East African island nation, Mauritius, has recently decriminalized homosexuality following the Supreme Court decision ruling criminal code 250(1) was in violation of their constitution.
An official statement from the court reads: “Section 250 was not introduced in Mauritius to reflect any indigenous Mauritian values but was inherited as a 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.”
Prior to the court decision, homosexuality was a crime punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Now, new protections against discrimination are extended to LGBTQ+ communities in Mauritius under the recently enacted Equal Opportunities Act, Workers’ Rights Act, and Employment Relations Act.
LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, such as NGOs Collectif Arc-En-Ciel (CAEC) and the Young Queer Alliance, in the country are celebrating this win. The four plaintiffs involved in the court case are members of the Young Queer Alliance who started their fight for this win in 2019.
Jean-Daniel Wong, manager of Arc-en-Ciel Collective told Reuters: “As an out gay man in Mauritius, personally, there was kind of this Damocles sword hanging over our head.” Though Wong admits the country still has a long way to go, he claims Mauritian people have strong faith in their public institutions.
Historically African countries have some of the strictest anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the world. According to PBS, “people with diverse sexualities and gender expressions have always existed in African civilizations.” But today after colonial rule placed many anti-LGBTQ+ policies on these countries, queer people are at increased risk for violent crimes.
Relative to Mauritius, countries like Uganda and Nigeria have gone in the opposite direction, remaining steadfast in their homophobic policies despite pushback from global organizations and leaders. In some of these countries the punishment for homosexual activity is the death penalty. Though Mauritius continues to move forward only 22 countries out of Africa’s 54 have legalized homosexuality.