I am Billy Perle, 17, from the South of the Mauritius, in a village named Baie du Cap. Currently, I am a student of St. Mary’s West College in the field of accounting and sociology. I would describe myself as a shy, humorous and pragmatist guy, but who is still discovering who I am really.
I got to know that you recently participated at a National Public Speaking Competition – though still on a pilot basis. Can you tell me more about it?
Yes, I did participate in a National Public Speaking Competition one week already now. The competition was organised by the English Speaking Union grouping students from SC to HSC; naturally it was in English.. And the aim of the competition was to promote the art of English speaking among youngsters. The competition grouped students from various Secondary Schools. I was among the few qualified among the firsts on a preliminary level for the next stage which will be held on the 27 November 2014.
Good. On what did you speak?
My topic was on Human Rights, more precisely on Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans (LGBT) rights in Mauritius. I found that LGBT people are discriminated by the population in Mauritius and that they cannot express themselves freely. Also, their rights are not recognised as human rights.
How was it for those supporting you in this completion.. your school, friends, relatives.. in the fact that you were speaking on LGBT in a not-so-LGBT-friendly context?
Surprisingly, for me it went well. In my surroundings and those supporting me in this elocution competition, most people were open-minded, and they spoke freely with ideas and tips on how to best prepare myself. Yet, I did come across some few who were hostile and homophobic. Seeing their attitudes, of encouragement and hostility, I was boosted in my efforts to really make people understand that homosexuals are normal people of the same Gods as heterosexuals, except for the fact that they are discriminated against for who they are.
Do LGBT people have rights in Mauritius? In the legal framework..
LGBT people do have some rights in Mauritius like the Employment Rights Act 2008, the Employment Relations Act 2008 and Equal Opportunities Acts 2012. However, efforts to promote these rights are still missing if not inexistent!
How do you think rights of LGBT can be promoted among the youths?
I believe that these can be promoted through sensitisation and educational campaigns where the youths are informed that LGBT have feelings, are contributing equally to society, and thus, they need the same rights.
Is there any scope for obtaining other LGBT rights in Mauritius?
Yes, there is. There are many LGBT people in Mauritius and being human entitles them to their rights such as marriage, adoption, among others. In the past years, the LGBT people were hidden, but now they are more open and visible for example, on Facebook, at night clubs, etc. Despite some rare homophobic attacks on Facebook, the latter is a platform where LGBT people can express themselves freely without fear of backlashes.
As conclusion how do you see yourself at the next stages of the competition?
It will not be an easy task to debate and speak on the subject since there is introduction of new sub-themes like Trans-identity, religious views on homosexuality.. which are controversial topics in themselves; and for me, it will be more of a platform to struggle and sensitise on LGBT rights as human rights.