Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The power of violent Lyrics as Entertainment in Belize

Post 7th October, 2014

The point  of  UniBAM press release is that the organization is seeking assurances that promoters will have a clean show devoid of violent lyrics and be socially responsibility to help reinforce psychological sense of safety in communities.The power of violent lyrics through talented artists that people listen to can be argued as inconsequential because many do not murder, abuse their spouse, partners or wives. It can be said that critics of murder music are simply blowing concerns about murder music out of proportion. However, when an individual looks at the song by Beenie Man Doctor Mi Rate Yu or Have Yu Man (2009),  the lyrics speaks to, "Doctor we rate yuh (Ahhh!!!) Dats why we wa rape yuh (yah!)." The song continue with, "Knock a gal in har face she caan knock yuh back, fool stop!!!"  Such lyrics have impact! Arguably, such lyrics can be said to be harmless, that it does not affect men's behavior, but when a women is raped or experience a level of brutal domestic violence that leads to the loss of her life, it is an instance where art is intimidating life.  The report on September 1st, 2014 of Agropina Coc and elderly woman who was raped and murdered in San Pedro Colombia is one example. Nicole Swazo was recently reportedly killed on October 6th, 2014 by her husband who eventually killed himself.

Such lyrics as mentioned above, helped to reinforced a culture of  indifference about sexual violence  among men, a minimalist view  of violence women experience and reinforce gender socialization roles that men are entitled to women bodies or the control of sexual minority groups. This channel seven report said "A 16 year-old girl reported to police that on May 2, she woke up and found Jeffrey Pott on top of her 17 year-old sister having intercourse with her against her will because the young woman was drunk and asleep."

While in the Eugene Reneau case, he was found by Police raping a women at knife point at mile 10  on the Northern Highway. At no point, do we hear women raping men at knife point. Such an idea would be seen as luducris. One can argue that these men actions has nothing to do with the songs, but is a result of already mentally disturbed men. What the United Belize Advocacy Movement is pointing to, is that these songs have a gradual effect of eroding community security, poisoning the mind-set of those prone to violence as a solution to social and economic problems they are experiencing as individuals. When we look at crime data for murders and rape in Belize between 2000-2009 803 persons were lost to murder and 482 to rapes. These lyrics do no help in inspiring conflict resolution strategies among men, but serves only to discourage it.

When we looked at the song that's right which was produced in 2010, the lyrics offers no solace to the LGBT community in Belize who are often disrespected with words heard from these songs. The lyrics of that's right speaks to, "A from mi bun chi chi man and we go bun sodemite  and everybody bawl out seh that's right (lt's alright)" is not a complement to any LGBT person walking the streets of Belize City or Belize. When one looks at the murder of Enrique Castillo in Orange Walk in 2009 that blood stain in his kitchen and his slit throat did not speak to outcomes being harmless. One may argue that it was not the artists that did this, but let us not forget, that if no one is socially responsible or conscious about the need to cultivate environments that are healthy for families and safe to walk for all, inclusive of transgendered person, like Enrique, then we should not be surprised in how much more people we loose to violence across Belize.

Being called a Sodomite or a chi chi man while walking Belize City as an LGBT person is a direct result of individuals being inspired by these songs that its OK to demean or threaten individuals in this manner. When total stranger who care nothing of respect or upholding human dignity using chi chi man or bun fire, the terms had to  come from somewhere. When Joseph Sanchez was murdered back in January 2014. He did not attend a beenie man like concert, nevertheless the message of hate and indifference to violence that gives other men permission to inflict harm on this transgendered teen was already delivered. It was done through threats, insults and mockery. Such social communication to Cenida Ramos, Joseph Sanchez, trans name, was not a complement to this youth life or sense of  personal security. Symbols of the state called it a robbery/ murder, never acknowledging that this person gender identity could be a factor.  When we add murder data for 2010, 2011, 2012 and additional 400 murders brings the total murders from 2000 to 2012 to 1,203 people. Of which, we don't have an official count of those murdered base on sexual orientation or gender identity.


 I challenge anyone who believes that not going to a concert  that promotes violent lyrics, to argue that avoiding that concert protects that individual from violence. It did not protect Enrique Castillo, nor did it protect Joseph Sanchez.  If freedom of speech  and expression is the argument, that applies to trans individuals  as well, who has that same right, as well as the right to life, personal liberty, association and movement and the pursuit of happiness.Their rights was snuff out.

Our point in the end, is if a pastor wants to say, gays will go to hell in a Church or on a street, he or she is free to do so, but when a pastor or artists directly incites violence in the form of "bun fire" against gays and call it free speech, it then crosses the line of right and becomes a case of prosecution. More importantly, in citation of violence becomes a tool to restrict the right to movement, association, expression, political participation etc, as it forces the other person to restrict the exercise of their rights to prevent the experience of harm.

Agropina Coc Raped and murdered

Swazo murder

Pott brothers charged

Police find Reneau Raping Woman

Police Department Data

Joseph Sanchez

OSAC Report

Crime Report


Monday, October 6, 2014

CARIFLAGS History in LGBT Movement in the Caribbean

Posted 6th October, 2014 

The Caribbean can be said to have, arguably and embryonic LGBT movement building process that have been evolving since 1997, with activists being more successful at advancing rights protection and enforcement issues at the national than regional level. There has been litigation work in Guyana, Jamaica and Belize while the use of UN Human rights system has allowed Guyana to put the issue of decriminalisation in the laps of Government once more. CAISO had pushed the issue of adding AGE, Sexual orientation to be added to the Equal Opportunity Act in TnT while all organizations in the region have been influenced by HIV issues, an effort, is underway to institutionalised strategies in human rights, culture, health, spirituality and research that takes advantage of the regions regional institutions.

In 2006, a regional meeting  was held to revitalise C-FLAG as it was known in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
with activists from 15 countries who decided to relaunch C-FLAG with a yahoo listserve while in 2007 Belize attended a meeting in the Dominican Republic which triggered UniBAM decriminaliation strategy that became case 668 of 2010. While it was an informal discussion base on an initiative from the University of the West Indies Rights Advocacy Project (URAP), the initiation and development of legal documents was pushed hard by UniBAM after its first UNDP meeting on marginalized groups organized by the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities.

While in Barbados, 2008 LGBT activists sought to develop a regional plan around the issues of Human Rights, Culture, Health and Research. The relationship and times has evolved but the principle of regionalism have not been lost since 1997 when the first effort was made in Curacao to have the first LGBT meeting in the region. Belize contributed extensively to the contents of this regional plan and while there, received news that it was an alternate speaker at the High Level meeting in New York on HIV and worked with the Dominican Republic speaker Leonardo Sanchez, to draft a 2 minute speech for his translation into Spanish at the United Nations seen below. From this experience came the slow awareness about the value of international education on the region activities in expanding the fight. Though, it was not our first effort at regional representation, as Kelvin Ramnarace of Belize, along with a female doctor were the at the then called C-FLAG meeting in 1997. 

The Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of all Genders and Sexualities was founded in 1997 at a meeting in CuraƧao of around 70 LGBT people from 17 countries, with a focus on community empowerment, HIV and other issues. It faced challenges with communication and sustainability, and did not survive. But new local LGBT groups did emerge, as well as a new HIV-funded region wide group focused on several Caribbean Vulnerable Communities. Starting in 2008, in Barbados, the name was changed to CariFLAGS, and the mission re-focused on human rights, health, culture and spirituality. Further plans were made for registration, a communications secretariat, and a shift from individual to organizational membership – but leaders had mixed success working together. Recognizing this and the sense that we still need to build a regional movement, 35 LGBT leaders from 13 countries reviewed the mistakes of the past and decided to take a new approach to this work and use a meeting in St. Lucia to move forward in a new way.

 Advancing the Principle of regionalism, can be said, to be as difficult as the development and evolution of CARICOM institutions and effort at economic and political integration, for C-FLAGS, changed leadership structure with the passing of the baton to Joel Simpson of SASOD in Guyana. 
Over time, as meetings were held off and on, activists began to become aware that the work of regionalism  existed in an atmosphere of closet politics, 11  anglo-phone countries retaining buggery or sodomy laws, little protection or engagement about social justice issues and the effect of US evangelical exportation of hate. As, health-base organizations gained capacity in administration and community mobilisation, their experience has collective helped to shaped how activists in the region saw strategy like the value of political engagement and regional funding; taking advantage of Human Rights systems like the Universal Periodic Review, the use of the OAS system etc. and the leveraging of finite resources to advance rights at home.

So work was undertaken in 2012 in Port of Spain, to  refine  regional strategies at a meeting that had representatives of Jamaica, Belize, TnT, St. Lucia and others to refine the vision and mission of what is now known as CARIFLAGS or the Caribbean Forum for the Liberation and Acceptance of all Genders and Sexualities. That process continued in 2014 with a regional meeting in Belize-as seen in photo below- and follow-up meeting in Guyana in November, 2014 to finally develop a regional advocacy plan. With the approval of a regional grant from the Democracy, Rights and Labour Office of the US State Department, it is believed the region has come a long way in structuring itself and understanding its political regional environment.


We now see, The American had Stone Wall, but the region now has, in Jamaica JFLAG, SaSOD in Guyana, UniBAM in Belize, United and Strong in St. Lucia, CAISO and Friends for Life in TnT, GrenChaps in Grenada, MirDom in Dominica, SASH in Bahamas, Rainbow Alliance in Bermuda, Amigos Siempre Amigos in the Dominican Republic, The Pink House in Curacao.  The Mexicans had Tlatelolco massacre in the afternoon and night of October 2, 1968, in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco section of Mexico City where an estimate 200-300 deaths were reported with many more wounded or arrested in the thousands. Challenges has not been this bloody in any country, as that experience in the lost of life in Mexico, but the challenges remains in the advancement of social, cultural and political protections. Below is a summary of these issues along with efforts made in the region.

St. Lucia United and Strong:

St Lucia’s first and only LGBT organisation, United and Strong Inc (U&S) formed in 2001 and was registered in November of 2005 in collaboration with the Caribbean AIDS Alliance in response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic. It has leveraged its relationship Globally, Regionally, hemispherically to improve its impact back at home. Issuing Shadow reports to the UPR process and making its constitutional submission in 2009.

Guyana SASOD:
Seemingly inspired by post-apartheid South Africa's robust constitution, the National Assembly in 2001 unanimously passed a constitutional amendment bill with comprehensive reforms, including new expressly prohibited grounds of discrimination. Three new grounds in particular raised the ire of sections of the religious community: marital status, religious vilification and sexual orientation. Initially campaigning against all three, but eventually settling for the biggest perceived sin, sections of the evangelical Christian and Muslim communities managed to convince then-President Bharrat Jagdeo not to assent to the bill but to send it back to the National Assembly for reconsideration. The bill came up in Parliament again in 2003, and this was a key moment in SASOD's genesis.

Bermuda Rainbow Alliance

The Alliance is a group of allies who operate as a collective, founded July30th, 2012 has much to celebrate, including the long-awaited passing of the Human Rights Act amendment in June 2013. Unfortunately, however, this amendment falls short when it comes to protection with regard to discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and gender expression.

The United Belize Advocacy Movement (UniBAM) became and NGO on May 4th, 2006. Some 8 years after the founding of JFLAG. With American Scott Stirm being quoted in the Amandala about UniBAM decriminalisation work as opening a "demonic gate way" while his colleague speaking on his Rise and Shine Morning Show calling UniBAM OAS presentation in 2014, "a pack of lies straight from the Pitts of hell." The organization have watched at Church leaders attack the criminal code amendments of 2013 that extended protection of sexual violence to boys and march against the gender policy and UNIBAM in 2013. While the Belize PM speech of September 2013 has changed the tone of political engagement, like Portia Simpson, there has been no substance to the adjustment in tone to extend legislative protection to address discrimination, hate speech and crime. Belize too has turned to litigation as a strategy to push its rights protection and enforcement concerns.


JFLAG  was founded in 1998. Since then, The European Parliament in 2005 passed a resolution calling on Jamaica to repeal its "antiquated and discriminatory sodomy laws and to actively combat widespread homophobia" while Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson's pledge that "no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Maurice Tomlinson filed a case against Jamaica at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in February 2012 and another in February 2013 to challenge the buggery law which was withdrawn because for safety reasons from the Jamaican courts. He filed a 3rd case on censorship in the media with hearings done in May, 2013, which he lost.

CFLAGS remain as a regional potential, as its presence have been leveraged to address the Professor Bain issue, its had signed on the numerous petitions, press releases and have coordinated in the region work on the UN resolution on Extrajudicial Killings. What it does in the next couple of years in pushing faster institutional change will remain a fascinating process, as its activists learn to define regional strategy that has a regional effort..



Rainbow Alliance:

Latin American Paper on LGBT Movement Building

The Queer Caribbean Conflicting use of post Colonial Past


Censorship Case

St. Lucia:
 Constitutional Reform Submission


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

UniBAM LGBT Advocacy in the North vs The South: The Struggle for Harmonization

9th September, 2014

The announcement that Colombia, Uruguay and Chile will introduce a SOGI resolution through the Human Rights Council at the Global level complements efforts like South Africa, Norway and Brazil in the pass and complements the UN resolution on Extrajudicial killings. Talks about engaging the Commonwealth system to advance the decriminalisation process and the success of Africans in their pursuit of getting approved, a resolution on violence and the tremendous success at the OAS since 2008 to advance systems specifically, and LGBT rights in particular, can be summed up in one sentence. Improved policy norming through political engagement  on L.G.B.T rights as human rights is getting better. However, the harmonization at the Global level into regional and national responses have not translated well in clear resource support, accessing regional systems, cultivating activists in the South and building leadership at the grassroots level.

UniBAM had the chance to attend a Global meeting at Wilton Park, in London to refined understanding of policy engagements and learned that there was a discussion to look at L.G.B.T rights advancement as a development issue,  that  strategies defer from country to country, that some global organization believe in decriminalization as  a strategy was a top priority, that international organizations are using platform issues to build coalition and support at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, at the MDG's negotiations, in Small Island Development negotiations, through the International Conference on Population and Development.

These documents and initiatives, however, depends on trick-down policy strategy and  are created and approved in an environment where LGBT advocates may work in weak regional and national responses with little or no resources to give life to these efforts, where rights enforcement and protection mechanism are insufficient, where civil society organizations are not always rushing to the side of the LGBT community to advocate for hate crime and hate speech legislation, where governments are not rushing to lead in approving anti-discrimination protection,  where not every region and country in the world has a a strong LGBT organization, where free media maybe a big problem in some countries in the South and where LGBT advocates are not always rushing to be  visible as fundamentalism rears its ugly head to oppose concerns. 

The next discovery at these meeting is that knowledge mobilisation has value in the hands of  an advocate who has a clear vision to advance social change. When technical persons who can do socio-economic research on the cost of  discrimination mesh with funders, activists on the ground,political leaders with experience in the international community and can share strategies about building support and coalition. It all has a long-term value in institutional strengthening, driving evidence--base advocacy. Knowledge mobilisation is a long-term investment in institution-building that can affect all citizens when done right.

The Word Conference in Toronto is an example of creating a knowledge mobilisation space to share regional and national responses to an audience not familiar with activists work on LGBT issues in the South. Belize, India, Uganda, Bostwana, Kenya showed up at the Envisioning conference along with their Caribbean counterparts who had their own forum discussion at Yverson University. What we have learn in Belize is that only the LGBT community can tell their story that incorporate human dignity with resistance. Of note, Belize had exactly 5 seconds to prepare its presentation on its OAS experience, leveraging its decriminalisation experience as its response to the far right in Belize and the currently evolving CFLAGS brewing in the Caribbean region. We had two other panels at the world conference on Story telling and our decriminalisation work. We had never represented so well and for the first time at the Toronto World Pride Conference in June of this year.

What is clear, is Belize is taking advantage of its international spaces to educate the international community about its LGBT challenges and evolving national tone, as UniBAM awaits the Supreme Court decision. Along the way, learning that public education nationally has equal value as it does internationally to galvanise support, reshape institutional knowledge and rebuilding national reputation. Belize was also represented  at a Human Dignity Trust meeting in London, on September 4th that allowed a sharing of ideas about our internet campaign, our responses in building public support through our wristband distribution and conducting research on our opponents. A process proving, where supporters will not show up at a large protest, they will show support through symbolism and social media.

The harmonization effort internationally, is affected and driven by activists who do takes advantage of international, hemispheric, regional and national  mechanisms, understanding that personal security will be challenged, political mapping important, but resource mobilization essential. Harmonization is opportunistic, sometimes narrow in scale and guided by facilitators, cultivators. donors and activists who shape responses according to need.  The struggle will be to understand that activism is under pressure in the South to move faster, as marriage equality advances and merged with a basic desire for social and economic protection in a way that seems menacing by the far right. What we know is that L.G.B.T advancement is affected by corruption in Africa, political resistance in the Caribbean, L.G.B.T leadership capacity and visibility. What will the national landscape look like in Belize after the Supreme Court decision? How will the region respond? We simply don't know!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

CARICOM backwardness in Leadership

Reposted July 22nd, 2014

Written by: Sean Macleish 

      I was astonished to read recently that the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves is warning against mixing the fight against HIV and gay rights. He was quoted as saying, "I don't accept the thesis that to make further advances for HIV and AIDS, that we need to do the decriminalization of homosexual activity among men in private..". 

      A report in the Lancet, one of the world's leading medical journals concluded from available data that "most global cases of HIV are not due to homosexual transmission" but harassment, silence, intimidation and homophobic laws are a major hindrance on the efficacy of HIV outreach and prevention. It compromises the fight against HIV and AIDS.The Prime Minister is misinformed and bigotry is the virus' best friend. Meanwhile in St. Vincent and the Grenadines this is the data we have from the UNAIDS Youth Data Sheet 2013. In 2005 only 25% of the 15-24 age group had ever received an HIV test, while only 9% of those who were tested in the last twelve months knew their result.Twenty four percent of all HIV cases at the end of 2011 were persons less than 24 years old. In 2010 to 2011 there was a 7% increase in the testing levels in the under 24 population.  

       The Caribbean is second in the world to Sub-Saharan Africa in the rate of HIV infection. The primary mode of transmission in the region is heterosexual intercourse with high risk groups to include men who have sex with men (MSM) and there is intersection between the two. Public health academia has known for decades that to effectively curb the global crisis of HIV/AIDS we have to remove institutionalized oppression that re-enforces homophobia. It is not a panacea but it is a major part of the solution. Countries that criminalize homosexuality marginalize MSM which pushes them underground and helps to fuel the HIV epidemic. Treating people with dignity and respect facilitates effective HIV education and prevention. It reduces the discrimination many Caribbean Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender experience when accessing health services. Studies and the resulting data have consistently demonstrated that homophobia contributes to higher HIV infection rates and that internalized homophobia also increases your risk of HIV infection. People who place a high discount rate on their lives tend to participate in higher risk behaviours. The decriminalization of homosexuality to reduce the global crisis of HIV/AIDS is a policy endorsed by the United Nations, World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization, and many non-governmental organizations. This is the consensual public health approach. Twelve of the fifteen CARICOM member states still criminalize homosexuality as of date.

President Reagan's legacy on refusing to deal with HIV/AIDS in the 1980's allowed the epidemic to flourish with the loss and debilitation of many lives. In 2011 it was estimated that 230,000 people were living with HIV in the Caribbean. There were 13,000 new infections in 2011 and 10,000 people died from AIDS (UNAIDS).

What will be the legacy of our political leaders in the Caribbean?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Health Authorities pledge to improve access to healthcare for LGBT people

Reposted 17th, July, 2014
Washington, DC, 3 October 2013 (PAHO/WHO) — Health authorities from throughout the Americas pledged to promote equitable access to health care for lesbians, homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBT), during the 52nd Directing Council meeting of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which is being held this week in Washington, D.C.

Ministers of health and other delegates from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean approved a resolution in which they committed to promote equal access to health care in their countries’ policies, plans and legislation.

PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne expressed support for the resolution, saying everyone has the right to health care and adding that PAHO would work with its member countries to address these issues.

The resolution, presented by the United States and supported by delegates from other PAHO member countries, calls for efforts to overcome stigma and discrimination against LGBTs in the health sector, which often prevents them from accessing needed health services. It also calls for respect for the human dignity and the right to health of LGBT people as well as greater awareness of the diversity of gender expression and gender identity.

“The barriers that LGBT people face in accessing health services—ranging from disrespectful treatment to denial of care—contribute to poor health outcomes,” said Nils Daulaire, assistant secretary for global affairs of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in presenting the resolution.

Barriers to care for LGBT people include outright denial of care, poor care, disrespectful treatment or even abuse, restrictions against including significant individuals in family treatment of in support and decision-making roles, inappropriate assumptions about the causes of health or behavioral conditions, avoidance of treatment, and poor understanding on the part of health providers of the specific health-care needs of LGBT persons, including trauma-related and behavioral health issues related to discrimination.

LGBT persons experience worse health disparities and outcomes than heterosexual persons in every country across the globe. They have higher rates of depression, anxiety, tobacco use, alcohol abuse, suicide or suicidal ideation, as a result of chronic stress, social isolation, and disconnectedness from a range of health and support services.

The stigma and discrimination experienced by LGBT people in the health sector often keeps them from accessing health services when they need them. The resolution calls for eliminating inequalities in health, including those associated with gender identity and gender expression.

Etienne said PAHO would prepare a report on the health status of LGBT persons and the barriers they face in accessing health-care services, as well as the impact of that reduced access, to help find solutions to these problems.

PAHO is the world’s oldest international public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples.

Links Source: http://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9056&Itemid=1926

Monday, July 14, 2014

Belize Action attack Rights at the CARICOM level, but screams Freedom under fire in Belize

July 14th, 2014

On May22nd, Belize action and its crew protested, "Freedom under Fire." Presumably christian freedom. In a story written by Adele Ramos of the Amandala, called "Belize protestors call for fund to fight Professor Bain Case," dated May 30, 2014, Pastor Eugene Crawford, president of the Evangelical Association of Belize, called the termination of Bain “very, very unjust."

Let's speak about unjust Pastor Crawford,  who takes their baby out into the night to a bigoted event, knowing that child belongs in bed. Its one thing to have a bigoted parent, but must the child physically suffer in the spirit of religious-base bigotry which has the stamp of approval of the Evangelical leadership. As opponents, the message has always been don't misuse children, but apparently, its alright in the spirit of bigotry like the mother in the right-side picture.  In addition when Belize Action, The Belize Association of Evangelical Churches and United Women's Christian Alliance joined a rabid bigoted group of rights violators called Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society led by Dr. Wayne West and Shirley Richards along with 140 evangelicals groups in the region to block," PANCAP Justice for All Declaration and Roadmap," which was an investment in stigma and discrimination reduction, this was unjust. The groups went further and wrote Secretary General LaRocque on June 25th,  to say,"a number of these recommendations are objectionable and do not enjoy consensus support in the Caribbean."  Ignoring that, at the end of 2011 there were 230,000 persons infected in the region with more that 3% of the Bahamian adult population living with HIV. Regionally, 10,000 died from advance HIV at the end of 2011. Yet, its christian freedom under attack.

In Belize, Belize Action  and its crew screamed freedom was under fire, but if that were so, 4,000 people marching across the country would have been jailed and the UniBAM effigy that led the so called constitutional marches in Toledo would have led to a criminal offense. How is freedom under fire when it was not the gay community who brought out people by the hundreds, its was Belize Action and its crew.

What was the issue you may ask, well, the PANCAP Justice for All Declaration and Road Map offered 15 recommendations for CARICOM leaders to endorsed, some of which included the following:

1). Eliminating mother to child transmission
2).Strengthening laws to drastically reduce domestic violence
3).Enacting over-arching anti-discrimination legislation and enacting equal opportunity acts
4).Prohibiting discrimination in employment practices HIV, disability, sexual orientation by 2015
5). Developing standardised modules for the delivery of HIV and AIDS
6).Developing social programmes for the disabled and
7).Accelerating evidence-base policies through research and training
8).Repealing laws that criminalizes sex between consenting male and female adults
9). Ensuring that there are provisions, for criminalising acts with the use of force with minors.

In its statement, JCHS spoke of" in the interest of transparency and accountability, "  and called for a published list of persons who have been part of the consultation process. However, JCHS and its counterpart have never been honest about their US right wing connections  who has  funded their operations. In fact, when the Southern Poverty Law Center launch its report Dangerous Liaisons, Stirm himself, spoke of funding for Belize Action being 100% Belizean. However, a recent facebook conversation between Patrick Menzies and Kern Thimbrel revealed that Stirm's Belize Action may have just one funder. The conversation can be seen below where he asked " Who was the main donor for Belize Action? Tell us honestly, is that person the consensus person," in a position of difference regarding the evangelical association divisions. Patrick further goes on to address a questionable email sent out to mislead non-BA members. 

All it seems, is not well with the slow brewing divisions among the the evangelical leadership. More importantly, Stirm skill at misleading the public is an artful skill that is to be respected. Stirm history of misleading  the public can be linked back to the Bain issue on May 22nd, 2014.

Stirm said in an interview on channel 5, "We are standing in support of Professor Bain. And we are saying to UWI that we are just absolutely shocked that they would cower to that level of pressure from the LGBT.”  He, Belize Action and its crew, then, turns around and signed on to a statement  of 140 church groups that essentially,  did the exact same thing, but this time, communication was sent to every Prime Ministerial Office in the region.

The statement issues by JCHS adds that " We affirm the inherent dignity as bearers of the image of GOD.We are truly concern about the heavy cost on the physical, psychological, social and economic well-being of every Caribbean individual caused by the HIV/AIDS pandemic..."     but goes on to be concern about the definition of discrimination.  The statement went even further and spoke of " we hold the view that while discrimination per se is morally neutral , morals are necessary to enact sound principles for governance..." Totally ignoring constitutional frameworks of every country in the Caribbean and realities on the ground in every single country.

A study suggests that ," The Religious Right and social conservative are "reframing political losses as religious oppression," PFAW's study suggests, in an "attempt to build justification for turning back advances in gay rights, reproductive rights, and religious liberty for minority faiths.""

The point is made from Audrey Matura in her comment on Bain  in a Channel 5 interview ..."You say you don’t want to be discriminated against and now you want to make sure that you discriminate people.  Now, everybody has the right to work.  Imagine, they don’t even want this man to work.”

She continues in another interview in the amandala on May 30th, 2014,  " I was the first one. Now B, Dr. Bain… C. Who will be next?” she questioned. “Will they ask the Bar Association [of Belize] to remove Mr. Courtenay because he went to court and defended, or Mr. Chebat? Or Nigel Hawke because he represented the Government [in the challenge of Maurice Tomlinson to Belize’s immigration laws]?”

Inversing messaging of their opponents has  had a long history in the culture wars. The battle in the courts, in the media, in social organizing, in documentation and reporting, in political engagement is part of the culture war. The battle for rights recognition has gone regional, the regional players are now centered in Jamaica, as one side (the far right) compete to ensure rights restriction and social control, while the other (the left) seeks to balance rights protection and enforcement concerns.

Ultimately though, what the 140 coalition statement did was challenge regional leaders to play their  hand, of throwing out constitutional frameworks for theological positions and posturing rather than responsible  responding to the needs of the marginalised affected by HIV/AIDS which is over 200,000 per year. It is this author contention that, he did not know that the rights and dignity of the marginalised, of those affected and infected by HIV/AIDS required consensus. Apparently, good governance, matters not these days in addressing the economic and social disparities between citizens.

JCHS Statement

Belize Action Organises a peaceful demonstration in protest of Bain termination, May 22, 2014

Stirm Strikes back at SPLC

2nd Protest Against Termination of UWI professor is held a battlefield park.

Justice for All



Friday, June 20, 2014

Belize: Nation of GOD or Nation of Laws.

Posted: 20th June, 2014

Author: Nuri Muhammad

We find ourselves in a dilemma in Belize today; are we a nation of God or a nation of laws? The answer is not as easy as some would believe. Belize is in a transitional time warp that can be better understood if we saw our collective consciousness in two parts: pre-independence and post-independence.
If the same question was posed fifty years ago the answer would be resound: we are a nation of God! While we were never a theocracy by any means, the Christian religious values which underpinned our collective value system made it no question that the majority of us acknowledge the supremacy of God in our personal and collective lives and thus it is not surprising that that God consciousness forms a part of the first principle in the preamble of our constitution. During those days none would have dared challenge the constitutionality of that fundamental principle, out of reverence, or out of fear of being ostracized by this powerful collective consciousness. Questioning God was evidence of blasphemy.
Ask the same question today, however, and the answer is less convicted. Post independent Belize has evolved a new set of values that challenges some of the old values that were taken for granted in pre-independent Belize. One such conflict is in the answer to this simple, yet complex question: are we a nation of God or a nation of laws?
Clearly the politically correct answer is we are a nation of laws governed by the principles of our constitution and all the conventions and declarations we have signed. So while the acknowledgement of God remains the first principle of the document the definition of supremacy is intrinsically challenged by other principles contained in the body of the document itself, especially those which says that every citizen has equal human rights under the law.
The reason there was no challenge to the legal definition of supremacy in pre-independent Belize was because supremacy meant that God’s moral code, as outlined in the Old Testament of the Bible, underpinned all our laws and the preservation of public morality was based on those religious principles. While the principle of privacy was respected in pre-independent Belize, if there was evidence of any display of public immorality there was an immediate reaction from the public and the law.
This is not the case in post-independent Belize. Our social rules are no longer governed by strict adherence to the old definition of public morality as defined in Judo-Christian ethics. In an era where soft and sometimes hard core pornography can be seen by 24 hours cable channels; where graphic dancehall lyrics coupled with hard-core sexually suggestive videos can be consumed on public media without censorship, where women and children continue to be victims of sexual assault, Belize, as far as public morality, now find itself at a place where the question again arises: are we a nation of God or a nation of laws.
The gauge for public display of immorality has been so totally blurred today that the definition of what is morally right or wrong is now reduced to personal opinion and protected by the constitutional principle of freedom of conscience. And if you want to extend your peculiar definition of morality to a group of like minds, you are protected by the constitutional principle of freedom of association.
While these constitutional protections are enshrined within our constitution our exercise of those freedoms was different in pre independent Belize. There would have never been a UNIBAM challenge in a Supreme Court of pre independent Belize. Same people, same country, but different times. While there were the cross-dressing “Carmen Mirandas and Shirleys” in pre-independent Belize there was no perceived threat from their lifestyle as there now appears to be in post-independent Belize with the mob attack on “Vanessa Champagne Paris”.
This mob attack was indicative of this underlying clash of old values versus new values. The mob, and the spectators who did nothing to intervene, felt the victim deserved his ‘punishment’ for breaking “God’s law” which condemns men wearing women’s attire. The mob’s attack was spontaneous and irrational but fueled by an innate sense of rightness and justice in their action. So despite church leaders later distancing themselves from the actions of the mob it was clear that the root justification for this mob attack was religious.
The law on the other hand takes the view that there is never justification for assault on a person regardless to your personal or collective disagreement with them. So despite the moral indignation of the mob and onlookers at the behavior of ‘Vanessa’ and their Old Testament instinct to punish him, the law protects ‘Vanessa’ and condemns the actions of the mob.
It was said by one esteemed Jurist that you cannot legislate morality. By this I think he meant you cannot set out laws governing how individuals will choose to act or not act on a particular moral question since moral conscience is the preview of the individual and no one has a right to direct a persons’ conscience – each is personally responsible; this is a principle in law.
Following this reasoning then, the proponents for repealing S53 say that, “to legislate that a certain kind of moral behavior is illegal, based on “God’s law”, is unconstitutional. The state cannot legislate a person's moral behavior or prevent a person from behaving in a certain way as long as those ways do not affect the rights of others or disrupt the public good”.
While the proponents for keeping S53 as is say, “But isn’t it equally true that if you can’t legislate morality, you also cannot legislate the acceptance of a behavior that a sizeable part of the population finds repugnant and therefore, immoral? Can the state legislate that my child be taught certain material I find immoral; does the state have the right to legislate a morally offensive agenda? Isn’t this the same principle in reverse?”
This is an example of the conundrum that Caribbean Jurist faces today. The legal traditions of the west are based on Judo-Christian ethical foundations and have always had moral and ethical excellence as the goals of good governance. However, as western societies have evolved over the last century they have moved drastically away from a God centered society to a man centered paradigm with a result that “God”, as perceived in the traditional Judo-Christian ethical frame, is no longer the source of law: this has been replaced by a UN system of declarations and conventions called ‘human rights’ which are enshrined in the constitutions of most former colonial states in the region.
What does this all mean for us in Belize, in 2014, and how do we answer the question: are we a nation of God or a nation of laws today? Clearly our recent history shows that we lean more to the latter definition, but are the two mutually exclusive or is it possible to be both? The dynamics surrounding the UNIBAM case brings that question into sharp focus. The battle lines are drawn and the long awaited decision of the Chief Justice will be interpreted as an affirmation of one or the other.