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Mauritius Supreme Court decriminalizes homosexuality in 'momentous victory' of LGBTQ+ rights

The Supreme Court of the East African country of Mauritius decriminalized same-sex sexual relations.

Mauritius Supreme Court decriminalizes homosexuality in 'momentous victory' of LGBTQ+ rights
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Brett Sayles

It's another win for human rights in Africa. Many countries in the world have discriminatory laws and remain hostile to the LGBTQ+ community. Some laws are so harsh that they even call for the death penalty. The Supreme Court of the East African country of Mauritius recently announced that the country’s British colonial-era anti-sodomy laws were unconstitutional and as a result, decriminalized same-sex sexual relations. 



 

The case of Ah Seek v. State of Mauritius was originally filed at the Supreme Court in 2019. In the recent judgment regarding the case, the Supreme Court judge underlined the constitutionally protected right to non-discrimination, stating, "…are there any valid reasons for the State to discriminate against the plaintiff having sexual intercourse in the only way available to him?"

They continued, "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."

Activist Abdool Ridwan Firaas and the largest LGBTQ+ human rights advocacy group in Mauritius, Collectif-Arc-en-Ciel, challenged the constitutionality of Section 250 of the Mauritian Criminal Code, which dates back to 1838. The plaintiffs were aided by the advocacy group Human Dignity Trust which provides free legal assistance to local organisations that are challenging laws that persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.



 

According to The Advocate, the Court agreed with the plaintiffs and found section 250(1) unconstitutional because it “criminalizes the only natural way for him [the plaintiff] 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.”

The news was celebrated by gay rights activists with Pliny Soocoormanee, executive officer at the British LGBTQ+ rights group the Peter Tatchell Foundation, saying: "I am overjoyed that after 185 years of LGBTs being criminalized in Mauritius, this homophobic law has finally come to an end. We were never asking for special treatment—just equality and respect. Mauritius may be small but the message this sends to the world is huge. Criminalization in every country belongs in the past. As a gay Mauritian, this day will live with me forever."



 

The judges also acknowledged the legacy of colonial-era laws, remarking that, "Section 250 was not introduced into Mauritius to reflect any Mauritian values but was inherited as part of our colonial history from Britain. Its enactment was not the expression of domestic democratic will but was a course imposed on Mauritius and other colonies by British rule." Activists now hope more countries in the region will follow suit and protect vulnerable sections of society. 

"This decision finally topples 185 years of state-sanctioned stigma against LGBT people in Mauritius and sends yet another important message to the remaining criminalizing countries in Africa and beyond: these laws must go," said Téa Braun, Human Dignity Trust’s Chief Executive, per Human Dignity Trust.

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