAL

“We wanted really to begin the discussion of the age of consent; how our cultural norms, the traditions and the beliefs influence our decision as it relates to sexual and reproductive health and sexual intercourse on a whole.   We are talking about the age of consent for sexual intercourse. It is a very complex issue and we wanted to start the dialogue to see how it affects women and men in Belize.”


Reyes says the topic is timely and important because women’s sexuality is still largely repressed in Belize. The policing of women’s bodies is a common but damaging and unjust practice.


Ruby Reyes

“We aren’t seen as sexual beings, but sexual objects. We also want to look at the way women view themselves in terms of being enough. So that as we grow older we can make informed decisions as it relates to our sexuality and our sexual health. Sexuality and sex are taboo in Belize. So, we want to unravel that looking at how different ethnic groups themselves speak about sexual health , sexuality, sexual intercourse. How do your cultural beliefs and cultural norms influence the decisions you make as a sexual being, as a woman.”


Panelist Florence Goldson says that to shift that culture she started with herself; using wellness and mindfulness practices to unlearn some of these harmful messages, as well as ensuring that the boys and men in her circle are also held accountable.


Florence Goldson

Florence Goldson, Panelist

“I started with myself, in nourishing myself, in learning to accept myself, mistakes flaws, as well as my achievements. From there, through my mindfulness, realizing all the ways I had been shaming other women and girls and participating in it. And it comes out in very subtle ways in the way you look at a girl or woman up and down; the way we alienate or we won’t talk to that woman or girl; the way we judge her if she seems too friendly or if she is not friendly enough. We also do this as well and then we allow the men and boys in our lives to do it. When I look around in my spaces, I identify the men who have similar thought processes as I do and I expect those men to speak to other men, because men won’t listen to me; men will listen to other men and boys will listen to men. So, just as much as I place an expectation on myself for the ways I will speak to girls and women, I will place a high expectation on men and boys in my life about how they will speak to other boys and men.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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