LGBT Rights in Paradise

An insight on LGBT Rights in Mauritius

The interpretation that Mauritius prides itself on diversity and multiculturalism, gets lost in translation owing to the majority of the population being born and brought up with a conservative mindset. With a new era comes a new trend, a new lifestyle, a new mentality and you may not agree with everything, that’s your fundamental right, your freedom of expression but the main rule is to learn to live in peace with the numerous differences of opinions people have being exposed to other cultures and religions. The stereotypical island you see, on Social Media and in Catalogues that’s only the country’s landscapes, that’s the illusion of us Mauritians living in ‘Paradise’, the reality lies within the minds of Mauritians, how we live amongst ourselves and actually treat each other.

The Mentality

The LGBT Community in Mauritius has only recently started to show themselves in public. The word ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ was always taboo or unheard of. However, shockingly enough, the unspoken truth is that the conservative mentality does play a key role in making people turn to the LGBT Community as a safe haven. One of the most common myths in Mauritius is that LGBTQ people are mentally ill or have been subjected to witchcraft, and that they can be cured through therapy or prayer.

Here is the paradox: 95% of the State schools are divided into ‘only girls’ or ‘only boys’ which already demonstrates that for the crucial part of our lives, we are stuck to interact with the same-sex. Teenagers are terrified to date because we were brought up with the ideology that we should not think about dating until we are completely done with our education or because it is unreligious. This thought process is derived from parents mainly of the Asian diaspora. Girls and Boys who want to date, hide it. Since, chances are that, if your parents find out, all hell breaks loose, with the teenager suffering mental or physical abuse as a consequence. Thus, they reach a point where they decide to never face their parents in that way ever again.

In this scenario, the next best alternative, is to date someone of the same-sex. After all, girls interact better with girls and vice versa. The advantages present themselves as being more convenient and less risky.

Therefore, conservative parents who are anti-LGBT, end up in a weird twisted way traumatizing them for being in a ‘straight’ relationship whereby they feel safer and better being in a same-sex relationship. The same applies to over religious families who force their children to practice religion to a point where they are uncomfortable in their skin and turn towards a community which accepts people for who they are unconditionally.

The tragic part in this is that when their parents find out, they rather kill themselves because that’s better than facing any sort of confrontation.

I had a friend who lived in my neighborhood and when she turned 18, her parents started talking to her about marriage and kept on bringing up the same topic to a point where she ended up telling her dad that she could never love a man, the same night, her dad scolded her so badly that she took his belt and hanged herself. The next morning, the police arrived at the scene but obviously since it was the case of a ‘lesbian daughter killing herself’ there was no media coverage.

Where are the rights of these people? We live in a democracy and yet the LGBT Community are oppressed and looked down upon.

However, there are double standards that are highly present. Those anti-LGBT people, who aid in suppressing the rights of the community to live in peace normally are the same group that would go to the gay makeup artist, the gay fashion designer, the gay hairstylist or even wedding planner. Since that community, in Mauritius, the few that I mentioned are starting to rise up in public, are extremely good at their jobs. Yet, when it comes to the rights of these individuals, the silence is loud.

The Law in Mauritius for LGBT

Unfortunately, there are no forms of protection whatsoever that have been put in place for those cases and no existing laws for the LGBT community. The only laws that exist mentioning “sexual orientation” are The Equal Opportunities Act 2008 and the Workers’ Rights Act 2019, that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, people in the LGBT Community are constantly bullied and made fun of and do still face discrimination and harassment whether in person or on social media.

The most recent development in the LGBT laws was in 2021, where a crucial hearing was brought before the Supreme Court of Mauritius by Abdool Ridwan Firaas Ah Seek which challenged the constitutionality of discriminatory law targeting the LGBT Community, specifically gay men. Section 250 of the Mauritian Criminal Code 1838 (Sodomy) formed the basis of this case. Sodomy in Mauritius is illegal and carries a penalty of up to five year’s imprisonment.  The case is yet to be decided. This case notably, proves to be a landmark case in finally voicing out the atrociousness of gay men being considered as criminals in their own country.

Not too long before the case, in 2018, for the gay pride march, the march was halted as the Prime Minister, the Commissioner of Police and the organizers of the event decided it was too unsafe to go forward with the event due to the pride leader receiving hundreds of death threats in only one day. Anti-LGBT protestors had gathered with the intention to attack and harm the LGBT Community. 

Therefore, it is obvious, that the Mauritian population lacks education on the LGBT Community or skills and know-how about co-existence. The LGBT Community is not seeking in converting people from conservatism to pro-LGBT, what they are striving at is a neutral equilibrium of acceptance. It is at the end of the day, a blessing and a curse to be Mauritian; to live on a beautiful island but without peace, justice and liberty.

By Samia Mallam-Hasham
Human Rights Advocate and
Barrister-at-Law

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