Public Complaints change Gender Policy Print E-mail
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Thursday, 30 May 2013 00:00

Gender PolicyThe National Women’s Commission launched the Revised National Gender Policy on Thursday, May 16th. The policy addresses the major challenges that are faced by women, men and children in Belize today. The five areas of focus are health, education and skills training, wealth and employment generation, violence reduction and power and decision making. Since the launch of the document, religious leaders of the country have raised issue with certain declarations in the policy.

One of those controversial declarations was made in the section where the policy focuses on wealth and employment generation. Bullet 5 on Page 31 of the document says that Government is committed to “Amend existing legislation to legalize and regulate the sex work industry. Develop and implement alternative economic skills training programmes and other support services for men and women who wish to retire from sex work activities.” While Government is committed to implement more economic skills training programmes for Belizeans, it has no intention to legalize the sex work industry. Executive Director of the National Women’s Commission, Ann-Marie Williams, apologized for the statement. In a press release she wrote, “The statement which is in dissonance with Government’s recent passage of stronger legislations on human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children is a complete oversight and should have been omitted.” Williams said, “Although there was consensus early on that the statement should be removed, it still appears in the version of the document that was printed for the launch.” The commission is in the process of omitting the statement in documents that have not been distributed as yet.

Another change that will be made to the document was ordered by the Cabinet. That is guiding principle number six, “Respect for Diversity”, which states:

“Men and Women in Belize are not a homogenous group. Rather, the population is comprised of persons of all ages who come from diverse races, cultures, ethnicities, faiths, sexual orientations, socio-economic situations and behavioral lifestyles. All policies and programmes must, therefore, reflect this reality of diversity among the Belizean populace and customary, religious and cultural practices must be subject to the right of equality,”

Religious leaders claimed that it was an attempt to push a homosexual agenda in schools, churches and other institutions of society. Cabinet issued a release on Tuesday, May 28th, saying that after considering the objections raised by religious leaders it sees no harm in “omitting the last few words in the final sentence of the paragraph which reads: ‘... and customary religious and cultural practices must be subject to the right of equality’”. However, Government emphasized its commitment “to maintain its policy to respect the reality of Belize’s wide range of diversity”.

Adele Catzim-Sanchez was the consultant contracted to work on the document. She said that there was a need for the revision of the policy because "life changes over time and there are new emerging issues that have come to our attention over the last few years.” Such new issues include the need for protection of women working in the sex work industry and an end to discrimination against gay Belizeans.