It has been six years now since Caleb Orozco had filed a petition in the courts challenging a part of the Belize Constitution as it concerns the LGBT community. In September 2010, Orozco had filed the application that challenges the constitutionality of Section 53 of Belize’s Criminal Code which says that quote, “every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for ten years.” Orozco says that violates his right to privacy, dignity and equality as a gay man. The arguments were heard over a period of four days in the court in May 2013 before Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin and on May 10, the hours of arguments and presentations concluded. That was three years ago and earlier this week, Love News spoke to Orozco on the matter.
“The challenge Section 53 is very basic; it’s to amend four words. Essentially the problem with Section 53 is that it doesn’t make a distinction between consenting and non-consenting adults and and so an effort has to be made to clarify that. Some work has been done behind the scenes and that started prior to the filling the legal documents in Santo Domingo where we talked about finding the two best countries in the Caribbean to file this court case which were Guyana and Belize. What happened is that Belize ended up getting the challenge to its sodomy law while Guyana ended up with a case around cross dressing. Where we are at now is that the case has transformed the tone of our society in that there is a conversation going on around the acknowledgment of LGBT citizens and how the state system should respond to addressing the defense and the protection concerns of its LGBT citizens.”
Last month made three years since the arguments wrapped up and still there has been no judgement forthcoming from the Chief Justice despite several correspondence sent by Orozco on the issue.
” What I’ve come to understand as a claimant to this case is that while the constitution does not provide any timeline there are certain principles which the court is guided by. In my mind if I have to send some 17 emails through the general registrar of the supreme court, you have to send two letters through your lawyer and you have to wait three years for your fundamental rights, specifically your right to due process, if you have to wait three years, that is three years too long. The chief justice himself said in court on the last day that the decision would be issues at end of term. Now what the hell is end of term if it’s three years we are waiting. If he who is supposed to be the leader of the judiciary or the symbol of judiciary strength cannot keep his own word then who can we trust in our legal system? There might be systematic problems but he should know that as a citizen of this country I have a right to hear the finality of a decision. I am not going to wait ten years for such a decision because I and I alone have been burdened with the responsibility for defending myself against discrimination for over 2 decades. I and I alone know that state systems will not acknowledge the concerns I have as a Belizean LGBT citizen so why I am angry is that I took the formal process and understood that we are living in a democracy, we are operating in a governance structure to the court and then what the court has done is throw my fundamental rights under the bus for whatever reason and I’m supposed to be happy and patient. I’ve had enough. With that said I am demanding, rather challenging, the chief justice to simply do his job. Either bring a decision on whatever side and let the case roll onto the court of appeals but don’t be sitting on my case for whatever reason and think that I’m going to be happy.”
The case was a high profile case as representatives of several religious denominations had attended the hearings and presented their views on the issue.