An email query that I would get way too often would read something like this: I am thinking about traveling to Belize and was wondering if Belize is gay-friendly? I’ve read that it is illegal to be gay in Belize and was wondering if it was safe for me to vacation there?
My response would be quick and almost rehearsed: Belize is a small conservative country with 78 percent of the population claiming to be Catholic. I say claiming because, from my knowledge and experience, often people (family, friends, and acquaintances) say they are Catholic but don’t really practice the religion and only go to church once or twice a year. Similar to other Caribbean countries, socially, gay culture is looked down upon and is not mainstream. Unfortunately, yes, due to archaic sodomy laws passed on by former British rule, it is illegal to be gay in Belize. However, there are many local gays throughout the country and they are mostly left alone; at least – to my knowledge – that is how it is in my hometown of San Ignacio. I have also worked in the tourism industry for several years and numerous times, gay couples would be on vacation and they were perfectly fine. I never heard of any gay individual complain that they felt unwelcome or were mistreated while on vacation.
Also read: How safe is it to travel to Belize?
Additionally, I would commonly be asked if Gay Pride is celebrated in Belize. To that I would answer: to my knowledge, publicly, Pride celebrations have never happened in Belize, however, there may be private functions. For example, last year, Pride Week was celebrated in Belize. Of course, the event happened in San Pedro, the most progressive area of Belize. If you’re curious why I say that San Pedro is the most progressive area in Belize, it is due to the outside influence of tourists and the cluster of expats that call the island home.
Good news for the LGBT community
As I write this post, I can now say that there is now good news for the LGBT community in Belize: Belize’s Supreme Court recently threw out the law that made being gay illegal. The unprecedented ruling came after a three-year challenge to the Belize Criminal Code, in particular, Section 53, that made oral and anal sex between heterosexuals or homosexuals illegal. It is assumed that the ruling will bring broad implications to Caribbean countries, where, homosexuality is illegal.
The reaction by Belizeans has been positive and negative, in my social group, it has mostly been positive, but I’ve noticed that some individuals have taken to social media to denounce how immoral such a ruling is. I ignore such comments and wonder if they have considered the meaning of “let [him] who is without sin cast the first stone”.