Mauritius bids to legalise homosexuality

The Supreme Court of Mauritius has been approached by four young activists to legalise homosexuality, calling Section 250 of the Mauritian Criminal Code Act of 1838 unconstitutional, and a violation of their freedom and fundamental rights.

Though, prosecutions are rare, the colonial-era Section 250 criminalises homosexuality by stating: “Any person who is guilty of the crime of sodomy … shall be liable to penal servitude for a term not exceeding 5 years”.

The plaintiffs, who are from diverse parts of Mauritian society, served copies of the application on the State of Mauritius, the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions, for them to inform the Supreme Court of their views on the matter on Monday September 30.

“LGBT people in Mauritius are your friends, family, and neighbours and deserve the same rights to have loving, caring relationships as everyone else,” said lead plaintiff, Najeeb Ahmad Fokeerbux.

“It’s time to get rid of this colonial-era law, and we ask all Mauritians to support our effort”. 

There have been other attempts to have the law changed. In 2007, the Law Reform Commission recommended that sodomy be decriminalised and that Section 250 be repealed. Unfortunately, the law still remains in place.

Members of the Young Queer Alliance, a youth-led NGO advocating for the respect of equal human rights for LGBT people in Mauritius, contend for constitutional redress of Section 250 on the basis that:

• LGBT people, like all other citizens, should have the fundamental rights to choice of sexual partner, privacy, dignity, protection of the law and equality;
• Section 250 is contrary to the values of democracy and treats LBGT people as second-class citizens;
• Mauritians believe in an equal society free from discrimination, and the continued existence of Section 250 brings about discrimination, inequality, stigma, and persecution of LGBT people.

The four plaintiffs, who are of Hindu, Christian and Muslim backgrounds, are being represented by Dentons (Mauritius) LLP, the local office of the world’s largest law firm, on a pro-bono basis.