Belize Latest Country Where British Sodomy Laws Are Under Attack

The Supreme Court of Belize held hearings this week on a challenge to the country’s colonial-era sodomy law. This is at least the third former British colony where courts have taken up challenges to sodomy codes this year.

Activist Caleb Orozco took his challenge against Belize’s sodomy law to the country’s high court this week with support of several international human rights organizations and the former attorney general of the United Kingdom.

This court case links the small Central American country with Singapore and India. All three are former British colonies that owe their sodomy laws to colonial-era penal codes. And courts in these countries have all seen challenges to these laws in the past year.

The Guardian reported that cases are also under way in two more former colonies, Jamaica and northern Cyprus.

These cases show that laws criminalizing homosexuality are a legacy of colonialism, though many opponents of LGBT rights outside Europe and United States often claim that homosexuality is a western import.

Belize’s Section 53 states that “every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for 10 years.” It was put into place in 1888 and made a more serious crime during the second world war.

The challenge is being led by Caleb Orozco of the United Belize Advocacy Movement, who has faced death threats for his advocacy. His case is being supported by the UK-based Human Dignity Trust as well as the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the International Commission of Jurists.

The most vocal proponent of keeping the law in place has been Scott Stirm, an evangelical pastor from Texas who heads a group called Belize Action.

Singapore’s top court upheld a similar challenge to its sodomy law last month. India’s highest court is currently reviewing a 2009 decision of the Delhi High Court striking down its sodomy law.

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J. Lester Feder is a world correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. His secure PGP fingerprint is 1E6E D0AA 63D9 4B28 85AB 2133 CD52 1D31 F20D 2596
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