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Belize Defends Policy against Commercialization of Homosexuality Print E-mail
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Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:00

Acting Deputy Solicitor General Nigel Hawke is being assisted by Crown Counsels Herbert Panton and Iliana Swift in the defense of Belize’s stance against the commercialization of homosexuality in Belize by foreigners.

Maurice Arnold Tomlinson, attorney and gay rights advocate from Jamaica, is challenging the immigration laws of Belize and Trinidad and Tobago because he believes they violate his right to free movement within the Caribbean Community as enshrined in the Treaty of Chaguramas. Section 5 of the Immigration Act of Belize list as prohibited immigrants: “(e) any prostitute or homosexual or person who may be living on or receiving or may have been living on or receiving the proceeds of prostitution or homosexual behavior.”

Tomlinson was invited by the United Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) to conduct an advocacy and human rights training session in Belize City from January 14-16, 2013 but claims he was legally barred from entering Belize by the Immigration Act since he is a gay man and he does not want to break the law. However, in an affidavit, Tomlinson has admitted that he has visited Belize on at least two occasions. His most recent visit was between July 17 and 21, 2012. Tomlinson claims he was not aware of the Immigration Act at that time and says he was not denied entry into Belize. However, his challenge stands.

Tomlinson is seeking special leave to invoke the original jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice which in essence is to interpret the Treaty of Chaguaramas. Under the Treaty; however, only member countries can invoke the original jurisdiction. Therefore, Tomlinson is being represented by Queen's Counsel Anthony Gifford in a request for Special Leave. Gifford presented his submissions before the Caribbean Court of Justice on Tuesday, November 12. He argued that the immigration laws of Belize and Trinidad and Tobago places a ban on homosexuals from entering.

Counsels for Belize and Trinidad and Tobago then defended their country’s laws. After the hearing, Hawke summarized his presentation for the press. He said the law is clearly aimed at “those who profit or earn from either prostitution or homosexuality”.  He says there is no actual prejudice and that is not being argued. According to Hawke, “The question is whether there is a potential prejudice because he says the law there is an impediment of free movement in particular to Belize. We are saying, based on our interpretation it's not.”

The Caribbean Court of Justice has reserved judgment. If granted leave, Tomlinson’s substantive challenge will be heard before the CCJ and the Justices will determine if Belize’s Immigration laws violate the rights of homosexuals as enshrined in the Treaty of Chaguaramas.