“It’s okay for a boy to have feelings for another boy. In fact, it’s natural”, says India’s Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Jagat Prakash Nadda of the nationalist BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and lead by India actual Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a right-wing member of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the child of Chaii-walla (tea seller). Jagat Prakash Nadda is seen to be an ally of the Indian LGBT communities.
Modi economic and national policies have been bold and often controversial. However, India, a country poised to become the 3rd largest economy after 2030 seems to be on the right track to strengthen its international position. India’s fame does not only lie with its economic developmental capacities, its rich culture and history, the Bollywood cinema or having one of the Seven Wonders of the World – the Taj Mahal. In fact, this country of roughly 1.3 billion inhabitants is positioning itself to ensure the blossoming of its people – the latest move being the introduction of a new sexual education manual with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that seeks to address same sex emotional and sexual relationships as well as youth and adolescent sexuality. The booklet that will initially reach some expected 160,000 adolescents is projected to reach the remaining 253 adolescents in the country. Indian political parties promote hijras (transgender) rights in their electoral manifesto. In fact, Hijras are recognized as the third gender in India, a country where Hinduism predominates and Hijras forming part of the Hindu religion.
After the reversal of the 2009 Delhi High Court ruling allowing same sex sexual relationships by the Supreme Court of India pertaining to section 377 of India’s Criminal Code, this move by the Health and Family Welfare minister is a long-sought bliss for young people and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) communities of India.
The investment of India in its human capital, not only for the wellness of its people, but also preparing the country for years and decades to come shows the interest of their Government in embracing the widely accepted international community standards of indivisibility and universality of human rights.
At the opposite end, where does Mauritius stand?
Mauritius, an independent country since 49 years now, has a population of which 65% emigrated from India. Mauritius is known to be the little-brother of India, benefiting from political and economic ties to ensure development of the little Paradise Island. However, Mauritius, a crossroads of civilizations where the social fabric has been weaved through tolerance, acceptance and support has nonetheless been backpedalling on LGBT rights over the past few years.
Despite attempting to introduce Sexual Education in schools, manuals do not make provision for LGBT people. Transgender people have no legal recognition. Sodomy remains illegal for both heterosexual and homosexual couples. Laws have not been revised to include protection from homophobia and transphobia. Last year, the country voted three times against LGBT rights at the United Nations and worse, the former Minister of Gender Equalit, Child Development and Family Welfare, Mrs Marie Aurore Marie-Joyce Perraud of the Parti Mauricien Sociale Democrate (PMSD) in alliance with the Mouvement Socialiste Militant (MSM) and the Mouveman Liberateur (ML) in the Alliance Lepep govenrment introduced the Protection from Domestic Violence Act 2016 which henceforth defined spouse as a person who has been civilly or religiously married to a person of the opposite sex. This definition of spouse definitely blocks the possibility of marriage equality in Mauritius unless parliament authorises marriage equality.
With India progressing on LGBT rights and policies, we can but contemplate the tickle down effects in Mauritius after three years of regressive policies. After the departure of the PMSD from government, will the newly formed Mauritian government create enabling environments for human and LGBT rights to foster economic and sustainable development?