The Women, Peace, and Security agenda for the national security has now been referred to as a band-aid fix when it comes to sexual harassment particularly within the Belize Defence Force. The allegation is that the sexual harassment policies have not been protecting victims as they reoccur more often than not. Speaking out on this issue was former BDF Captain, Derricia Castillo-Salazar who noted that the culture of sexual assault in the BDF has been swept under the rug, and that investigations have been shut down before justice is even given a chance. Castillo-Salazar, who has since retired from the force, told Love News that more effort must be put into the elimination of sexual assault and proper investigations be conducted into such instances.
Derricia Castillo, Managing Director, Our Circle: “The case is still going to the court, the one that made it to the court. In regards to the allegations and the big investigation that was conducted sad reality is we’ve kind of allowed that to die a quiet death. There has been some resources pumped into the Belize Defence Force to be able to address gender issues, we have seen where one of the big one was this Women in Peace and Security which I think was a band aid fix because for persons who understand the UN system and understand what Women in Peace and Security has to do it has nothing to do with sexual harassment as it was brought across by the Ministry of National Security then. So I would definitely say there needs to be some follow up in regards to it. I’m probably not the best person to get inside information anymore and that is understood but there’s a lot of women within the Belize Defence Force and with Women’s Month coming up I think it’s a discussion that needs to be held; how can we look at these sexual harassment policies which exist within the Police department, the Belize Coast Guard, the Belize Defence Force I think it’s something that maybe championed by Mrs.Briceno to see how we can look at that to ensure that our mothers, our daughters, our sisters and our aunts are protected while they have been tasked with protecting the nation itself.”
Back in January of 2020, over fifty female BDF recruits came forward with allegations of sexual assault and rape against senior officers. The allegations prompted an internal investigation along with a revision of internal policies.