Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, but there is no provision criminalizing spousal rape, unless it is sodomy. Police and the judicial system did not effectively enforce the law. The penalty for rape is 20 years’ imprisonment, with a fine not exceeding 200,000 rupees ($5,880). Rape cases rarely make the headlines, unless they are egregious in nature. L’Express newspaper reported that on October 30, a 17-year-old girl filed a complaint against an 18-year-old boy for rape. She said that it was the second time in two years that she was raped by the same person. Authorities arrested the boy but released him on bail the next day. The investigation continued at year’s end.
The law criminalizes domestic violence, but it remained a major problem. Amendments to the Protection from Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) came into force in 2016, establishing a list of offenses separate from the criminal code, which was not the case prior to the amendment. The amendments redefine the term “spouse” to include unmarried couples of the opposite sex; redefine “domestic violence” to include verbal, psychological, economic, and sexual abuses; and empower police officers and enforcement officers to act on behalf of the victims instead of waiting for a formal complaint from the victim. Although the amendments do not mention spousal rape, section 2.d. stipulates that a spouse cannot force or threaten the other partner into a sexual act “from which the spouse or the other person has the right to abstain.”
Domestic violence activists stated police did not effectively enforce the law. According to women’s rights NGOs, police were not always effective in protecting domestic violence survivors to whom authorities had granted court protection orders. Authorities prosecuted crimes including assault, aggravated assault, threats, and blows under the criminal code, but law enforcement recordkeeping did not always indicate whether they were linked to domestic violence.
The law provides for protection and housing rights for victims, as well as counseling for the abuser; however, counseling for the abuser is not mandatory, and there were few shelters available to house survivors. Anyone found guilty of violating a protection order under the PDVA may be fined up to 50,000 rupees ($1,470) or first time offenders may be imprisoned for up to one year. Under the newly amended PDVA, the penalty is 100,000 rupees ($2,940) and imprisonment not to exceed two years for a second offense and up to five years’ imprisonment for subsequent offenses. On June 25, the government launched a new application, the Family Welfare app, to facilitate reporting of domestic violence and child abuse. As of December 21, there were two of domestic violence cases reported through the new application.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, which is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment. Sexual harassment was a problem, however, and the government was not effective at enforcing the prohibition against it.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: Men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights under the constitution and law. The courts upheld these rights. Nonetheless, cultural and societal barriers prevented women from fully exercising their legal rights.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country’s territory if one or both parents are citizens of the country. Authorities register births, and the law provides for late registration. Failure to register births resulted in denial of some public services.
Child Abuse: The law criminalizes certain acts compromising the health, security, or morality of a child, although the government was unable to ensure complete compliance, such as in child labor cases. NGOs asserted that child abuse was more widespread than the government acknowledged publicly or than actually reported to authorities.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal marriage age for boys and girls is 16 with parental consent; however, because of an exception in the law for those of the Muslim faith, there were reports girls as young as 13 were married in the Muslim community. Although there were no reports of forced marriages, early marriages in some conservative fringe of the Muslim community went unreported. For example, on June 20, media reported that a pregnant 13-year-old was found dead in her in-laws’ house. The postmortem examination did not find any trace of physical abuse, although her family and some NGOs claimed that she was in an abusive relationship. The investigation revealed that she had been married since January to a 19-year-old man, with her parents’ consent, and that the religious marriage was not registered as the law requires.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child pornography and provides for a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine not exceeding 100,000 rupees ($2,941) for each offense. The law prohibits all forms of child sex trafficking and provides for a maximum penalty of 30 years’ imprisonment. Child sex trafficking was nonetheless a problem. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The penalty for rape is imprisonment for up to 20 years and a fine not exceeding 200,000 rupees ($5,882). In addition, the Judicial Provisions Act of 2008 prescribes punishment for child trafficking offenses of up to 30 years’ imprisonment.
The government assisted victims of child abuse by offering counseling at a drop-in center in Port Louis and referring victims to government-supported NGO shelters. Both medical treatment and psychological support were available at public clinics and NGO centers.
Institutionalized Children: A 1935 law provides that a simple oath before a magistrate allows parents to have their children placed in the care of the Rehabilitation of Youth Center (RYC) on the basis that they are “children beyond control.” Once admitted to the RYC, the children, some as young as eight or nine, remained in detention until they reached the age of 18. There were allegations that children held in the RYC and the Correctional Youth Center did not have access to education during their respective detention and imprisonment.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
Approximately 120 Jews, predominantly expatriates, resided in the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts during the year.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination in employment against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Authorities did not effectively enforce the law with respect to public conveyances. Many buildings also remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities despite a legal requirement for public buildings to be accessible for them. The law stipulates that persons with disabilities must constitute 3 percent of a workforce of 35 or more employees, but authorities did not effectively enforce it.
The government implemented programs to provide that persons with disabilities had access to information and communications, such as captions and sign language interpretation of news broadcasts. The state-run television station broadcasts a weekly sign language news program for persons with hearing disabilities. The government did not restrict the right of persons with disabilities to vote or participate in civic activities, although lack of accessible transportation posed a barrier to some voters with disabilities. The government provided wheelchairs to make polling stations more accessible to persons with disabilities and elderly persons. Children with physical disabilities have the right to attend mainstream schools, but, according to students with disabilities and their parents, schools turned them away because they could not be accommodated. Children with mental disabilities attended specialized schools that received minimal government funding.
Poverty continued to be more common among citizens of African descent (Creoles) than in any other community. In November 2017 L’Express reported that it was in possession of a video wherein former vice prime minister and minister of housing and land Showkutally Soodhun was heard reassuring a group of Hindu residents of Quatre Bornes that 90 percent of a new housing project would go to Hindus, 10 percent to Muslims, and that Creoles would get “zero houses” in order to “prevent prostitution from spreading in the neighborhood.” The minister stepped down in November 2017 but continued as a member of parliament. On August 28, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions referred the case to court for prosecutions, and the case was heard for the first time in court on September 24. At year’s end the court proceedings continued.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law does not specifically criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. It criminalizes sodomy, however, among both same-sex and heterosexual couples. Authorities rarely used the sodomy statute against same-sex couples, unless one of the partners cited sodomy in the context of sexual assault.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) victims of verbal abuse or violence generally did not file complaints with police for fear of ostracism or, in some cases, fear of reprisal from family members. The law allows individuals who have had same-sex sexual activity to donate blood so long as they satisfy blood donation requirements–namely not having had unprotected sex in the 12 months leading up to the donation. There were unsubstantiated claims, however, that health officials still prevented LGBTI persons who engage in sodomy from donating blood. On June 2, the annual Pride march was shortened and the route changed after a group of conservative Muslim protesters staged an illegal counter protest to stop the pride celebrations. A police investigation was pending at year’s end.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The law provides that persons with HIV/AIDS should be free from stigmatization and discrimination; however, there were reports of discrimination against such persons and their relatives.
The local NGO Prevention Information Lutte contre le Sida reported authorities denied HIV/AIDS patients social aid due to the absence of appropriate referral doctors on the medical board of the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, thus forcing them to live with uncertainty.