The Central American nation of Belize struck down an anti-sodomy law on Wednesday in a major victory for gay rights activists.
The Belize Supreme Court, on Aug. 10, ruled in favor of gay activist Caleb Orozco. The court ordered Section 53 of the Criminal Code to be amended to exclude penalty of sexual acts between two consenting adults of the same gender. First filed in 2010, the case was a long process, spearheaded by Caribbean human rights activists and fought vigorously by groups associated with the Roman Catholic Church, Belize Evangelical Churches and the corporate body of the Church of England.
Maria Sjodin, Deputy Executive Director of OutRight Action International, said the ruling marks a turning point in decriminalizing same-sex conduct in the region.
“The court ruling in Belize means that the number of countries that criminalize same-sex behavior is now down to 72 and hopefully this downward trend can continue,” Sjodin said, in a news release. “But it is important to remember that laws are only part of what impacts people’s lives – the fight to change societies must continue worldwide and this can only happen with strong LGBTIQ movements.”
According to its website, OutRight Action International’s core mission is to “document and expose human rights violations against LGBTIQ people across the world." The organization has a 25-year history and was the first U.S. based LGBTIQ organization to achieve consultative status at the United Nations.
Covering a land mass slightly smaller than Massachusetts, Belize gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1981, but was not recognized by neighboring country Guatemala until 1992.