A scene from Mauritius Pride 2018 (Pic: Herb Klein)
In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of Mauritius has declared the country’s ban on same-sex intimacy discriminatory, un-African, and unconstitutional.
The case was brought by Abdool Ridwan Firaas Ah Seek, the president of the local LGBTIQ+ organisation Collectif Arc-en-Ciel, with support from the Human Dignity Trust.
They sought to challenge the constitutionality of Section 250 of the Mauritian Criminal Code, a colonial-era provision that criminalised consensual same-sex relations, punishable by up to five years in prison.
A Milestone for Freedom and Equality
“Receiving this judgment in my favour is an enormous relief,” commented a jubilant Ah Seek. “From today, as a citizen and a human being, I am now free to love whoever I want to without fear.
“Above all, it also means that the next generations can fully and freely embrace their sexuality without fear of being arrested. This victory is undoubtedly a major step towards the full inclusion of our community in Mauritian society,” Ah Seek said.
Secular State and Personal Freedom
In its judgment, delivered on Wednesday, the Supreme Court emphasised that Mauritius is a secular state, finding no justifiable reason for the state to intrude into the private lives of LGBTIQ+ individuals.
The judges further acknowledged that the plaintiff’s sexual orientation is “natural and innate… cannot be altered and is a natural variant of his sexuality.”
The court unequivocally ruled that Section 250(1) of the criminal code is discriminatory and unconstitutional as “it criminalises the only natural way for him and other homosexual men to have sexual intercourse whereas heterosexual men are permitted the right to have sexual intercourse in a way which is natural to them.”
A Message to Other African Nations
The Supreme Court judges also highlighted that Section 250 “was not introduced into Mauritius to reflect any Mauritian values” but was “imposed on Mauritius and other colonies by British rule.”
Téa Braun, Chief Executive of the Human Dignity Trust, applauded the ruling. “This decision finally topples 185 years of state-sanctioned stigma against LGBT people in Mauritius and sends yet another important message to the remaining criminalising countries in Africa and beyond: these laws must go,” said Braun.
Homosexuality continues to be a criminal offence punishable with prison in 31 out of 55 countries in Africa.
While there have been significant advances, in the past year, several nations, including Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, Niger, Tanzania, and Uganda, have sought to impose harsher penalties against their LGBTIQ+ citizens.