Headline — 04 June 2013 — by Adele Ramos
Teachers fight gender policy 2013!

The BNTU, a national organization, opposes GOB’s gender-transforming policy shift

The Council of Management of the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) sat for several hours today mulling over the Revised Gender Policy 2013, and late this evening, they issued a call on the Government to “put an immediate halt to any further action on this policy.”

BNTU National President Luke Palacio told Amandala this evening that the union was never consulted on this new policy document, and there are several aspects of the document which concern them.

Palacio said the BNTU wants to know if the new gender policy is being implemented in order to comply with conditions for foreign aid.

“We need to get to the bottom of it. We don’t know if that is one of the motives,” he told us.

The BNTU is concerned about how education is redefined on page 24. Specifically, the policy document sets out as an objective, “to redefine education as a process of lifelong learning and to act as a primary vehicle for transforming gender relations across the life cycle.”

Palacio said the BNTU is concerned that the policy shift “can have negative effects on family, religious freedom and, of course, on freedom of speech.”

He said that the policy suggests that if people are not careful about what is said on the matter of sexual orientation—in today’s context, taken to suggest more than normal sexual orientation and extending to include “lesbian, gay, transsexual or bisexual” (LGBT)—one can be taken to court.

Palacio points to clauses in the new policy which speak of anti-discrimination measures.

“We have to lend our voice to ensure that we look at the implications for society and way of life that we are accustomed to in Belize,” the BNTU president said.

Palacio told our newspaper that the BNTU management will be canvassing the views of its membership before making its formal stance known.

Today’s meeting was for the second-highest decision-making body of the union, the Council of Management, made up of two members from each of the 10 branches, along with persons elected at the national convention and the BNTU’s Executive Secretary, Keisha Flowers.

Palacio said that the BNTU intends to begin consultations next week, and they will next move to get approval from the Ministry of Education and school management for teachers to get time-off to attend branch meetings, so that they can share their views on the issue.

Palacio said that they have been receiving calls and concerns raised by members and others in society on the new policy, and they want to ensure they address the issues.

At today’s meeting, presentations were done by Pastor Louis Wade and Maria Zabaneh, and the text of the policy document was reviewed, he said.

Palacio said that the gender policy seems to be in contravention of the United Nations Convention on Human Rights.

“We want teachers, in particular, to be aware of the implications that could come out of it,” said Palacio.

In an official statement issued after today’s Council of Management Meeting, the BNTU said that it has “grave concerns” over “the implications the policy will have on our human, constitutional, social and educational policies and rights.”

The BNTU said it intends to sensitize its general membership on the implications of the Revised Gender Policy, as well as to take the requisite steps to ensure that the general citizenry suffers no constitutional infringement as a consequence of having this gender policy enforced.

“We thus call on the government to put an immediate halt to any further action on this policy,” it said.

The BNTU statement adds that, “…we remain resolute in our intent to stand in solidarity against any system that will jeopardize the construct of the Belizean society. We now place the National Gender Policy under the microscope and we stand ready to act as our review unravels the real truth.”

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