In a historic moment for the LGBTQ+ community in Mauritius, the country’s Supreme Court has taken a monumental step towards progress by decriminalizing same-sex relations. This momentous decision comes at a crucial juncture, as many of Mauritius’ neighboring nations continue to uphold harsh anti-LGBTQ+ policies, some even punishing same-sex relationships with the death penalty.
The groundbreaking ruling was delivered as part of the case of Ah Seek vs State of Mauritius. In this pivotal lawsuit, activist Abdool Ridwan Firaas Ah Seek, supported by the Human Dignity Trust, challenged section 250 (1) of the Mauritian Criminal Code 1838, which had been a remnant of colonial rule, imposing criminal sanctions and threatening up to five years of imprisonment for consensual same-sex relations.
A Striking Verdict: Challenging Discrimination
In their verdict, the Supreme Court judges posed a crucial question: “Are there any valid reasons for the State to discriminate against the plaintiff having sexual intercourse in the only way available to him?” They emphasized the deeply personal nature of this issue, stating, “The present case concerns the most private and intimate aspects of the identity of homosexual men, namely the manner in which they have sexual intercourse. Accordingly, there must exist particularly serious reasons for the State to justifiably interfere with the manner in which homosexual men choose to have consensual sexual intercourse in private.”
The court further acknowledged that the outdated law did not reflect Mauritian values but was an inheritance from Britain’s colonial history. Téa Braun of the Human Dignity Trust lauded the ruling, stating that it marked the end of 185 years of state-sanctioned stigma against LGBTQ+ people in Mauritius and sent a powerful message to other African nations with discriminatory laws: “These laws must go.”
A Triumph of Freedom and Inclusion
Plaintiff Ah Seek, who initiated the lawsuit in 2019, expressed immense relief and hope for the future. He said, “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.”
Mauritius now joins a select group of African nations, including South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Seychelles, and Mozambique, in eliminating colonial-era legal provisions that perpetuated discrimination. However, the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights continues in many other African countries, where strict anti-LGBTQ+ laws persist, and the maximum penalty for homosexuality remains capital punishment.
This historic ruling in Mauritius shines as a beacon of progress and equality, serving as a reminder that the path towards LGBTQ+ rights is a global journey, with milestones achieved one step at a time.