by Nikita Pradhan
Derricia Castillo-Salazar is a military officer, aircraft technician and LGBT activist from Belize. She is co-founder of Our Circle, a national organisation that provides quality services and training to LGBT people across Belize and does advocacy work to enhance visibility, inclusion and rights of LGBT in Belize. Founded in 2014, Our Circle has since then engaged nearly 200 members of the community.
Derricia’s motivation to work towards LGBT issues stems from the exclusion she had to face due to her sexuality, and the fact that the LGBT community was looked down upon in Belize. Our Cricle began with an aim to break the stereotypes about LGBTQIA+ community. Derricia and the NGO are now focussing more on legal and social work, and “reclaiming the term family”. “In our laws, we’re still excluded because of certain definitions which define parents as a men and women. The domestic violence act doesn’t cater to us, either: we’re protected as being a part of a household, but the minute it becomes your partner, it’s much more difficult to navigate,” Derrcia says.
Derricia’s advocacy work in this field goes back to the time when she was 14 years old, when she advocated for HIV/AIDs in her high school. Her advocacy work in HIV/AIDs continued when she joined the military, where she created an HIV policy for the armed forces. Derricia has taken her advocacy work to various platforms over the years. She has spoken at the 38th meeting of UNAIDS in Geneva, worked as a conflict mediator, and is a member of the Caribbean Women’s Alliance for Diversity and Equality.
Derricia has also received international recognition for her work. In 2017 she was awarded the U.S. Department of State’s International Women of Courage Award nominee for Belize for her work for LGBTQIA+ inclusion and AIDs prevention.
However, back in Belize, Derricia still faces subtle forms of discrimination because of her sexuality. In 2016, Derricia was awarded the minister’s award by Education and Youth Minister Patrick Faber as part of Youth Month. After Derricia attributed the award to her work towards LGBTQIA+ inclusion, Faber declined that the award was given to her for her work for the community, and declared that he was considering revoking the award.
All these hardships have not affected Derricia’s work. Currently, Derricia and the Our Circle team is working towards identifying discriminatory laws and policies in the country that do not recognise LGBTQIA+ and submit it to the parliament to get some form of redressal. She is also working towards retabling the Equal Opportunities Bill, which was withdrawn after the churches felt that it was giving special privileges to the LGBTQIA+ community.
– By Nikita Pradhan
Nikita Pradhan is a recent graduate in Social Work in Criminology and Justice from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.