The government did not immediately censure him, but he was eventually suspended from attending subsequent sessions. In September a female journalist was physically assaulted by an officer attached to the Special Patrol Unit of the Police while she was covering a political event in Orange Walk. She subsequently made a formal complaint to the PSB. According to local marketing firm, Idea Labs Ltd. The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
The government generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern. Although the government committed to provide protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, persons at risk of becoming stateless, or other persons of concern under the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, the Belize Refugees Act, and the UN Convention for Statelessness, the government has yet to approve any refugee or asylum applications.
Access to Asylum : The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government does not distinguish between refugees and asylum seekers, as the law itself does not reference asylum seekers—only refuges and recognized refugees. As of September, 3, persons 1, men and 1, women had requested refugee status.
The government has not granted refugee status to any applicant since the early s. Employment : Persons awaiting adjudication of their refugee applications were unable to work legally in the country. Access to Basic Services : Refugees were able to use the education system and the socialized medical system, but the government offered no assistance with housing or food except in extreme cases that involved children and pregnant women.
Temporary Protection : The Immigration Department issued renewable special residency permits for periods of 60 to 90 days to those who applied for refugee status within the day deadline. The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. Recent Elections : In the UDP won 19 seats in the seat National Assembly, equaling the majority with which it entered the election.
The Organization of American States observation team reported generally free and fair elections. Observers suggested cultural and societal constraints limited the number of women participating in government. Women remained a clear minority in government. Two of 31 members of the House of Representatives and three of 13 senators were women. Although both major parties declared they took steps to increase female participation, neither adopted party policies that would ensure a percentage of their candidates are women.
One of the parties put forward a female candidate for the mayoral elections.
Human Rights Reports: Custom Report Excerpts - United States Department of State
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. Corruption : Allegations of corruption in government among public officials, including ministers, chief executive officers, and deputy ministers, were numerous, although no substantial proof was presented in most cases.
Investigations into corruption within the Immigration and Nationality Department in the period continued and uncovered several instances of questionable activities involving high-ranking government officials, including ministers of government. Despite accusations of political cronyism, the government insisted that it maintained transparency in the distribution of land. During the year media reported that several land documents indicated questionable transactions in the Lands and Surveys Department.
According to documents, during his tenure the department issued land titles to individuals for well below market value, although the parcels were already privately owned.
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The individuals then sold the parcels of land to close relatives of the former deputy prime minister at still-reduced prices. As of October the BPD had not started a criminal investigation because the complainant had yet to make a formal report to the authorities. This was not the first allegation of its kind.
Financial Disclosure : The law requires public officials to submit annual financial disclosure statements, which the Integrity Commission reviews. At the same time, the constitution allows authorities to prohibit citizens from questioning the validity of such statements. Many public officials did not submit annual financial disclosure statements and suffered no repercussions. In September the Integrity Commission informed 10 members of the National Assembly and 60 members of local governments of their failure to declare their financial affairs in The commission informed the press that it had submitted the list of names to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution.
A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views. Government Human Rights Bodies : The ombudsman, although appointed by the government, acts as an independent check on governmental abuses.
The Office of the Ombudsman holds a range of procedural and investigative powers, including the right to enter any premise to gather documentation and the right to summon persons.
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The office operated under significant staffing and financial constraints, although an investigator was added in July to assist with cases. The law requires the ombudsman to submit annual reports, and the office wrote a mid-year report to address problem trends. The office does not have the power to investigate allegations against the judiciary. The Human Rights Commission, an independent, volunteer-based government agency, continued to operate, but only on an ad-hoc basis due to funding and staffing limitations.
The commission provided human rights training for police recruits, prison officers, and the BDF. Rape and Domestic Violence : The criminal code criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape. The code states that a person convicted of rape shall be sentenced to imprisonment for eight years to life, although sentences were sometimes much lighter.
Challenges to the wider justice system generally resulted in poor conviction rates for rape. Domestic violence was often prosecuted with charges such as harm, wounding, grievous harm, rape, and marital rape, but charges were treated as civil matters. Police, prosecutors, and judges recognized both physical violence and mental injury.
Penalties include fines or imprisonment for violations. The law empowers the Family Court to issue protection orders against accused offenders. According to data provided by a government ministry in , there were cases of domestic violence filed by women and by men; followed through with court action. The government ran awareness campaigns against gender-based and domestic violence, a domestic violence hotline, and shelters, and major police stations had designated domestic abuse officers, although these measures were not always effective.
Sexual Harassment : The law provides protection from sexual harassment in the workplace, including provisions against unfair dismissal of a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. There were reports of Mayan women receiving involuntary caesarian sections to discourage large families. There were uncorroborated anecdotes of Mayan women being sterilized unnecessarily because of irregularities found during annual checkups. Discrimination : The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The law provides generally for the continuity of employment and protection against unfair dismissal, including for sexual harassment in the workplace, pregnancy, or HIV status.
The BDF and Belize Coast Guard maintain a 5 percent and 10 percent limit, respectively, on the number of female service members allowed to serve. Despite legal provisions for gender equality and government programs aimed at empowering women, NGOs and other observers reported that women faced social and economic discrimination. Although participating in all spheres of national life and outnumbering men in university classrooms and high school graduation rates, women held relatively few top managerial or government positions.
Citizenship may also be acquired by descent if at least one parent is a citizen of the country. The standard provision is for births to be registered no later than a week after birth; registration after a month is considered late and includes a minimal fine. Failure to register does not result in any denial of public service, but it slows the process for receiving a social security card and therefore accessing health care. Education : Primary education is free, and education is compulsory between the ages of six and 14; however, primary schools may incorporate other fees, and parents may be required to pay for textbooks, uniforms, and meals.
Child Abuse : Abuse of children occurred, and as of December the most recent date for which statistics were available , 1, cases were reported to authorities of which 78 cases were considered either trafficking or cases of unaccompanied minors. In June, two year-old primary school girls reported to police in the company of their parents that the principal of their school had sexually assaulted them.
Police arrested and charged the principal. The law allows authorities to remove a child from an abusive home environment and requires parents to maintain and support children until the age of Early and Forced Marriage : The legal minimum age to marry is 18, but persons between ages 16 and 18 may marry with the consent of parents, legal guardians, or judicial authority. The government did not undertake any prevention or mitigation efforts to reduce the rate of early marriage. Sexual Exploitation of Children : The law establishes penalties for child prostitution, child pornography, child sexual exploitation, and indecent exhibition of a child.
The law stipulates that the offense of child prostitution does not apply to persons exploiting and year-old children in sexual activity in exchange for remuneration, gifts, goods, food, or other benefits. The legal age for consensual sex is 16, but prostitution is not legal under Similarly, there were reports of increasing exploitation of minors, often to meet the demand of foreign sex tourists in tourist-populated areas or where there were transient and seasonal workers.
The government did not effectively enforce laws prohibiting child sex trafficking. The law does not expressly prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, but the constitution provides for the protection of all citizens from any type of discrimination.
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The law does not provide for accessibility accommodations for persons with disabilities, and most public and private buildings and transportation were not accessible to them. Certain businesses and government departments had designated clerks to attend to the elderly and persons with disabilities. There were no policies to encourage hiring of persons with disabilities in the public or private sectors. Mental health provisions and protections generally were poor.
Informal government-organized committees for persons with disabilities were tasked with public education and advocating for protections against discrimination. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sports maintained an educational unit offering limited special education programs within the regular school system.
There were two schools and four special education centers for children with disabilities. The special envoy for women and children continued advocacy campaigns on behalf of persons with disabilities, especially children, and supported efforts to promote schools that took steps to create inclusive environments for persons with disabilities. No separate legal system or laws cover indigenous persons, since the government maintains that it treats all citizens the same. Employers, public and private, generally treated indigenous persons equally with other ethnic groups for employment and other purposes.
While the government noted the need to respect and consult the Mayan communities when issuing oil exploration licenses in the south, the alliance believed it was not properly consulted before decisions were made. The Roman Catholic Church appealed the entire ruling in September.
The Court of Appeals had not heard the case as of November. The Immigration Act prohibits homosexual persons from entering the country, but immigration authorities did not enforce the law. A Venezuelan man intending to visit a Belizean man was harassed by immigration officers, and eventually denied entry and returned to Venezuela, allegedly due to a lack of travel funds. The extent of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity was difficult to ascertain due to a lack of official reporting.
The law provides for protection of workers against unfair dismissal, including for HIV status. The government provided free antiretroviral medication and other medical services to persons with HIV registered in the public health system; however, the government sometimes had insufficient supplies of medication.
The law, including related regulations and statutes, generally provides for the right to establish and join independent trade unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law also prohibits antiunion discrimination, dissolution, or suspension of unions by administrative authority.
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