Features — 13 December 2013 — by Adele Ramos

Opposition PUP supports changes to Criminal Code

The Criminal Code Amendment Bill, also dubbed the “gender neutral rape bill,” which would make it possible for a female to be charged for the rape of a male, and which would expand provisions under which forced unnatural sex would be categorized as rape, was taken back to the House of Representatives today for passage—this time with no marked opposition against the bill.

When the law was introduced in late September, there was a wave of controversy over provisions which some members of the public said seem to acquiesce to the notion that consenting adults can legally engage in acts now criminalized as unnatural sex under Belize’s Criminal Code.

However, today, Chair of the Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee, Patrick Faber, apologized to the churches for the language that has to be in the bill, but insisted that the amendments were formulated to protect children, and for no other reason.

Faber said that Section 53 is being challenged by UNIBAM in the courts, but the Government is championing the effort to keep the law on the books, and to keep unnatural sex as a crime.

“That is what the Government’s position is,” Faber said.

The Bill was to have been passed at the last sitting of Parliament, but was held back for further refinements after Faber dialogued with former Solicitor General Michelle Daley, Bar Association President Eamon Courtenay, attorney Audrey Matura-Shepherd, and Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Lynn-Vidal, among others.

“The passing of this legislation is a huge achievement for Belize and even more so for Belize’s children, who will be better protected from sexual abuse and exploitation,” said a statement from Special Envoy for Women and Children, Kim Simplis-Barrow, who was a major advocate in the drafting of this legislation.

Her office invited students to witness the passage of the bill and today, students of Belmopan Comprehensive School, in the nation’s capital, joined the Special Envoy in Parliament, where the bill was passed without opposition from the other side of the floor.

Former Minister for Human Development, Women and Civil Society, Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, the People’s United Party area representative for Belize Rural Central, said that her party fully supports the bill.

Apart from approving the amendments in the Criminal Code, Parliament also approved amendments to the Immigration Act, the Passport Act and the Nationality Act.

A motion was also taken to the House for the reappointment of Contractor General Godwin Arzu.

The Bills passed by the House go next to the Senate for approvals, before the Governor-General can assent to making them the law of the land.

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