Port Louis, Mauritius – On 12 and 13 April 2016, the Young Queer Alliance (NGO for LGBTI rights) and the National AIDS Secretariat (national coordinating body for the AIDS response under the aegis of the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life) trained some 80 inspectors of the Mauritius Police Force (MPF) at the Police Training School of Beau-Bassin. The training theme was Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression: A Human Rights Perspective. This training was greatly welcomed, especially since the MPF has a community policing approach as part of its Strategic Plan.
Laws in Mauritius pertaining to Sexual Orientation have evolved subtly since 2008 in terms of Employment Rights and Relations and Equal Opportunities. However, transgender individuals are still not recognised legally. The country, a member of the Commonwealth, still has the infamous anti-sodomy law. While application of the law has been mostly used against heterosexual persons in married relationships for divorce reasons, the existence of the law ostracises and stigmatises LGBTI people. Hate crimes towards LGBTI people are present with 7.4% reporting of physical abuse and 84% reporting verbal abuse, according to surveys done in 2012.
In the U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015 released on 14 April 2016, the report on Mauritius includes the following: “On September 18, police officers of Sodnac police station, accompanied by police officers of the Criminal Investigation Division of Quatre Bornes, arrested a young transvestite allegedly for no reason. Police took the victim to the Sodnac police station where police strip-searched him and forced him to parade naked in front of police officers who mocked him. The victim filed a complaint with the NHRC, and at year’s end the investigation was ongoing.”
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A young gay person, Kumar [fictitious name] now aged 23, narrates that when he was 17 and came out to his parents, his father – a police officer – dragged him of the house, threw him in a police car and encouraged people to beat him up due to his sexual orientation. Kumar is still disturbed by the events and maintains that if he faces problems in the future due to his sexual orientation, he will not approach the police due to this painful experience.
The persecution of LGBTI individuals by the police force is a lived reality. At the Young Queer Alliance, we welcome the open door policy and inclusion of the MPF to be better informed and trained to address issues pertaining to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE) and undoubtedly change attitudes towards LGBTI people and create strong linkages between the MPF and LGBTI people. Having law enforcement authorities in a proactive stance in being better equipped to support the communities they serve is another step forward for a more inclusive society.