Caleb Orozco, a gay rights campaigner fighting to have the laws that criminalise homosexuality in Belize overturned, has faced death threats that have increased in frequency during a court hearing that has lasted four days.
Orozco has received death threats, had a beer bottle smashed into his face and been labelled the ‘Antichrist’ during his battle to challenge the attorney general of Belize and the leaders of the country’s churches.
One particular message received suggested adjourning the case until Orozco died of a ’cause due to sexual preference.’
The case has developed a huge media following in Belize City, where the hearing is taking place, and according to local News 5 Channel has caused increased resentment towards the gay community who are looking to overturn the ‘anti-buggery’ legislation.
Lisa Shoman told News 5, ‘There has been a visible increase of threats and violence against Mr Orozco and against all homosexuals in Belize. There are threats for killing, burning, shooting; you name it. It has to stop. We are all Belizeans. We can agree to disagree without getting violent about it.’
Orozco is challenging the legality of section 53 of Belize’s criminal code, which makes ‘carnal intercourse’ between consenting same-sex adults illegal. He has been supported during the hearing by the former UK attorney general Lord Goldsmith and Godfrey Smith, Belize’s former attorney general.
Section 53, Orozco claims, has been used to prosecute those involved in consenting gay relationships. Its presence ensures that being gay remains taboo and that there is a climate of hatred towards homosexuals.
During the four-day hearing, the attorney general of Belize, Nigel Hawke, argued that Orozco has no fundamental right to challenge the country’s constitution. ‘It is within our right as a sovereign nation to keep section 53 on the books as long as we want. It is the people’s right through their elected officials to change the law.’
A decision in the hearing is due on Friday and depending on the outcome could see Orozco challenge the Caribbean’s highest court of appeal, based in Trinidad and Tobago.