51 weeks ago, on May 16, 2013, the Revised National Gender Policy was launched. On the surface, it seemed harmless enough – but when the churches dug deep, let's just say (and you'll excuse the play on words) they found lots of devils in the details, mainly non-traditional references to sexual orientation. In the year since, the gender policy has become the subject of protests, debates and hours of dialogue between the prime minister and church leaders. That continued today – this time because the Evangelical Association says they came upon an interview Anne Marie Williams the National Women's Commission Director supposedly did at a UN sponsored meeting in New York, where they quote her as saying that Government would not be implementing the report from the Church on the revised Gender Policy. Williams says there's no way she gave any interview to anyone in New York – and we have not seen any news article from a credible source. But the Evangelical Church leaders remained convinced that she said it and concerned at the implications.
And that's why they met with the Prime Minister at his Belize City office today – they wanted to hear the official position from his mouth.
When they came emerged from a two hour meeting – we had to speak with them through a grilled gate – since the owners of the Withfield Tower have banned the media from the compound. Pastor Crawford was very cautious in his remarks:
Pastor Eugene Crawford - President, Belize Association Of Evangelical Churches
"The PM has said that they received from their consultants a response on what the Church had submitted, and so, as soon as that is reviewed, we'll be meeting. There will be a meeting with the Church."
"Are you all satisfied that moving forward, we will have a document reflects the views of the Church?"
Pastor Eugene Crawford
"Let me say this point that until we sit down together, then that will be realized. What I can say right now is that we'll be sitting down with the Government in reviewing what was submitted to see what we can really achieve by that."
"How would you characterize the tone of the discussions you all had with the Prime Minister?"
Pastor Eugene Crawford
"It was very good; it was a very open discussion. I think that he was very receptive to desires of the Church."
This afternoon three hours after that interview, the Association of Evangelical Churches sent out a press release saying, quote, "The Prime Minister made clear that â€˜remarks reportedly made suggesting the Government proposing to move ahead on the National Gender Policy without the Church are not factual. The remarks, if made, do not reflect the position of the Govt., and Govt. will not move to implement the National Gender Policy without seeking agreement with the Churches."
The release says that the "meeting between government and churches to convene a meeting between Govt. and the Churches to reach consensus for the final document is anticipated to happen by the end of July."