With intimidation, insults and assault, a couple of unidentified men have brought into focus the vulnerability and inequity endured by sexual minorities in Belize.
Caleb Orozco, Executive Director of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), alleges that last Wednesday he was followed and threatened before an assailant hurled a beer bottle at his face, hitting his jaw and damaging two of his teeth. Orozco is at the forefront of a constitutional challenge to Belize’s colonial era laws regarding sex between men. But while he may be more visible than most, harassment is a shared experience for many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) persons.
Last year the advocate opened up about his experience of attacks through the years, stressing that that verbal and physical abuse were daily features of life for him and for many others. Moreover, Orozco maintained that there is a low degree of trust that the protective services would respond to, investigate and follow through on reports made by sexual minorities. At first reluctant to file a report, Orozco was eventually convinced to do so and a statement was taken by the police. Up to this point no arrests have been made.
The UNIBAM constitutional challenge is a step toward correcting the misconception that some people are not entitled to equal treatment and protection by dint of their real or perceived sexuality or gender identity. But that isn’t UNIBAM’s only approach. Just last month the organisation launched the “We are one” campaign, a nationwide effort meant to foster sensitisation and dialogue around the theme of equal rights for all. The campaign combines mass media messages and engagement surrounding the mistreatment of GLBTs with an outlet for people across Belize to express solidarity with the concept of equality.
Let’s join together to condemn the incitement and perpetration of acts of violence toward all people, including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. It is imperative that individuals, communities, the protective services and governments do more to both affirm peace and ensure the security of everyone.
Photo caption: Caleb Orozco, UNIBAM Executive Director. Credit: Daniel Volmy