The East African nation of Mauritius is the latest country to decriminalize homosexuality after their Supreme Court, on October 4, ruled that antiquated criminal code 250(1) was in violation of the national constitution.
This decision is one long in the making for local LGBTQ advocacy groups such as Collectif Arc-En-Ciel (CAEC), which is the country’s oldest NGO of its kind, and the Young Queer Alliance which is a youth-led NGO. All four plaintiffs of the court case which resulted in this groundbreaking decision are members of the Young Queer Alliance and began the work of addressing the Supreme Court in September of 2019 shortly followed with another complaint supported by CAEC in October of the same year.
Before this decision consenting relationships between male adults was a crime for which the punishment was up to 5 years of penal servitude. Not only does the decision decriminalize homosexuality, but it extends protections against discrimination from the previously enacted Equal Opportunities Act, the Workers’ Rights Act, and the Employment Relations Act to include LGBTQ persons. The Supreme Court in its ruling stated that, “Section 250 was not introduced in Mauritius to reflect any indigenous Mauritian values but was inherited as part of our colonial history from Britain. Its enactment was not the expression of domestic democratic will, but was a course imposed on Mauritius and other colonies by British rule.”
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The Young Queer Alliance has collaborated with GLAAD for the past two years. The organization participated in Spirit Day, which is when people from all over the world go purple to support LGBTQ youth, and the GLAAD Media Institute has facilitated media training with the group and local news outlets.
In response to the overturning of 250(1) GLAAD Media Institute Vice President Ross Murray said, “The momentum toward freedom and security for the LGBTQ community just quickened a bit more. This move by Mauritius has demonstrated leadership by throwing off laws that harm and terrorize the LGBTQ community. The LGBTQ advocates in Mauritius deserve applause for their ongoing efforts to educate, litigate, and advocate constantly. May this most recent decriminalization action inspire other countries to abandon laws that unfairly target and persecute the LGBTQ community.”
Lastly, in a celebratory statement from the Young Queer Alliance the group said, “04 October 2023 is a historic day for the human rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) people in Mauritius as we no longer need to live with the constant fear of being criminalised for being LGBTQ.”