Photo: Pastor Dozie Ifeanyichineke
by Charles Gladden
BELIZE CITY, Wed. Feb. 7, 2024
Pastor Dozie Ifeanyichineke from Dangriga is in a legal battle with the Social Security Board, as they refuse to pay a “widower pension” to him because he is a man.
According to Dozie, his now-deceased wife, Jane Ifeanyichineke, with whom he was married for 25 years, was employed as a teacher for over 25 years. She passed away on December 28, 2021, due to stage four colon cancer, leaving behind their three children. Then on March 22, 2022, he applied to the Social Security Board for a “widower pension”.
On April 29 of the same year, Social Security replied, denying Ifeanyichineke’s request for a pension, with the reason that he is a man who they believe can find a job. Ifeanyichineke claims that several men besides him have been denied their pension, and they were urged to fight their case but never did.
“I [decided] to challenge the decision of the Social Security Board. I also spoke with a former branch manager of the Social Security Board about my case.” He informed that during his tenure in that institution, several men had their claims likewise denied. He urged them to challenge the decision of the Social Security Board, “but not one of those brothers challenged the decision of the Social Security Board. They all walked away bitter and disappointed,” he said.
Ifeanyichineke highlighted that the SSB is acting discriminatory toward him simply because he is a man. He believes that Section 32 of the Social Security Act is unfair to men and calls it “unconstitutional”.
“This section of the law treats widowers differently than it treats widows. Therefore, in this instance, it discriminates against me simply [based on] my sex, meaning that I am a man, a male. The Constitution of Belize explicitly prohibits the state or the government from discrimination based on several wrongs, which include a person’s sex, ethnicity, or political opinions,” he said.
“I firmly believe I would have qualified. Thank you, a survivor’s pension if I were a widow. Had it been the other way around, that had I died, my wife would have claimed my pension. I know of women who are receiving their deceased husbands’ pensions; these are women who have come forward to me. It is my firm belief if I were a widow or if I were a woman, then I would have been entitled to the pension,” he said.
Mariano Lino, Team Leader for Pension and Long-Term Services at Social Security, explained that it is harder for men to receive their spouses’ pension when compared to widows. He noted that the Social Security Board views men as able persons who can work, and it is rare that widowers receive their spouses’ pension.
Ifeanyichineke says he tried to take the Social Security Board to the Supreme Court, and was rejected by the court for trial. He said he filed a complaint with the Bar Association of Belize, and they determined that he had a case against his lawyer, who reportedly signed a settlement without his knowledge.