11 March 2020 – The U.S. Department of State issued its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – the Human Rights Reports – covering a plethora of rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements, inter alia, individual, civil, political, and worker rights.
Its 44th Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices is said to “…provide carefully researched, factual, and objective information on actions foreign governments are taking – or not taking – to demonstrate observance of and respect for internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The report is accompanied by a note on the methodology in the report preparation which is by reviewing information “…available from a wide variety of sources, including U.S. and foreign government officials; victims of alleged human rights abuses; academic and congressional studies; and reports from the press, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) concerned with human rights. Particularly helpful for citation are NGOs, whether within a single country or those with an international perspective.”
Despite the assurances on the fairness and reliability of the methodology and principles in drafting the report, the Young Queer Alliance is baffled by the position of the U.S. Department of State concerning Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) issues in Mauritius. The Young Queer Alliance deplores that it was not contacted as an NGO working with LGBT people in Mauritius to contribute towards the report.
While questioning the sources of information for the U.S. Department of State to provide a two-paragraphs overview of the plights and human rights violations of Queer Mauritians; the YQA altogether views the snapshot of violations which includes acts of violence, discrimination and other abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity an understatement to the real and lived situations of LGBT people in Mauritius.
Laws criminalising same-sex sexuality
The U.S. Department of State explains that the subsection concerning Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity takes into its purview the “…laws criminalising offenses related to same sex sexual activity and reports of violence or discrimination in essential goods and services against such persons, and official action to investigate and punish such acts.”
On the fundamentals, the U.S. Department of State graciously ignores the existence of Section 250 of the Mauritian Criminal Code Act of 1838 (as amended) which criminalises sodomy and violates the constitutional human rights of LGBT people. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of State ignores the fact that there are three actions at the Supreme Court of Mauritius since 2019 to challenge the constitutionality of the mentioned-section of the law which criminalises same sex sexual activity. Similar to many jurisdictions whereby the law criminalising sodomy have been repealed, be it in terms of unnatural offences, or offences against the order of nature, or other wordings, applicable to the population in general; the repeal was on the basis that the law disproportionately affects LGBT people and their human rights.
Violence and abuse
The report does factually state that people victims of verbal abuse or violence generally do not file complaints with law enforcement authorities for fear of ostracism or fear of reprisal from family members. With reference to the methodology of the report, the Young Queer Alliance regrets that the report does not highlight the fact that the actions that the Mauritian Government are taking – or not taking – to ensure accessibility to human rights for LGBT people who are victims of verbal abuse or violence.
Finally, the Young Queer Alliance deplores that the U.S. Department of State does not view the action of the Mauritian Government to redefine “spouse” as “people of the opposite sexes” as a State action to limit the enjoyment of freedom of expression, non-discrimination principles and enjoyment of community life of LGBT people.
In light of the above, the Young Queer Alliance appeals to the U.S. Department of State to review its reporting on LGBT issues in Mauritius, since it undermines the lived realities of LGBT people in Mauritius.
- 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/
- 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Mauritius: https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/mauritius/