On November 16th, the U.S. Embassy observed the 19th International Day for Tolerance. This day reminds us of the security and human rights implications of intolerance (which often takes the form of stigma and discrimination); this day also provides an opportunity for us to highlight the importance of tolerance and acceptance of those groups living on the margins of many societies.

We, the past and present Ambassadors of the United States to Belize, write to you as friends and citizens of a nation that believes upholding universal human rights is one of the defining challenges of our age. We are proud of our ongoing partnership with Belize and affirm that our countries have achieved more together than either could have on its own. We have watched closely the efforts by the government of Belize, such as Prime Minister Barrow’s September 2013 statement on human rights, and First Lady Kim Simplis Barrow’s May 2013 remarks on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, to create a more inclusive society that better serves its most vulnerable citizens. We applaud these statements but respectfully suggest that more must be done.

Recent events impacting the LGBT community make it more important than ever that Belize protect members of minority groups at risk of violence, intolerance and ostracism. We note that there is no legislation in place at this time to penalize hate crimes in Belize. When Belize became a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1996 we recognized that Belize was taking an important step toward respecting and protecting the rights of all people within its jurisdiction.

We therefore urge the government of Belize to consider the following actions:

1) Conduct a legal assessment of the state’s constitutional responsibility to its LGBT citizens to guide the development of a formal policy consideration.

2) Repeal the anti-sodomy laws, provisions of which are inconsistent with Belize’s obligations with respect to privacy rights protected by Article 17 of the ICCPR.

3) Uphold the Revised National Gender Policy to better respect and protect equal protection under the law.

4) Build the capacity within the judicial system to recognize and protect the rights of members of vulnerable populations including LGBT persons, indigenous peoples, and women and girls.

5) Raise public awareness on hate speech and hate crimes and their impact on historically marginalized groups and the society as a whole.

We believe that Belize has taken meaningful, positive steps towards full inclusion and have no doubt that it can one day stand as an example in the region for the promotion of human rights of all its citizens. The United States, as always, will remain a steadfast partner in this effort.

U.S. Embassy in Belize