General — 11 October 2013 — by Adele Ramos

At a meeting held this Tuesday, the Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee, a standing committee of the House of Representatives headed by Education Minister Patrick Faber, decided—in light of major public concerns over legislative changes being made to sexual offenses outlined in Belize’s Criminal Code—to host a public consultation next week.

A notice issued today by the National Assembly confirms that the public hearing on the Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill. No. 2 of 2013 will be held on Tuesday, October 15, 2013, at 1:30 p.m. inside the Jaguar Auditorium at the University of Belize, Belmopan campus.

“Any persons or interested bodies wishing to give their views and/or recommendation on the bill are invited to do so either in person at the meeting or, in writing to the Clerk to the National Assembly,” the notice said.

A revised notice issued this afternoon adds, however, that, “Persons or interested bodies can only appear once before the Committee to give their views and/or recommendation.”

Amandala sought clarification on this point, and we were advised by the Clerk of the National Assembly that anyone who presented at this week’s meeting should not present at next week’s meeting, and “that’s the way it’s always been.”

He said that if there are any further comments from those who appeared before the Committee this week, they should be made in writing.

Yesterday, government officials who strongly support the revision of the law, noted concerns that the new language favors the decriminalization of unnatural sex acts, and they indicated their willingness to listen to public feedback in an effort to galvanize full support for the amendments, which, they contend, are long overdue and designed especially to offer greater protection to boys from sexual predators.

Special Envoy for Women and Children Kim Simplis-Barrow said, “We will give the public as much time, reasonable time, to submit queries, to give suggestions, to clear this up, to ensure that we have a robust law to protect our children and to punish perpetrators; therefore, we are having the public consultation next week Tuesday. We’re inviting everyone, every interested party. We’re inviting all the media houses to attend… this is part of our democracy,” she said.

Barrow said that “…it will be a day [of celebration] for the children when this is passed in the House.”

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