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Newsletter - November 2023 Our CYGEN

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

Breaking News: Mauritius Takes a Historic Step in LGBTQI+ Rights


Dear CYGEN Youth,

I am thrilled to bring you a groundbreaking update from the island nation of Mauritius, where a historic legal development has ignited the conversation around LGBTQI+ rights. The Supreme Court of Mauritius, on the 4th of October 2023, declared a pivotal judgement: sodomy is no longer criminalised in the country. This landmark ruling was met with jubilation by Abdool Ridwan Firaas Ah Seek, the plaintiff, and the Collectif Arc en Ciel, Mauritius' leading LGBTQI+ rights organisation.


The Colonial Legacy

To truly understand the significance of this judgement, it's essential to recognize the colonial legacy that influenced Mauritian law. Section 250(1) of the Criminal Code of Mauritius, which penalised sodomy, was instituted by British colonists in 1898. For over a century, this law remained untouched, reflecting a legal system rooted in the country's colonial history. Mauritius' Constitution, particularly Section 16, affirms protection against discrimination on various grounds, including race, caste, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed, sex, and disability status. The recent Supreme Court ruling expanded the interpretation of "sex" to encompass sexual orientation. Consequently, it declared Section 250(1) unconstitutional, ending the criminalization of sodomy.


The Current Landscape

While this judgement marks a significant step towards equality, it is important to note that, as of now, it acts as a judicial precedent rather than a binding law. For the judgement to become a legally binding piece of legislation, the Criminal Code must be amended by the Mauritian Parliament. However, with general elections scheduled for 2024, political parties in Mauritius tend to avoid contentious issues to maintain their popularity, making an immediate legislative change unlikely. Until the law catches up with this progressive judgement, the police can still arrest individuals suspected of engaging in sodomy under the Police Act. Though the judgement prevents imprisonment for this act, it does not shield individuals from being arrested, leaving LGBTQI+ community members vulnerable to harassment and brutality by law enforcement while awaiting trial.


Opposition and Challenges

Not everyone in Mauritius is supportive of this historic change. The Sunni Ulama Council, an organisation of Muslim theologians, has vehemently condemned the judgement, arguing that it undermines the stability and societal values of Mauritius. They contend that LGBTQI+ relationships are morally wrong and unnatural, posing a threat to traditional family structures. The Council plans to challenge the judgement at the Privy Council, citing infringement on their freedom of speech and religious liberty. However, with this momentous decision, Mauritius joins a select group of African nations, including Cape Verde, South Africa, Botswana, Seychelles, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Angola, in decriminalising same-sex relations. In a time when many African countries are witnessing a rise in homophobia and the implementation of stricter anti-LGBTQI+ laws, this development represents a beacon of hope for progress.

In conclusion, the recent legal developments in Mauritius are not only a testament to the nation's evolving stance on LGBTQI+ rights but also a reminder of the historical and colonial influences that have shaped its laws. As we celebrate this milestone, we must also acknowledge the work ahead to ensure lasting equality and protection for all.

Stay informed, stay engaged, and continue to be advocates for change.


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Nandini Tanya Lallmon - CYGEN Alumna from Mauritius


Nandini Tanya Lallmon adopts a decolonial perspective on human rights across the Commonwealth. She invokes international law to protect LGBTQIA+ people from religion-based violence as United Nations Religion Fellow at OutRight Action International. Appointed as African Youth Charter Hustler for Mauritius by the African Union Office of the Youth Envoy, she ensures that youth voices are included in planning and decision-making processes. She leverages the power of traditional and social media to create learning, dialogue and development spaces that are respectful, inclusive and transformative. She is a CYGEN Alumni. She is reachable on Twitter on @Nandini_Tanya and Instagram on @nandini_tanya.


 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Royal Commonwealth Society.


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