Despite existing anti-discriminatory legislation and rising acceptance among Mauritius’ population, specifically the younger generation, the Mauritius LGBTQ+ community continues to endure discrimination in their personal lives, workplaces, and society.
This is primarily due to conservative beliefs and the stigma associated with homosexuality in Mauritian society.
According to current polls, Mauritius is among the most LGBT-friendly countries in Africa. It is one of the few African countries that legally prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation. It has also signed the United Nations “Joint Statement on Ending Acts of Violence Related Human Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” which condemns violence and discrimination against LGBT persons. The Equal Opportunities Act 2008 prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, described as “homosexuality, bisexuality, or heterosexuality.” Unfortunately, the act does not include transgender people who are thus left unprotected.
However, despite the anti-discriminatory legislation, discrimination against individuals from the LGBTQ+ community exists in Mauritian society. According to a survey carried out by the Young Queer Alliance (YQA) in 2017, 60.2% of respondents reported being victims of discrimination, stigma, and violence due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. It was also found that these discrimination cases occurred mainly at home, at schools, on public transportation, and on the streets.
One example of discrimination is the cancellation of the Pride March in 2018. It was cancelled due to a violent counter-march organised by religious extremists, and a large police force was dispatched to safeguard Pride marchers. The organisers also received hundreds of death threats.
Unfortunately, due to the fear of social exclusion or even retaliation from family members, LGBTQ victims of discrimination often refused to register charges with the police. Instead, they prefer to seek help from local NGOs such as Collectif Arc-en-Ciel or Young Queer Alliance.
Other laws affecting the LGBTQ+ community in Mauritius
Even if consensual same-sex sexual activity is not expressly prohibited by law, it does, however, make sodomy illegal in both same-sex and heterosexual relationships. Section 250 of the Criminal Code states that sodomy is punishable by five years in jail. Even if this law is rarely implemented, it fosters anti-gay attitudes and intolerance and prejudice and discrimination toward sexual minorities. Same-sex marriages or civil unions are also not legal in Mauritius.
3 Stigmas Around the LGBTQ+ Community in Mauritius
1. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community is a choice or phase
A prevalent and persistent misconception is that identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or heterosexual is a choice or a phase. It affects youngsters more as they are often characterised as “misguided” and “confused” for identifying as LGBTQ+. However, research has found that homosexuality is not a choice or phase. Parenting styles, peer pressure, religion, or other environmental factors do not contribute to homosexuality or heterosexuality. Instead, according to scientific evidence, sexual orientation is biologically determined. While more research needs to be conducted, some studies suggest that genetics (DNA), epigenetics and what happens in the developing brain before birth all affect whether a person is homosexual or straight.
2. Someone from the LGBTQ+ community is sick and can be cured
One of the biggest misconceptions in Mauritius is that someone from the LGBTQ community is mentally sick or has been subject to witchcraft and that they can be cured through either therapy or prayers. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) issued a statement declaring that homosexuality is not a mental disorder or ailment. However, homosexuality is not a mental illness. Therefore, if it is not a mental illness, it cannot be cured through therapy, and instead, the latter can cause more harm to the person. Similarly, the belief that someone from the LGBTQ community can be healed through prayers or exorcism can be more harmful.
3. Homosexuality is a sin
Unfortunately, culture and religions are the most significant barriers to accepting homosexuality in Mauritian sexuality. Mauritius’ population is ethnically, culturally, linguistically, and religiously varied. However, in most of the cultures in Mauritian society, there is the belief that being part of the LBGTQ community is a sin. But one thing that all cultures have in common is that they all are concerned about how others are treated and oppose cruelty, exploitation, and abuse in all forms. Therefore, culture or religious beliefs should not be used as an excuse to discriminate against people from the LGBTQ community but should instead be used to discourage people from doing so.