Activist seeks to overturn anti-gay law of African island Mauritius

A human rights activist on the island nation of Mauritius off the east coast of Africa is challenging the country’s anti-gay law before the Supreme Court of Mauritius.


From the African Human Rights Media Network


Location of Mauritius east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. (Map courtesy of Google and MauritiusInsideOut.com)
Location of Mauritius east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. (Map courtesy of Google and MauritiusInsideOut.com)

If his lawsuit succeeds, the number of African nations with anti-gay laws would drop from 32 to 3.

The LGBT rights advocacy organization Collectif Arc-En-Ciel (CAEC) is supporting the lawsuit. This is CAEC’s press release about the case:

Supreme Court of Mauritius holds first hearing in case challenging constitutionality of discriminatory law targeting LGBT people

The first hearing in the case challenging the constitutionality of Section 250, brought by Abdool Ridwan Firaas Ah Seek, a 29-year-old human rights activist, took place last week in the Supreme Court of Mauritius.

Aschwin Ramenah, director of CAEC: “”The way in which adults lead their lives in close, consensual relationships in the privacy of their own homes should never be a matter for state interference.” (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

Mr Ah Seek is supported in his endeavour by the Collectif Arc-En-Ciel (CAEC), the largest and longest-standing organization in Mauritius working to uphold the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

The current version of Section 250 dates back to 1898 and is a relic of Mauritius’s colonial past. Those convicted under this law face a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

By criminalizing consensual same-sex activity between adults, Section 250 violates fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Mauritius, the supreme law of the land. These include the right to equality, privacy, freedom of expression, personal liberty, non-discrimination and protection against inhuman and degrading treatment.

“Section 250 is like the sword of Damocles hanging over the lives of LGBT Mauritians. The time has come to repeal this discriminatory law that unfairly targets members of our society simply because of who they love,” said Aschwin Ramenah, Director of CAEC.

Although prosecutions for consensual same-sex activity are rare under Section 250, the mere existence of this law contributes to the stigmatization of LGBT people, which can discourage them from seeking HIV testing and treatment and legitimize hate speech and discrimination.

“The way in which adults lead their lives in close, consensual relationships in the privacy of their own homes should never be a matter for state interference. Archaic laws like Section 250 have no place in our modern and democratic society.”

“Challenging Section 250 opens a new chapter in Mauritian history. The CAEC hopes that the Supreme Court will relegate this law to the history books, and our country can finally live up to its reputation as a rainbow nation, where every citizen enjoys the same constitutionally-protected rights and is treated with equality and dignity,” added Aschwin Ramenah.

The case was originally filed on 25 October 2019. The Supreme Court hearing took place on the 21 November, whilst a further hearing is scheduled for the 18 February 2020.

Founded in 2005, the Collectif Arc-en-Ciel (CAEC) is the first non-governmental organization in Mauritius to fight against all forms of hatred, discrimination and violence related to gender identity and sexual orientation. CAEC is an interested party in this case.

Abdool Ridwan Firaas Ah Seek is represented by a Mauritian legal team composed of Mr Gavin Glover SC, Ms Yanilla Moonshiram, barristers-at-law, and Ms Komadhi Mardemootoo, attorney-at-law.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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