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Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women reviews the report of Mauritius

GENEVA (30 October 2018) - The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the eighth periodic report of Mauritius on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Introducing the report, Fazila Jeewa-Daureeawoo, the Vice Prime Minister of Mauritius, said that the new Government, elected in December 2014, was firmly committed to addressing the representation of women in decision-making positions, as evidenced by the first-ever female President who had held office from 2015 to March 2018, the appointment of women as the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Vice Prime Minister, and the submission of a ministerial report on electoral reform which had recommended a gender-neutral formula in an attempt to ensure a better representation of women in the National Assembly.  As in many other countries across the world, structural barriers undermining the attainment of gender equality remained, especially gender-based violence in various forms, difficulties women had in balancing their personal and professional lives, and under-representation of women in decision-making positions, said the Vice Prime Minister, adding that the National Gender Policy Framework of 2008 was currently being aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and would be an effective tool for Ministries to revisit their gender policies in order to remove barriers that undermined women.  The functioning of the National Women’s Council as a platform for women to voice out their needs and aspirations had been improved by the new law adopted on 8 March 2018.

In the interactive dialogue with the delegation of Mauritius, Committee Experts noted with satisfaction the impressive strides made in setting up the institutional and legal framework for substantive gender equality and the achievement, already in 2015, of the universal primary school enrolment and gender parity in education.  It was a matter of concern that some of the most important issues already raised with Mauritius during previous dialogues had not yet been addressed, including the insufficient domestication of the Convention in the national legislation, the absence of an explicit definition of discrimination in compliance with article 1 of the Convention, the lack of the constitutional prohibition of discrimination by private actors, and the long delay in deleting article 16 para 4(c) of the Constitution which left women exposed to discrimination in personal status issues, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance.  Commending a big leap in the representation of women at the local level, from 6.4 to 26 per cent, Experts remarked that the progress remained confined to local levels of governance and important gaps remained in terms of women’s political representation in higher levels of administration and governance, as well as in Parliament and the private sector.  Experts welcomed the progressive legislative changes and the introduction in 2012 of legal abortion in four cases, but were concerned by the high rates of teen pregnancy – over 1,000 per year – and the maternal mortality rate of 53 per 100,000 live births, which was rather high for a middle-income country.

In concluding remarks, Ms. Jeewa-Daureeawoo said that the review had been a great learning experience.  Despite the challenges and constraints, Mauritius was on the right path towards the elimination of discrimination against women.

Dalia Leinarte, Committee Chairperson, commended the efforts of Mauritius and encouraged it to address various recommendations, which the Committee would issue with the purpose of the more comprehensive implementation of the Convention.

The delegation of Mauritius was composed of the Vice Prime Minister, and representatives of the Ministry of Local Government and Outer Islands, Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare, Office of the Solicitor-General, and the Permanent Mission of Mauritius to the United Nations Office at Geneva

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.


The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 31 October to consider the sixth periodic report of Tajikistan (CEDAW/C/TJK/6).


Report

The Committee has before it the eighth periodic report of Mauritius (CEDAW/C/MUS/8).

Presentation of the Report

FAZILA JEEWA-DAUREEAWOO, Vice Prime Minister of Mauritius, introducing the report, reiterated Mauritius’ very high esteem for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and said that Mauritius was honoured by the appointment of Pramila Patten, a former member of this Committee, as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative on sexual violence in conflict.  Mauritius had acceded to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa in June 2017, the Vice Prime Minister said.  In December 2014, a new Government with the mission of “achieving meaningful change” had been elected.  For the first time in history, from 2015 to March 2018, a woman had been the President of Mauritius, and women had been appointed as the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Vice Prime Minister, in demonstration of the will of the Government to address the representation of women in decision-making positions.  The new Code of Corporate Governance had been launched in February 2017, while the ministerial report on electoral reform of September 2018 had recommended a gender-neutral formula, in an attempt to ensure a better representation of women in the National Assembly.  

Mauritius had closed the gender gap in primary school enrolment and had attained universal and free primary education, but, like many other countries across the world, structural barriers undermining the attainment of gender equality remained, especially gender-based violence in various forms, difficulties women had in balancing their personal and professional lives, and under-representation of women in decision-making positions.  To do so, continued the Vice Prime Minister, Mauritius had adopted a National Gender Policy Framework in 2008, which was currently being aligned with the 2030 Agenda, and which would be used as an effective tool for Ministries to revisit their gender policies in order to remove barriers that undermined women.  There was also a National Steering Committee on Gender Mainstreaming, which provided a platform for active engagement with gender focal points of all Ministries.  In May 2018, a joint monitoring framework agreement on the gender action plan had been signed with the European Union, which would address issues such as freedom from all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private sphere, elimination of all forms of trafficking of girls and women, and the promotion and protection of rights to sexuality and sexual and reproductive health.

A range of measures had been taken to address violence against women, and an Integrated Support Centre to provide immediate and coordinated support to victims was being set up, which would include setting up of a telephone line for victims of domestic violence.  A steering committee to address gender-based violence in Rodrigues had been set up in 2017, an action plan to support victims of domestic violence in Agaléga had been prepared, and a Family Welfare Mobile Application had been introduced in June 2018 to ensure the protection of women by alerting authorities promptly.  Since 2015, a Service de Proximité through the use of mobile caravans reached out to the population in remote areas and extended to them services and activities, including talks on family welfare, well-being of children, and parenting skills for family empowerment.  Various programmes, the Vice Prime Minister continued, had been put in place to promote women’s economic empowerment, including organizing regional sales exhibitions where they could present their products and services, the adoption of the National Skills Development Programme which provided for technical training for 3,000 youth , while as a result of the August 2018 international conference, a declaration on women’s economic empowerment and a work plan on the priority areas of the Indian Rim Association would ultimately contribute to women’s economic empowerment.  Mauritius had reviewed the existing poverty threshold, which was now 40 per cent higher than that of the World Bank, and had introduced the Subsistence Allowance Scheme under which every adult on the Social Register was entitled to a monthly allowance based on a minimum threshold of $270 for a family of two adults and three children.

The Vice Prime Minister then outlined the positive developments in the protection of human rights, especially with regard to women, mentioning in particular the proclaiming of the Independent Police Complaints Commission Act in April 2018, which was already operational and headed by a woman former Supreme Court judge.  The 2015 amendment to the Employment Rights Act had increased maternity leave from 12 to 14 weeks, and the National Minimum Wage Regulation of 2017 was now a law.  The functioning of the National Women’s Council as a platform for women to voice their needs and aspirations had been improved by the new law adopted on 8 March 2018.  A new Ministry for Human Rights had been set up in 2017, while the National Mechanism for Reporting and Follow-up, set up under this Ministry, ensured that the country’s human rights obligations were fully met and that its reports were submitted in a timely manner.

Questions from the Experts

Opening the dialogue with Mauritius, a Committee Expert appreciated the country’s wealth in competent experts for various human rights treaty bodies, mentioning in particular Pramila Patten and the current CEDAW Committee member Aruna Devi.

The Committee was very concerned that some of the most important issues already raised with Mauritius during previous dialogues had not yet been addressed, including the insufficient domestication of the Convention in the national legislation.  In that vein, the Expert welcomed the Gender Equality Bill and asked how it would enable women to invoke the Convention before the courts, and also asked whether a more explicit definition of discrimination in compliance with article 1 of the Convention would be adopted.

Mauritius was also asked about extending article 16 of the Constitution to the private sector, with Experts stressing that the lack of inclusion of prohibition of discrimination by private actors meant that there was no possibility of getting constitutional redress for such discrimination.  The Constitution in its article 16 para 4(c) still left women exposed to discrimination in personal status issues, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance, the Expert said, noting that discussions on the Constitutional revision had been ongoing since 1995.  Would this article of the Constitution, which was clearly in violation of the Convention, be deleted and in which timeframe?

What was the mandate of the National Mechanism for Reporting and Follow-up and would it extend to monitoring the implementation of human rights-related laws?  What was the reason for the lack of submission of a report by the National Human Rights Commission and what budget was allocated to the Equal Opportunities Commission?

On pre-trial detention, the Expert raised concern about the high number of detained women and the excessive duration of this detention, in some instances over a year, and asked what was being done to address the matter, including through the greater use of alternative measures to detention.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation explained that the collection of gender-disaggregated data was a recognized area of weakness in the country, which had asked for technical assistance and capacity-building for gender analysis and gender-related data.  An action plan for new statistics on violence against women and children had been prepared, and a training of trainers on gender statistics had been conducted in April 2017 for members of various ministries and Government agencies.

Responding to questions raised on the constitutional and legal framework, a delegate said that the Gender Equality Bill had not yet been finalized, and Mauritius would ensure that it addressed the issue of domestication of the Convention.  

The Equal Opportunity Act prohibited discrimination on various grounds, including race, sex, gender, and others; it was applicable to various fields of activity, including education, employment and the provision of goods and services; it prohibited direct and indirect discrimination in various fields and extended to the private sector as well.  Under this Act, complaints for discrimination by private actors could be submitted.

As for the codification of the personal status code, the delegation explained that unfortunately, it had not been possible to achieve a consensus in the Muslim community.  Consultations were being held with the Muslim Family Council, chaired by a woman since November 2016.  The Commission of Muslim Jurists had been dissolved in 1997 and no consensus had been reached on the issue of the personal status law.  Unfortunately, Mauritius was not able to provide a definite time-frame for the Constitutional reform, but it remained committed to carefully examining the Committee’s recommendations on the matter.

As for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, the delegate said that the issue was sufficiently addressed in the Equal Opportunities Act and the Employment Act, and there were no plans to introduce new prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Constitution.

The National Mechanism for Reporting and Follow-up did not operate only for treaty bodies, but for the Universal Periodic Review as well, and was mandated to monitor the progress in the implementation of the national human rights action plan.  The mechanism met at least once a month.

Explaining the possibilities to access justice in the absence of a complaint mechanism, the delegate said that, depending on the facts of the case, an aggrieved person could invoke section 17 of the Constitution for conditional redress, enter a civil case, demand judicial review, and address the matter to the Ombudsman or the national human rights institution.

Questions from the Experts

Turning to the national gender machinery, the Experts took note of the Gender Unit in the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare, and asked about the mandate, authority, decision-making power, and resources provided to it.  Was there a gender focal point in each Ministry and what was its mandate?  Could the delegation explain the relationship, cooperation and coordination between the Gender Unit, gender focal points in Ministries, and gender cells set up by the National Steering Committee on Gender Mainstreaming?  There were 15 women empowerment centres in the country – what was their composition and how were civil society organizations involved?  A comprehensive gender equality strategy was not yet in place – would Mauritius consider adopting one?

Temporary special measures could be applied to all articles of the Convention to achieve de iure and de facto gender equality, another Expert said, noting that such steps were a part of a State’s necessary strategy to achieve substantial equality.  They were not a charity but an entitlement.  It was a matter of concern that the Equal Opportunities Act of 2017 had removed a provision concerning the adoption of temporary special measures, the Expert said, asking whether the Gender Equality Bill would restore their use and application.  How would Mauritius use temporary special measures in employment and education to address vertical gender segregation, particularly for women from vulnerable groups who suffered multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.

Responses by the Delegation

Responding, the delegation explained that the introduction of a gender focal point had initially been introduced on a pilot basis, and it had taken some time to achieve a proper understanding of the position and role.  The expansion of gender focal points in other Ministries was ongoing.  The Gender Unit was headed by a woman, and it provided all the Ministries with the necessary technical assistance.

The concept of a temporary special measure was not easy to understand, the delegate said, noting that the Constitution guaranteed equality between women and men and did not allow for positive discrimination.  Mauritius would continue to study the possibilities of using temporary special measures.

The National Steering Committee on Gender Mainstreaming regrouped gender focal points from the Ministries, who met regularly under the chairmanship of the Head of the Gender Unit, and discussed the implementation of sectoral gender mainstreaming policies.  The national gender equality policy framework was currently being reviewed to make it more responsive and aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.  Gender cells functioned at the level of each Ministry, and were composed of various gender focal points.  The national gender machinery had a huge mandate, said the delegate, noting that Mauritius was conscious of the fact that it needed additional human and financial resources and capacity-building for gender mainstreaming.

The National Women’s Council, whose role had been clarified by a new law, was supervising the women centres which were spread across the country and was working with women’s associations to rejuvenate them and make them more vibrant.  The law defined the composition of the Equal Opportunities Commission and the criteria for the selection of their members.  The members were appointed by the President acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, who consulted with the political leaders, including from the opposition.  

Questions from the Experts

Since the adoption of the Domestic Violence Act in 1997 and its subsequent amendments, as well as awareness raising and capacity-building measures, the protection of women from this form of gender-based violence had been strengthened, an Expert remarked, however, the effective implementation of the law and protection measures were still to be enhanced.  This was particularly important in the context of a patriarchal society which was conducive to violence against women.  Would Mauritius conduct an impact assessment of measures adopted so far, and when?  

The law failed to protect women from economic violence, while the system of combatting domestic violence was not victim-centred as the victim had to leave the home while the perpetrator remained.  The police often tried to reconcile the abused women with the perpetrator of domestic violence, shelters were lacking, and the resources allocated to combatting violence against women seemed not to match the needs.  The Committee was concerned about the reported increase in the prevalence and occurrence of domestic violence in recent years, and the drop in the number of prosecutions for domestic violence.

Marital rape was not criminalized - when would Mauritius fill this gap and send a clear message to the society that sexual abuse and rape, even in a marriage, was a violation of human rights?  Similarly, when would it prohibit corporal punishment in all settings?

Another Expert commended the efforts to combat human trafficking and asked about difficulties in implementing the 2009 law, action taken to tackle the root causes of trafficking in persons, particularly women and girls, and steps to facilitate the process of filing complaints and demanding compensation, which seemed to be long and arduous.  Mauritius criminalized prostitutes but not clients – why was this so?  What system was in place to support the victims of sexual exploitation and to assist those wishing to leave prostitution?

Responses by the Delegation

Responding, the delegation said that there were currently three shelters for victims of domestic violence, which were well run and provided support to women so that they could stand on their own feet, including through courses.  The law provided that the victim could apply for an occupation order, in which case the perpetrator would be called by the magistrate, who would then decide whether an occupation order would be issued, to enable the woman to return to the marital home.  The decision would be made in the best interest of the woman and children.

With regard to the evaluation of the impact of domestic violence programmes, the delegation said that all the resources were now being directed into the implementation of various programmes and measures, and added that the country at the moment lacked the capacity to ensure impact monitoring.  The country needed technical assistance and capacity-building in data collection on gender-based violence.

There were initiatives to work with men and boys to address the patriarchy in the society and the root causes of violence against women.  School child protection clubs were operational across the country, and there were parental clubs where the issues of violence against women and children were raised and addressed.

Rape was criminalized and it was possible to prosecute for the offence of marital rape.  The Protection from Domestic Violence Act had been expanded in 2016 to provide for a possibility of arrest for acts of domestic violence.  The Child Protection Act and the Criminal Code prohibited corporal punishment in schools, and communities and families were encouraged to pursue communication and dialogue rather than corporal punishment with regard to children.

Another delegate explained the drop in the number of prosecuted cases of domestic violence, saying that unfortunately, in a number of cases, the victims themselves did not want to go ahead and prosecute.  It was possible to prosecute a perpetrator of domestic violence under the Criminal Code.

The budget for the promotion of family welfare and prevention of domestic violence was not sufficient to address the scourge, the delegate said, noting that the Prime Minister was very attentive to the issue and often approved the budgetary requests made by the Ministry.

Questions from the Experts

While Mauritius had made impressive strides in putting in place the institutional and legal framework for substantive gender equality, important gaps remained, particularly in terms of their political representation, remarked Committee Experts.  Women made up 52 per cent of the population, but the level of their representation and meaningful participation in administration, governance, and Parliament remained low and inadequate.  The Experts commended a big leap made in the representation of women at the local level, largely thanks to the 2011 Local Government Act, which had seen the increase in the representation of women from 6.4 to 26 per cent.  However, the progress remained confined to local levels of governance.

The Experts acknowledged the good representation of women in the judiciary and asked for disaggregated data on the representation of women in the diplomatic service, particularly at the ambassadorial level.  What was the involvement of women in the ad hoc truth and justice commission established in 2009 to look into the issues of colonialism and slavery?

An Expert asked the delegation to explain how Mauritius was planning to coordinate, in a more robust manner, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the implementation of its obligations under the Convention.  The Expert stressed in this context the importance of governance, and the involvement of women in the conception and design of all programmes, policies, and initiatives, in order to achieve substantive equality.

Responses by the Delegation

Responding, the delegation stressed the commitment of the Government to consolidate democracy, strengthen institutions, and protect women’s rights.  The Constitution guaranteed equal rights to women and men as voters, and women had the voting rights since the country’s independence, and in fact, the percentage of women who voted was higher than men.  Mauritius was well aware that women needed better political representation, considering that of the 24 Ministers and 69 Parliamentarians, there were two and eight women, respectively.  This was a weakness that must be promptly addressed, the delegate said, noting that one of the avenues for change would be the upcoming Electoral Reform.  In this vein, the Ministerial Report on Electoral Reform of September 2018 had demanded gender parity.

The Code of Corporate Governance which had been launched in February 2017 demanded the better representation of women on boards of private companies, but it was clear that this was not sufficient to achieve parity.  There was a need for the Government to further consider how to assist the private sector to achieve this objective.

In terms of the representation of women in the diplomatic service, women held the position of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the Ambassador to Australia, and the Consul in Mumbai, and furthermore, women held over 60 per cent of other positions.

In terms of the integration of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Convention, the delegation said that there were two existing platforms in the country, the National Platform for Women and the National Steering Committee on Gender Mainstreaming, which would be used to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  The ad hoc truth and justice commission was headed by a woman, a well-known historian.

Questions from the Experts

In the next round on questions, the delegation was asked to explain the situation concerning the right of women to transmit their nationality, including through marriage, to inform on the intentions concerning the accession to international conventions on statelessness, and on measures taken to ensure that all children were registered at birth.

Responses by the Delegation

Responding, the delegation reiterated that the Constitution guaranteed the same right to women and men to acquire and transmit the nationality, and said that a marriage to a foreigner would not result in a loss of the nationality for the women.  A foreign husband could apply for the Mauritian citizenship, which would be awarded if the conditions of the Nationality Act were satisfied.

Hospitals were obliged to inform parents about their responsibility to register the birth of the child within the limits prescribed by law.  If a birth was not registered within the period specified by law, the parents could use the mechanism called “tardy declaration”.  The Ministry of Gender worked together with the Office of the Attorney General to expedite the matter.  

Questions from the Experts

The Committee commended the notable progress in providing access to education, noting that Mauritius had, already in 2015, achieved the Sustainable Development Goal 2 on universal education for all and had achieved gender parity.  However, concerns remained about regional disparities between Rodrigues and Mauritius islands, especially in terms of quality of education, quality of school infrastructure, and high rates of absenteeism, especially among girls.  What measures were being adopted to address those issues, and to introduce sexual and reproductive health into the school curricula?  

What was being done to prevent the high rates of teen pregnancy, and to ensure that the girls could return to school to complete their studies, despite the widespread stigma?

Another Expert commended Mauritius for the progressive legislative changes which, in 2012, had introduced legal abortion in four cases, and asked about measures to raise the awareness of women on this law and to ensure the availability of quality health care for legal abortion.  Mauritius, the Expert continued, was considered a middle income country, so maternal mortality rates of 53 per 100,000 live births were considered rather high and there was a concern about adolescent pregnancies, estimated at over 1,000 annually.

An Expert commended the progress made in the employment of women, including the reform of the Employment Relations Act and the setting up of the National Remuneration Board, which would help make the employment sector a vibrant one.  What were the criteria that qualified a woman for a rather generous maternity leave, especially in terms of length of employment with an organization?  The delegation was asked about the incentives for the private sector to align its policies with the principles of the Convention; barriers to the implementation in practice of the principle of equal pay for equal work; and laws or traditional practices that confined women to the lower end of the agricultural labour chain.  How did the labour inspection, the so-called “Flying Squad” operate?

Responses by the Delegation

In terms of regional disparity in education, the delegation said that following the Vice Prime Minister’s visit to Agaléga, measures had been taken to improve the quality of and access to education, including providing the six children who attended secondary school with the necessary equipment, and allocating funds for the construction of two libraries, one in the North Island and another in the South Island.  Other measures were in the pipeline.  The delegation was not aware of high absenteeism rates, but it was known that before the exam period started, many students did stay home to revise.  Education was available to all children across the country, in Agaléga, Rodrigues and Mauritius islands.  The recent reform of the education sector had introduced nine years of compulsory schooling, and the delegation said that all children throughout the country were treated the same.  Pregnant adolescent girls were able to re-join school after the delivery.

Mauritius, a densely populated State, was not a party to the Refugee Convention and had not yet adopted laws and policies to grant refugee status to foreigners, but it did facilitate, on a case-by-case basis, the reallocation of refugees to third countries.  Therefore, the question on access to education for refugee and asylum-seeking children did not arise, but foreign children awaiting transfer to a third country could attend school.

The delegation explained that there were awareness raising campaigns on sexual and reproductive health, and said that the Government was not aware of any studies into backstreet abortions.  Free health care services were provided to all, without exception.  All female employees, irrespective of their length of service, were granted 14 weeks of maternity leave.  The delegation explained that the new Government, upon taking office in September 2014, had corrected a long-standing injustice and had removed age criteria for the payment of invalidity pension to children with disabilities, ensuring that all children with disabilities in the country now received this pension and not only the children aged 15 and over, as had previously been the case.

Questions from the Experts

A Committee Expert raised concern that the newly introduced poverty threshold was too low and did not adequately reflect the levels and dimensions of poverty in the country.  Was there a mechanism monitoring the implementation and impact of the poverty eradication strategy and what were examples of best practices and lessons learned by the Poverty Observatory set up in 2015?  Considering that poverty was largely structural and was not linked with employment opportunities, Mauritius had adopted a kind of a Marshal Plan of Poverty Alleviation, the Expert remarked, asking how it functioned and what measures it deployed to empower poor women.  Similarly, Mauritius had introduced a corporate social responsibility initiative which saw private companies contributing two per cent of their income to poverty eradication activities – what was the impact of this initiative?

What was the situation of rural women and their needs, as well as measures to remove from policies and laws inequality in accessing water, land, housing and other resources and services?  The Committee was concerned about the situation of Creole women and their social isolation, as well as discrimination, violence, exclusion and hate against lesbian, trans and bisexual persons.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that a key priority in Mauritius was ensuring that rural women had the same access to services and opportunities as urban women, and stressed that urban and rural areas were treated equally in terms of provision of infrastructure and services.  Caravan de santé reached rural women to provide them with health services, and to raise awareness on matters of gender equality, domestic violence, and others.

Another delegate explained that all those living below the poverty line and who were included in the Social Registrar entered into a social contract with the Government which spelled out the rights, benefits, and obligations concerning the provision of services, including conditional cash transfer.  The Marshall Plan Against Poverty had been adopted in the budget speech of 2016 and contained measures such as the payment of subsistence allowances to vulnerable individuals, construction of housing units, education support, and the setting up of the National Corporate Social Responsibility Foundation.  

Several laws, including on equal opportunities and employment, recognized the concept of sexual orientation and gender identity, a delegate said, adding that lesbian, trans and bisexual women could vindicate their rights by addressing the Equal Opportunities Commission.  Complaints of violence could be filed with the police.

Questions from the Experts

In a final round of questions, an Expert remarked that the pluralistic legal system in Mauritius was very baffling in matters of marriage, particularly for Muslims, noting that if a couple failed to follow up on their religious marriage with a civil one, they would be left in a legal void, putting the woman and her rights in a very vulnerable position.  What protection was provided to financial and property rights of women in de facto unions, and how were the rights of children born to unmarried mothers, protected?  While the age of marriage was set at 18, a marriage at 16 was allowed with parental consent.  Could the delegation further elaborate on this.

Responses by the Delegation

Responding, the delegation said that for a Muslim religious marriage to take effect, it must be celebrated by a Muslim official, contracted under the religious rules, and registered under the Muslim Family Council.  At the moment, the registration of such marriages under the Civil Code was not mandatory, but many couples married under the Muslim personal status law also registered their marriages under the Civil Status Code.  The delegation stressed that the marriage registration could be done also a long time after the marriage had been contracted.  Because Muslim personal status law was not codified and a marriage so contracted was not recognized under the law, one could speak of a “marriage” as per the Civil Code only when a religious marriage was registered.  Children born in religious marriages and de facto unions had the rights and obligations as any other children, provided that the child had been declared by the parents.  In such cases, mothers could sue for alimony in case of a divorce.

Concluding Remarks

FAZILA JEEWA-DAUREEAWOO, Vice Prime Minister of Mauritius, in her concluding remarks, said that the review had been a great learning experience and an opportunity for Mauritius to demonstrate the efforts to fulfil its obligations under the Convention.  There were still some miles to cover before discrimination against women was eliminated, and she stressed that, despite the challenges and constraints, Mauritius was on the right path.

DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Chairperson, commended Mauritius for its efforts and encouraged it to address various recommendations, which the Committee would issue with the purpose of the more comprehensive implementation of the Convention throughout the State party.

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