Saturday, July 13, 2024

Letter to the Editor (24/11/11)


If you REALLY care about the kids, support UNIBAM and revise our laws!

In the November 20, 2011 edition of The Amandala newspaper, editor Russell Vellos penned an article that represents the ultimate low point in the public discourse of the UNIBAM challenge to Section 53 of the Laws of Belize. In his opinion column “This & That”, Vellos runs with the position of certain evangelical churches that homosexuals are really just latent child molesters who will prey on our children if Section 53 is proven to be unconstitutional. I won’t dissect Mr. Vellos’s article further, only to say that it was vile, slanderous, and completely irresponsible. His words, while not based on logic or fact, could result in serious physical and emotional harm to an already marginalized section of our society. No responsible media house should stand behind this form of “journalism” and both Vellos and Amandala should be ashamed.

But let me move on to the red herring fallacy presented by Mr. Vellos, Belize Action, Council of Churches, Luis Wade Jr., Scott Stirm, etc. Repealing or revising Section 53 will not expose children to increased incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse, nor will it enable the perpetrators of such crimes. Section 53 in its current form only deals with carnal knowledge “against the order of nature” and with animals. It does not say anything about children.
Sex crimes against minors are addressed elsewhere in the Laws of Belize. Section 45 makes it a crime to commit an “indecent assault on any person whether male or female”. Section 47 makes it a crime to have sex with a girl under the age of 16.

About the only thing I can concede to Belize Action et al is the fact that the current laws that are intended to protect children have a gender inequity that needs to be addressed. Given the lack of clarification that it is actually against the law to have sex with a male child, I can see how Section 53 could be used to charge a person who sexually assaults a male minor. But it is the wrong law for the wrong crime.Meanwhile, you are criminalizing the consensual private activities of a certain segment of society. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
The established position of Belize Action is they are happy with the Laws of Belize in their current form. They don’t want any changes made to our laws. They are quite content with a Section 47 that OMITS male children from protection of rape. They are quite happy with the ambiguously worded Section 53 that speaks only of “against the order of nature”, whatever that is, as the only form of protection for boys. Ambiguity in law is a very, very dangerous thing. The law must be black and white, not grey. Otherwise the law can be bent to suit various agendas.

Simply revising Section 47 to say it is illegal to have sex with “any PERSON under the age of 16” would protect ALL children, male and female. It’s really that simple. Just as you don’t need the prohibition of all alcohol to combat drunk driving, you don’t need to criminalize homosexuality to make sex crimes against children illegal. Trying to make a link between homosexuality and pedophilia is ridiculous, hateful, and nothing more than fear mongering. Should we blame the HETEROSEXUAL population at large for the epidemic of sex crimes committed by men against girls in Belize? Should we criminalize consensual heterosexual activity in order to protect our girls? Of course not.

If Belize Action and company really care about our children, they should stop fighting UNIBAM and instead join forces to make sure the laws of Belize are equitable for all persons in Belize, male or female, girl or boy, gay or straight. Or is their fight not about the kids, and really just about hating the gays?

Brent Toombs

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