Belize’s ruling on gay sex supports access to HIV services — UNAIDS

Thursday, August 11, 2016

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) today welcomed Belize’s Supreme Court decision to overturn a portion of the small Central American country's criminal code that outlawed gay sex.
This development, UNAIDS said in a release today, reinforces human rights and supports access to HIV services.
Yesterday, Chief Justice of Belize Kenneth Benjamin ruled that Section 53 of the Belize Criminal Code is inconsistent with the Constitution. The law criminalised “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, including anal sex between consenting adults. 
The chief justice ruled that this provision violated the rights to human dignity, privacy, freedom of expression, non-discrimination and equality before the law.

Read: Belize Supreme Court overturns sodomy law
This development, according to UNAIDS, comes at a critical juncture in the HIV response. Through the Sustainable Development Goals the world has committed to end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030. In order to do so member states have pledged to ensure that no one is left behind. 
For gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in most of the English-speaking Caribbean, discriminatory and punitive laws regarding sex between men hamper access to HIV and STI prevention and treatment and other social services by reinforcing discriminatory attitudes, UNAIDS said.
The organisation explained that many people are reluctant to reveal their same sex behaviour due to fear of discrimination, harassment and violence. This ruling removes a key stumbling block to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men accessing HIV testing and treatment services.
UNAIDS advocates for the removal of punitive laws which are detrimental to the AIDS response. This must be combined with strategies to increase testing, treatment and treatment retention rates, particularly among young people, sex workers, transgender people, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and other key populations, the release said. 
Additionally, UNAIDS said the move is an encouraging step forward for a country that has already demonstrated a relatively high level of positive attitudes regarding homosexuals. 
A 2013 poll commissioned by UNAIDS found that two out of every three Belizeans were either accepting or tolerant of homosexuals (68 per cent). In addition, three of four respondents agreed that people should not be treated differently on the basis of their sexual orientation (75 per cent).
“The ruling of the Belize High Court echoes the widespread public opinion in Belize that people should be treated with dignity and equality, regardless of who they love,” said UNAIDS Director of the Latin America and Caribbean Regional Support Team, Dr Cesar Nuñez.

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