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Dec 30, 2019

Court of Appeal Upholds Chief Justice’s Decision on Section 53

The Court of Appeal today handed down a ruling, upholding the Chief Justice’s 2016 ruling on Section Fifty-Three.  Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin ruled that Section Fifty-Three of the Belize Criminal Code, which criminalized ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature,’ contravened the constitutional rights to dignity, equality before the law, privacy, freedom of expression and non-discrimination on the grounds of sex, and was therefore void.  The judgment was partially appealed by the Attorney General on the grounds that the Chief Justice stepped outside of his jurisdiction to extend the meaning of sex to include sexual orientation.  The Solicitor General had argued that the decision to extend the meaning of the word sex should be left to elected officials.  Attorneys Lisa Shoman and Westmin James, on behalf of Caleb Orozco, the Executive Director of UNIBAM, say the justice ruled that the constitutional prohibition on sex discrimination includes sexual orientation discrimination, and that this “gives a purposive and generous meaning for protecting human rights.”


Westmin James

Westmin James, Attorney for Caleb Orozco

“The Attorney General has appealed two aspects of the Chief Justice’s decision. One, that the law offended freedom of expression as well as a right under section sixteen on the basis of sexual orientation. The Chief Justice had said that he came to that conclusion by saying that sex under the section sixteen including the concept of sexual orientation. So those were the two aspects appealed by the Attorney General The court dismissed those two grounds of appeal. They had affirmed like the Chief Justice that the law breached the freedom of expression of Mr Orozco and secondly that the law breached section sixteen discrimination on the basis of sex including this concept that sex and they have termed it in different ways but upholding the decision of the Chief Justice that section sixteen and the discrimination on the basis of sex was in fact infringed.”


Lisa Shoman

Lisa Shoman, Attorney for Caleb Orozco

“The government really made an appeal that was very limited in scope. If you recall, Mr Hawke in court drew the attention of the court that the appeal from the government was not against the decision that section fifty three of the Criminal Code violated that constitution. They had problems with two limbs. One, freedom of expression which is section twelve of the constitution and section sixteen in which the Chief Justice said that the definition of sex as a basis for not discriminating against persons that that definition included sexual orientation. What the Court of Appeal has done is to reaffirm the Chief Justice’s decision regarding freedom of expression and have said that if you are not able to legally express your identity, your sexual identity, if you are not able to have sexual intercourse with consenting adults of your choice in your privacy and all of that then you are being hindered in your freedom of expression and that should not be allowed to be so. So they have also said that in their minds that the definition of sex does include sexual orientation.”

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