Last Updated 10 November 2016

Belize is a former colony and a parliamentary democracy with a Governor General representing the British monarchy. A preamble to the constitution states: “The nation of Belize shall be founded upon principles which acknowledge the supremacy of God”.

Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

Despite its preamble, the Belize constitution, drawing on the language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, appears to to protect the non-religious:

“Except with his own consent, a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of conscience, including freedom of thought and of religion, freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and both in public and in private, to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

In contrast, however, the constitution also allows the Governor General to appoint one of the 13 members of the Senate on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches. The constitution further reserves the government’s right to intervene in religious matters “for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedoms of other persons,” which in theory reflects that the right to manifest religion is not absolute, however in practice the provision that the right to observe and practice any religion “without the unsolicited intervention of members of any other religion” might be used to limit free expression. Indeed, an unenforced law limits speech that is “blasphemous or indecent.”

Education and children’s rights

Historically the provision of most education is in the hands of the many (Christian) religious organizations who are free to develop religious instruction of their choice. State schools must also offer religious instruction, although the constitution states this is not compulsory.

Family, community and society

Discrimination on religious grounds is illegal. In practice, the interaction of churches and religious organizations with the government and political system is powerful. While human rights are in broad terms respected, there is growing concern about several issues. Authorities have failed at times to maintain effective control over the security forces, allegedly committing human rights abuses.

“The most important human rights abuses included the use of excessive force by security forces, lengthy pretrial detention, and harassment and threats based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Other human rights problems included domestic violence, discrimination against women, sexual abuse of children, trafficking in persons, and child labor.”

— US Government, 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Belize

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