Belize: Protect Students from Discrimination and Expulsion

Join the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) in calling on the Ministry of Education of Belize and other authorities to take legal action to ensure that Jose Garcia is not prevented from attending school because of his sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression and to protect him from harassment and discrimination.

Expelled!

On October 1 and 5, 2009, Jose Garcia, a 19-year-old student at Baptist School of Adult and Continuing Education in Belmopan, Belize, received letters from the school threatening to dismiss him is because "he acts like a girl," "dresses effeminately," "uses the female bathroom," and "carries a purse as his school bag." On October 20, Jose received a letter from the school principal, Norman Willacey, asking that Jose withdraw from the school and seek counseling. Later, he told Jose, "You have me so embarrassed. I don't want to see you here in the compound. If you [don't] leave right now I will call the police!"

Authorities seem to be unwilling to act to protect Jose Garcia's right to education. The Public Information Officer of Belmopan, Arlette Gomez, has stated that it is their aim to ensure that Mr. Garcia's constitutional rights are not being infringed upon and that the guidelines of the Education Act and Rules are being followed. The Minister of Education, Patrick Faber, has also stated that the school is "bound to follow the constitution, otherwise anybody can take them to court." Nonetheless, the Minister has offered no concrete protection for Jose Garcia, stating that "it is a Baptist High School, there is not much the Ministry can do."

“I am not hurting anybody because of the way I dress.”
–Jose Garcia

Discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in education systems is a serious problem all over the world that has not been addressed at all. Harassment, mistreatment, violence, and other human rights violations threaten students' physical or emotional well-being, influence how well students do in school, make it difficult for students to achieve their career goals, and excludes thousands of students all over the world entirely from education systems.

Find out more about violations of students' right to education for being lesbian in Chile and transgender in Argentina »

All people have the right to education under international human rights law without discrimination based on, and taking into account sexual orientation and gender identity (Yogyakarta Principle 16). Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention against Discrimination in Education, all of which Belize is party to, ensure the right to education of all. Additionally, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and the ICESCR are explicitly interpreted to include protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity (Human Rights Committee: Toonen v. Australia; Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comment 20; Committee Against Torture General Comment 2).

Furthermore, the right to education without discrimination exists in Belize law as well. The preamble to the Belize Constitution states that "a just system should be ensured to provide for education and health on the basis of equality," and the Education Act dictates that "[s]chools shall be free of gender, racial and other biases (Art. 25 (2))." Jose Garcia's rights to education and non-discrimination under international and Belize law are being violated by his expulsion, threatening all other rights underpinned by equal access to education, including his right to work, to housing, and to health.

** This call to action has ended **

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