December 13, 2019
Organization that supports removal of buggery laws, assisting Government with revision of Criminal Code

While this government fights in court to retain the buggery and gross indecency laws of the country, an international body which supports their removal is assisting with a review of the sexual offences provisions in the Criminal Code.

The Ministry of National Mobilisation, which also has responsibility for gender and youth affairs held a stakeholder consultation yesterday Thursday, to review the sexual offences provisions.

The consultation involves developing recommendations for reform to the Sexual Offences provisions so as to align with international good practices and human rights principles.

And the Human Dignity Trust, a group which uses the law to defend the rights of LGBT+ people globally, is the group providing technical assistance and funding for this review.

The Trust is also among interested parties in the challenge to the buggery laws in Belize and are in support of the removal of such laws from their constitution.

But Frederick Stephenson, the minister with responsibility for gender affairs and child development told SEARCHLIGHT while he is aware that the Trust is involved in some aspects of the challenge to the buggery laws in Belize, it is not the focus of his ministry’s engagement with them.

“My ministry cannot have an activity while a matter in relation to the LGBT challenge of the buggery laws are in court, it would be very wrong of the ministry and very wrong of me as the minister to engage in consultation and discussion in relation to this,” Stephenson said.

Court proceedings have already begun here in relation to a challenge to the buggery and gross indecency laws brought by Javin Johnson and Sean MacLeish, two gay Vincentians living abroad.
And on November 20, Justice Esco Henry ruled that 10 churches would be permitted to join the litigation to defend the retention of both laws.

During his address at the opening ceremony of the consultation, Stephenson said that women, children, elderly, persons with disabilities and members of the LGBT community are directly and indirectly discriminated against.

But he told SEARCHLIGHT that this stakeholder consultation has nothing to do with the LGBT+ community as far as he is concerned, especially as it relates to the matter currently in court.

According to the Human Dignity Trust’s website, the organisation also gives technical assistance on the request of governments looking to reform discriminatory laws.

And Stephenson said that the Trust was in consultation with Vincentian professionals Petrona Sealey-Browne and Dr Monique Constance-Huggins, two of the presenters at Wednesday’s stakeholders consultation session.

“After this review, the findings will be sent to Cabinet to review and Cabinet has the final say whether we take findings and reviews to Parliament to amend sections of the Criminal Code. It’s an ongoing process…” he said.

Victoria Vasey, the head of legal at Human Dignity Trust presented on international good practice in sexual offences legislation while Sealey-Browne and Constance-Huggins made presentations on the Sexual Offences legislation in SVG, providing an overview and gap analysis and recommendations for reform. Sealey-Browne is a legal drafter, while Constance-Huggins is an associate professor of social work in the United States.