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Mauritius Breaks Barriers with Landmark Ruling Decriminalizing Same-Sex Relations
The Mauritius Supreme Court's historic decision ends 185 years of discrimination, progressing equality and LGBTQ+ rights in Mauritius.
Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Mauritius took a significant step towards equality by decriminalizing same-sex sexual relations. The court declared the British colonial-era anti-sodomy laws in Mauritius unconstitutional, effectively overturning Section 250(1) of the Mauritian Criminal Code 1838, which criminalized anal sex between two men.
This landmark ruling was delivered in the case of Ah Seek v. State of Mauritius, where activist Abdool Ridwan Firaas and the prominent LGBTQ+ human rights advocacy group, Collectif-Arc-en-Ciel, challenged the constitutionality of Section 250. They were supported in their legal battle by the advocacy group Human Dignity Trust.
Abdool Ridwan Firaas Ah Seek, who serves as the president of Collectif Arc-en-Ciel, courageously contested the validity of Section 250, a centuries-old law inherited from British colonial rule, which imposed penalties of up to five years in prison for consensual gay sex between adults. With legal support from the Human Dignity Trust in London, the Supreme Court of Mauritius ruled that Section 250 was both discriminatory and unconstitutional. In their judgment, the court stressed that Mauritius is a democratic secular state and has no justifiable grounds to intrude into the private lives of its LGBTQ+ citizens.
Pliny Soocoormanee, Executive Officer at the Peter Tatchell Foundation and a gay Mauritian expressed his elation at the decision, emphasizing the importance of ending a law that had criminalized the LGBTQ+ community in Mauritius for 185 years. He highlighted the universal call for equality and respect, and how this ruling sends a powerful message to the world, marking the end of criminalization in every country.
According to a statement from the Peter Tatchell Foundation, the Mauritian Supreme Court recognized the natural and innate nature of the plaintiff's sexual orientation, asserting that it cannot be changed and is a legitimate variation of human sexuality. The court firmly held that Section 250 of the criminal code discriminated against gay men by criminalizing the only natural form of sexual intercourse available to them, while heterosexual men enjoyed the right to engage in natural sexual activities.
In a social media post, the group further stated, "Section 250 of the criminal code is unconstitutional and violates Section 16 of the constitution in so far as it prohibits consensual acts of sodomy between consenting male adults in private and should accordingly be read to exclude such consensual acts from the ambit of Section 250."
Human Dignity Trust Chief Executive Téa Braun expressed relief that this victory for equality and justice had been long-awaited and hard-fought for, spanning eight years of dedicated efforts.
Collectif Arc-en-Ciel Vice President Dimitri Ah-Yu praised Ah Seek for his unwavering commitment to the case and hailed the Supreme Court's decision as a historic day for the organization and the entire LGBTQ+ community in Mauritius. He emphasized the importance of standing collectively against discrimination and upholding fundamental human rights.
It's worth noting that Mauritius joins the ranks of countries in southern Africa, including Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, and South Africa, in decriminalizing consensual same-sex sexual relations. The Mauritian Supreme Court's ruling comes approximately two months after the Pan Africa ILGA conference took place in the country, underscoring the growing momentum for LGBTQ+ rights across the continent.