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Jan 10, 2020

Equal Opportunity Bill Being Pushed by National AIDS Commission

Laura Longsworth

The National AIDS Commission is championing the drafting of a new piece of legislation which seeks to address the issue of discrimination in and around the workplace.  Discussion around the Equal Opportunities Bill is ongoing, particularly since the commission and its legal consultants have been making their rounds in the media.  But what’s the role of the Attorney General’s ministry in putting together the new proposed law and is there a mandate from Cabinet for it to be prioritized?  Today, News Five spoke with Laura Tucker-Longsworth, Chair of the National AIDS Commission, who explained the purpose of the bill, as well as its scope.  She says that as many as nineteen groups will covered should the Equal Opportunity Bill become law.


Laura Longsworth, Chair, National AIDS Commission

“So the Equal Opportunities Bill really addresses issues related to prevention of discrimination against certain groups of persons.  The bill is all encompassing, it’s a bill for the people of Belize and it covers almost nineteen groups of different persons.  The rights of women to breastfeed or have time for breastfeeding, the rights of women to maternal care, the rights of women and men to sexual and reproductive health issues and of course it goes on in terms of discriminatory practices perhaps in the workplace and so on.  And what is important about this bill is that it gives you an opportunity, it has a structure that allows ordinary citizens to move from one point to the next when they have issues with unfair treatment or what they deem as unfair treatment in the workplace.”


Isani Cayetano

“Why is this a cause that the National AIDS Commission is championing as opposed to any other interest group per se?”


Michael Peyrefitte

Laura Longsworth

“The National AIDS Commission, as you know, has as its mandate to really address advocacy and even lead in terms of the strategic plan to prevent and control the HIV epidemic in our country.  In addition to that, our mandate includes policy and legislation, as well as finding resources.  So you may know that we’re also recipients of global funds and so on, and so in our work we have done considerable work in the healthcare industry.”


Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General

“The National AIDS Commission in this case, for example, made a specific request to ask if one of our members could sit on that commission just to, when they have the meetings if they could advise and I know that they’ve been working on something like that for some time now.  It’s not a government piece of legislation at this point, it’s a piece of legislation that the National AIDS Commission wants to push and it’s their right.  Naturally, if the Cabinet and the government decides to table such a piece of legislation, like we do with most legislation, we will pass it around for people to have their input and I am sure that something like that, if and when it goes to the house, you will have a first reading and then people will have time to debate it and people will have time to amend it with suggestions and the like.  But the fact that one particular body is trying to create a piece of legislation to fulfill a desire that they have, they have that right and the churches have a right to criticize it if they want.  They can start their own piece of legislation and try to convince the government to adopt it and so there is nothing wrong with it and in a democracy they are free to agree or disagree.”

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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