Belize hearing targets sex crimes against children

sex crimes against children

Michelle Daly (right) repeatedly said items in the rape bill would be revised to meet church leaders’ concerns.

BELIZE JOURNAL PT. 1. In response to concerns raised by church leaders on Oct. 8, the standing committee on the Belize rape bill held a public hearing on Oct. 15. (See Belize rape bill follows foreign gender policy.) University of Belize’s Jaguar Auditorium became packed with spectators as Deputy Solicitor General Michelle Daly presented the bill item by item. Many items targeted sex crimes against children. It was easy to agree with raising the age of liability to 12 and the age of consent to 16.

But those who came with prepared statements about areas of disagreement, like me, were in for a surprise. Again and again Daly recognized the concerns that church leaders raised the previous week. For item after item she said, “we will reconcile the language and make alterations” to address those concerns. This meant that the audience was not hearing the bill in its amended form.

Time was alllowed for audience response. Spectators came forward to bring up more concerns. There were calls for provisions against pornography on TV and in stores. There were questions about adults influencing children to buy contraceptives and get abortions—which the bill’s language allowed—without parental consent. Yet abortion is still illegal in Belize. There was a passionate plea for parents’ rights, which were hardly mentioned in the bill. The more parents are involved in their children’s lives, the less we will see sex crimes against children.

I stood at the end of the line. When my turn at the podium came, I thanked the committee for hearing the church leaders’ concerns. I thanked them for planning to include them in the bill’s revisions. It made my own prepared speech unnecessary. I hoped they would also include the concerns the audience had just made. There were already so many revisions that I asked for another hearing. Many in the audience voiced their agreement with this and other points.

I said we must hear the wording of these revisions because church attorneys have caught a lot of language which can be interpreted in favor of predators. That would actually open the door to more sex crimes against children. For instance, the bill says sodomy without consent is illegal. But that implies that sodomy with consent is legal. And a boy may have a hard time proving that he didn’t give consent to sodomy. The judge may rule against him if he has “reasonable belief” that consent did occur.

 

sex crimes against children

Committee chair Patrick Faber (upper left) said there would be no further public hearings.

Committee Chair Patrick Faber replied that there would not be another hearing, to the disapproval of many in the audience. I said we need that hearing in order to look out for wording from the government’s new gender policy. Page 18 of the gender policy says the government will take “special legal…measures to safeguard the rights of vulnerable groups [such as] sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender populations…and adolescents.” Why are adolescents grouped with sex workers [read “prostitutes”] and men who have sex with men? That’s sodomy. And why are they grouped in the same “health programme” on page 18? Wouldn’t that lead to more sex crimes against children?

We do need more hearings. Every time a new bill or amendment comes out, we need to watch out for how much of the new gender policy is in it. Because the new gender policy repeatedly says it seeks to be implemented into laws.

After me, 15-20 spectators rose to get in line and raise even more concerns. Most appealed for more hearings. A video of this hearing can be requested from Channel 7 Belize. At the end, Faber tried to reassure us. He said the government has no agenda to legalize sodomy. If the Chief Justice strikes down the law against sodomy, Faber said the government will appeal his decision. But evangelical leaders are taking no chances. They met on Oct. 21 and launched a task force to respond quickly to any further government moves on the new gender policy.





BPN articles related to
sex crimes against children:

Belize rape bill follows foreign gender policy

Gender policy wording spells danger for Belize

New gender policy: new slavery for Belize?

Legalized prostitution in Belize debases women

Belize Constitution or LGBT prostitution?

Related sources for sex crimes against children:

Human trafficking


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Gender policy language opens door to sex crimes against children

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