Sexual offences can come in various forms as Attorney Baja Shoman explained earlier. Child Prostitution is one sexual offence that several agencies with responsibility for children are looking to combat. Brianna Williams of the NCFC Policy and Legislative Committee spoke of what child prostitution is and who can be held accountable in this area.
“Child prostitution is an offence and it’s the act of giving or offering or promising a child money remuneration for sexual activity; and sexual activity does not necessarily mean actual sexual intercourse but anything that could be interpreted as sexual activity. So if you promise sweets for sexual touching that is child prostitution. It could be anybody who is involved in the process of child prostitution so it’s not only the person promising the child any gift or money it can be someone who owns a home who is renting to someone who is facilitating child prostitution in the home and if you are the landlord or homeowner and you know this is happening in your house you could be charged. Also you could be the middleman so you could approach someone and say “I know how you can get such and such from someone” and you’re the middle person and you take that person there you can be charged. As of right now to my knowledge there have not been any prosecuted cases for child prostitution especially under the Commercial Sexual Exploitation Act in Belize. However under that same Act, reporting is necessary; you are responsible to report if you know if this happening in Belize. Unfortunately there can’t be a case if there is none reported.”
Another aspect of sex crimes is the issue of teenage pregnancy particularly where minors are involved. Attorney Baja Shoman spoke of this matter as well as the cases where two minors engage in unlawful sexual intercourse.
“One of the things that would have to be is the reporting of the crime, the reporting that this child has been certified by a doctor to be carnally known. What happens is that there either needs to be the reporting by the parent, taking the child into the police station and then they do the other work for that charged to be laid whether the child themselves come in and report it and since you are talking about teenage pregnancy the young girl or when it is that the child seeks medical care reporting by that medical practitioner because a law has been broken then because under 16 years of age you cannot give consent to sexual activity or intercourse. The thing is the age of criminal responsibility is 12 so at the age of 12 a child can be charged for a criminal act. However the law as it relates to sexual offence states specifically that a person cannot consent to sexual activity or intercourse unless or until they are of the age 16 and above. So in that instance where you have both of them engaging in sexual activity or sexual intercourse none of them are of the capacity to consent to the acts that are done. The law currently is silent on it but it is something that would need to be discussed and further work would need to be done because in that situation we are looking at a matter where none of them legally could have agreed to what was taking place.”
Interestingly, even when a sexual offence takes place outside the borders of Belize, once collusion can be proven, the perpretrator can still face charges in Belize. Attorney Dolores Balderamos Garcia explained.
DOLORES BALDERAMOS GARCIA
“When it comes to the commercial sexual exploitation of children if there is procuration or you are encouraging or enticing even if the offence or the alleged offence even if it would take place in Mexico if the procuration happened in Belize and the arrangements were made in Belize it doesn’t matter if it occurs in a hotel room in Chetumal so what we are basically saying is that you are not taking over the law of Mexico but you are saying that because our laws consider these offences made against children to be so serious it doesn’t really matter where it occurs once the procuration and preparation happened here in this country so that you’re not trying to take over Mexican jurisdiction for example but you are saying that we consider this to be an offence and it can be tried in Belize even though it took place abroad because we are saying that it is so serious under our laws.”
In the court of public opinion, sexual offences especially against children should carry mandatory remand to prison, the justice system in Belize does not dictate such, as explained by Attorney Shoman.
“In terms of looking at bail now remember there is the presumption of innocence which each person has under the constitution so the only offence in Belize right now where you are not offered bail is the crime of murder, all other offences there is the provision to make an application even at the magistrate’s court or at the supreme court for bail. What happens then is that they take certain things into consideration. They put in place conditions that would protect the victim. So what they do is they put in place certain conditions that you are to stay 100 yards away from the complainant, you are not to contact any of the witnesses in the matter and so forth so there are provisions put in place to protect the persons who are also within the case which will be heard before the court.”
As it relates to other aspects of sex crimes including child pornography and cyber crimes, the discussion has begun on the national level to establish policies and draft proposed legislation.