Over the years, Mauritius has had many initiatives to promote and enforce human rights. However, human rights issues persist, suggesting that more effort is needed. This article explains the situation of human rights in Mauritius.
Mauritius has the necessary national and international legislative structure to protect human rights since it has ratified most of the United Nations’ treaties and conventions. Ratifying treaties and conventions represent a big step for a country, showing its support and willingness to promote human rights within its territory because of the legal obligation it implies. Examples of core conventions that Mauritius ratified are the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and others. All this is to say that Mauritius has never failed to show its interest in human rights and the well-being of its population. Of course, some acts passed in parliament also help to enforce human rights.
Progress in human rights
Among Mauritius’ achievements is the Equal Opportunity Act passed by the Mauritian Parliament. This act symbolises Mauritius’ unequivocal opposition to all forms of discrimination in any field, from education to employment. Another achievement is the Social Integration and Empowerment Act of 2016, passed to promote social integration and empowerment of people living in absolute poverty.
Since 2018 the Government established the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to speed up the resolution of complaints about police brutality. Moreover, Mauritius was one of five countries in 2021 to receive top grades from the Human Rights Committee for implementing selected priority recommendations. These and other achievements demonstrate that the country has always been willing to take steps to enforce human rights. But still, much progress remains to be made to improve the human rights situation in Mauritius.
Human rights issues in Mauritius
Mauritius has several human rights problems. Notably, there is a pattern of discrimination, marginalisation, and social exclusion in various sectors such as employment. However, no discrimination should be made based on age, gender, ethnicity, religion, race, social status, or origin since every person has equal rights. There is also a lack of laws to prevent torture and little effort on the part of Mauritius to take accountability for acts of torture. The underrepresentation of women in the national assembly and politics is also an issue to be addressed.
Mauritius has shown efforts to protect children, but there is still a shadow of child abuse. An adequate standard of living is not available to all Mauritians, and despite being a developing country, poverty is still very much present.
Besides, there is a total absence of law to defend those of the LGBT community. They, as human beings, should also possess rights and some freedoms.
Recommendations for Mauritius
Mauritius took a good number of initiatives to prevent human rights violations, which shows the country’s willingness to achieve or come close to realising human rights. There is a lot of effort to be made in terms of implementation. It is good to agree that human rights are essential to ratify treaties or pass laws, but the most crucial thing is to implement and enforce them in the country effectively. Actions speak volumes about a country’s commitment to protecting human rights.
Every human rights issue must be considered and tackled so that Mauritius continues progressing. It is undeniable that apart from the state, non-governmental organisations also contribute to improving people’s quality of life and help them access some of their rights. More cooperation from the government, non-governmental organisations or even individuals such as activists could significantly change the human rights situation in Mauritius.
Ongoing fight for human rights
Mauritius must particularly pay attention to problems related to discrimination, torture, quality of education, child protection, gender inequality, and inadequate standard of living but also ensure the equal treatment of every individual before the law. Indeed, the state has duties and obligations to ensure that human rights are respected within its territory. Each country has its own set of human rights issues to deal with, both in terms of implementation and enforcement, but the most important thing is not to give up the fight. Until every citizen can enjoy their fundamental human rights, the work is not over to enforce human rights.
Mauritius still has a lot to do, but it must continue to promote human rights for the well-being of all. A country where human rights are not respected at all is a dangerous country. What is crucial is to move forward and make progress and not regress in terms of human rights.
With the help of the United Nations, institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission or even non-governmental organisations, Mauritius can analyse which human rights issues are problematic in the country, who are the victims of injustice or human rights abuses and what initiatives to take next.
Léonard Marie Mégane, BA (Hons) Politics, Human Rights and International Relations student, University of Mauritius