In an interview with Amandala today, Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow frowned upon a recent indication from United States (US) President Barack Obama last Tuesday, via a presidential memorandum, that the US has declared “combat” against countries that it may deem guilty of violence or discrimination against “lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender” persons, dubbed LGBT for short—a war which could have implications for foreign aid allocations to poor nations.
Barrow told Amandala that he has not yet seen the memo himself, but he doesn’t care what it says, as the Government of Belize will not move from its stance.
The Belize Government has decided to defend the law which pronounces unnatural sex illegal and which permits a 10-year prison term for persons found guilty of sodomy. In reality, though, Belizean law enforcement authorities do not prosecute homosexuals, except in cases of rape and the molestation of minors.
As regards to the Government of Belize’s decision “to defend the law on the nation’s statute books,” said Prime Minister Barrow, if the US is saying that it will cut foreign aid to Belize, “they will have to cut off their aid,” Barrow told us.
No one can tell the Government of Belize what to do on this matter, which is an internal matter, he said.
While the Obama memo was issued out of the White House in Washington, D.C., it was directed globally, to nations including Belize, who may face repercussions in terms of foreign aid allocations from the US.
“Agencies engaged abroad are directed to strengthen existing efforts to effectively combat the criminalization by foreign governments of LGBT status or conduct and to expand efforts to combat discrimination, homophobia, and intolerance on the basis of LGBT status or conduct,” said Obama.
Prime Minister Barrow told our newspaper that there is not much that the US government gives to Belize, apart from its aid for security, which, he said, is not much and is for the US government’s self-interest, because they are worried about the drugs going to the US—which, he added, is such a huge and unforgivable consumer of the vast majority of the illicit drugs.
The US president’s memo stated that, “Under my administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere. Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”
The constitutional challenge before the Supreme Court of Belize by Caleb Orozco’s United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) is known to have major international support.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has written in her annual human rights reports on Belize for the past two years that, “The law [of Belize] does not protect sexual orientation or gender identity…”
She also mentioned UNIBAM in her report, identifying it as, “The country’s sole lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy organization…”
Clinton said that UNIBAM had reported that “continuing harassment and insults by the general public and police affected its activities; however, its members were reluctant to file complaints.”
In his memo last Tuesday, Obama declared the US’s intent to embark on “swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad,” and to “vigorously advance” its goal to promote the rights of those who choose to have same-sex relations, including homosexuals and bisexuals, and those transgender persons who may decide they want to be a man today and a woman tomorrow.
PM Barrow indicated that he intends to review the Barack memo to see what other issues he has raised in the document; but Government’s decision to defend its position in local court stands, nonetheless, he indicated.