The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) was created in 2004 to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) people, and all of those with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics.
The date of 17 May was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. The theme for this year is “Together always: United in Diversity”.
Mauritius is a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society. The co-existence and living togetherness of people from diverse identities is a beacon of hope and a living microcosm of peace for the world. Embracing the fundamental differences in beliefs and practices, Mauritius has been resilient and has fully subscribed to the values of unity in diversity which is enshrined in our national values: “As one people, as one nation”.
In our “Nasyon ark-an-siel”, 15% of the population self-identify as LGBTQ and 56% of Mauritians report being tolerant toward people of different sexual identity and orientation. In a study conducted by the Young Queer Alliance (YQA) in 2022, the number of LGBTQ people living with their partner has doubled (from 5.6% in 2017 to 11.0% in 2022); and LGBTQ people are more open about their sexual identities to their siblings (53.5% in 2017 to 62.8% in 2022) and to their parents and other adult relatives (29.0% in 2017 to 41.7% in 2022).
Nonetheless, at least 61.5% of LGBTQ continue facing discrimination, 67.9% facing stigmatisation and 45.4% are victims of violence which occurred in at least one of the following places namely at home/within their families, society in general, in educational settings, in public transport/on the streets and at workplace.
Of the 81.2% of LGBTQ people living with their parents, only 29.8% are open about their sexual orientation with them. This creates a challenge for LGBTQ people to live authentically in family settings and further creates challenges in terms of rights to privacy; life in dignity and love; and adds to the mental and emotional challenges that LGBTQ people face. As a matter of fact, 61.6% of LGBTQ people living with their parents face mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
Discrimination, stigma and violence towards LGBTQ people, lack of strong institutions and inclusive legal reforms being in a deadlock, alas, it is heart wrenching to witness LGBTQ people fleeing the country and families for asylum in safe havens, unshackled from the bonds that human rights violations bring about and where they can be themselves and express their love freely.
It has been foreseeable that the rise in queer activism would have resulted in the rise in far right and anti-human rights funded organisations to flourish to oppose the equal rights that LGBTQ people are entitled: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
At the Young Queer Alliance, we stand in solidarity with African Queer folks who have seen, since recently, backlash in human rights stemming from a rise in far right and anti-human rights funding. However, likewise to all democracies, we have also witnessed that oppressors do not stand the test of time as human rights is a shared value and love and humanity are bigger than any hate in the world.
On this IDAHOBIT, as queer people, policy makers, community leaders, development partners, diplomatic missions, religious persons, and any other citizen faced with the lurking fears of oppression on the basis of our religious beliefs, political belonging, freedom of speech and expression, ethnic identity, the place we live in, or for who we love, we need to reflect individually and collectively on moving forward as a country, “Together always: United in Diversity.”
“Together always: United in Diversity,” is also more specifically a reflection for religious bodies by unpacking the social construct of Mauritius, how identities and diversity brought us where we are today, as a Nation. It is primordial that religious bodies understand and be compassionate towards the fact that numerous LGBTQ people reconcile their personal identities with their religious identities as a matter of faith, to build resilience to these challenges and for mental peace. LGBTQ people attend temples, churches, mosques and pagodas and should they feel that those spaces are neither safe, nor welcoming nor inclusive, their bonds between themselves and their faith remain personal, unbent and sacrosanct.
Therefore, in a spirit of peace and non-violence; recognising the potential of one and all to live in dignity; and while promoting love and inclusiveness, on this IDAHOBIT, religious bodies, having the prominent mantle of leadership towards the marginalised and voiceless, are duty-bound to:
- lend their voices on this IDAHOBIT towards LGBTQ people;
- extend their protection and open their temples, churches, mosques and pagodas as safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ people; and
- promote family support and inclusion towards LGBTQ people.
For the Young Queer Alliance, this IDAHOBIT is an opportunistic crossroad of reflection building together and stronger as a strengthened movement through equal partnerships with other Civil Society Organisations, activists, Governments, private sector organisations, religious bodies, diplomatic missions, development partners, donors and Human Rights Institutions locally and internationally in responding to the challenges faced by LGBTQ people in Mauritius.
“Together always: United in Diversity,” this is who we are as a Nation!
Young Queer Alliance