Moreover, in several countries, sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex are considered a crime and punished with fines, imprisonment or with the death penalty.
The Republic of Mauritius claims at the United Nations that it recognizes the human rights of the LGBTI community. Under pressure from the European Union, the Mauritian Government has indeed quietly ratified a number of international legal provisions and discreetly enacted domestic legislation against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In reality, the Government of Mauritius still criminalises consensual adult male homosexuality and punishes it with 5 years’ imprisonment. As such, it does not comply with international law and has shown no intention of doing so in the foreseeable future.
Mauritius has so far refused to amend the ignoble Section 250 (1) of the Mauritian Criminal Code that reads as follows: “Any person who is guilty of the crime of sodomy or bestiality shall be liable to penal servitude for a term not exceeding 5 years”.
Astounding as it is, human sexuality, in Mauritian law, is considered to be on the same level as sex between a human and an animal!
The human dignity of the LGBTI community is cruelly and irrationally negated in the Republic of Mauritius.
On 27 September 2019, Henry Coombes, a gay Mauritian artist, aged 73, filed a plaint against the Government of Mauritius and its Attorney-General before the Supreme Court of Mauritius challenging the constitutionality of Section 250 (1) of the Criminal Code that effectively brands him as a criminal.
Henry Coombes is demanding no more and no less that there should be equal rights for all Mauritians without discrimination. He is demanding that his identity as a gay person be respected. He does so in his own interest and in the interest of the whole LGBTI community in Mauritius.
The case of Henry Coombes v/s the Government of Mauritius is scheduled to be heard on 13 July 2021.
In its plea dated 2 February 2021 Government argues that “ there is constitutionally no protected general right to private life” and that “consensual sexual activities between members of the same sex still remains a highly sensitive issue in Mauritius in view of the delicate socio-cultural and religious fabric of the Mauritian society.”
Religious belief is a personal matter and the right to practice one/s religion must be respected and protected.
Religion, however, cannot become a pretext for the State to discriminate against those who do not share the religious dogmas of some or many. Everybody must have the freedom to love and live with the person she/he chooses to. The State cannot be allowed to criminalise the freedom of adults to love and live the way they want to.
Most Mauritians, if not all, believe they live and/or are entitled to live in a democratic society as stated in Section 1 of our Constitution: “Mauritius shall be a sovereign democratic State which shall be known as the Republic of Mauritius.”
Government is now arguing and telling Mauritians that their right to private life is not to be considered as a constitutional right in a democratic State. Their privacy is therefore not protected under the Constitution.
If indeed this is so, then the Constitution should be urgently amended to explicitly guarantee to all Mauritians the right to have a private life.
The right to privacy is a fundamental human right. Without the right to privacy, a State cannot be seriously considered to be democratic.
Members of the LGBTI community are entitled to enjoy the same human rights as all other Mauritians. We cannot preach equality of all Mauritians under the law and at the same time discriminate against Mauritians who are gay and treat them as criminals as Section 250 does.
This is worse than political hypocrisy. It is anti-democratic.
LGBTI rights are human rights. This statement, as simple and straightforward as it is, is at the core of LGBTI rights defenders’ relentless discourse. LGBTI people have the same human rights as all individuals, including the right to non-discrimination in the enjoyment of these rights.
Acknowledging LGBTI rights as human rights is both a first step and a requirement towards equality for all under our Constitution.
This is why we invite all those value democracy, privacy and human rights for all to lend their support and demonstrate their solidarity to Henry Coombes in his struggle against the unlawful and inhuman discrimination the LGBTI in Mauritius community suffers from.
COOMBES’S RIGHTS MATTER!
LGBTI RIGHTS MATTER!
Henry Coombes Support Group,
Annex: Profiles of Henry Coombes Support Group activists.