Supreme Court ruling tells LGBTQ people in Mauritius that their dignity is valued: UN expert
13 October 2023
GENEVA (13 October 2023) – Mauritius’ Supreme Court decision to decriminalise same-sex relations amongst consenting adults is a crucial step forward for equality, a UN human rights expert said today.
"I am profoundly encouraged by the Supreme Court’s findings, which evoke the principle of equality and the imperative of respecting all the elements that create a person’s identity and their experience," said the UN independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz.
“I also note that the judgment has explicitly recognised that the legislation criminalising homosexuality was never an expression of indigenous Mauritian values, but an imposition of the British colonial project,” Madrigal-Borloz said.
The Supreme Court determination concluded a court case challenging the constitutionality of parts of the Mauritius Criminal Code which criminalised same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults and carried a sentence of five years imprisonment.
"This ruling tells gay, lesbian and bisexual, trans and other gender-diverse people living in Mauritius that they are in a country in which their dignity is valued and protected under the rule of law," the expert said. “Criminalising homosexuality and other forms of sexual and gender diversity is at the origin of much violence, discrimination and social exclusion. It also violates international human rights law," he said.
The expert said that during a recent visit to Mauritius, he had witnessed efforts by Mauritian LGBT organisation Arc-en-Ciel Collective and other human rights defenders to promote and protect the equality and inclusion of gay, lesbian, trans, and bisexual people. Madrigal-Borloz congratulated the plaintiffs in the case for their determination to bring about effective change.
“Rulings like this make it clear why civil society spaces must be nurtured. The work of human rights defenders is the fuel for change toward full respect for diversity and equality in all societies,” the expert said.
He also noted that that legal provisions banning homosexuality are often remnants of colonial laws.
"Countries around the world that still criminalise homosexuality and other forms of sexual orientation and gender identity must, without exception, take note of this recent advance in Mauritius,” Madrigal-Borloz said.
On the African continent, Mauritius joins Angola, Botswana, Cape Verde, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Mozambique, Seychelles and South Africa in definitely dismantling this colonial and odious form of discrimination, the expert said.
“All countries in which homosexuality or any other form of gender diversity remain criminalised must examine their legal frameworks to become fully compliant with international human rights law," he said.
The expert is part of what are known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.