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Africa’s Mauritius Supreme Court Decriminalizes Same-Sex Sodomy in Landmark Decision

Africa’s Mauritius Supreme Court Decriminalizes Same-Sex Sodomy in Landmark Decision

Africa’s Mauritius Supreme Court Decriminalizes Same-Sex Sodomy in Landmark Decision

The Supreme Court of the East African nation of Mauritius decriminalized same-sex sexual relations today when it declared the country’s British Colonial Era anti-sodomy laws relations were unconstitutional.

The decision was handed down in a judgment in the case of Ah Seek v. State of Mauritius. In the case, activist Abdool Ridwan Firaas and the advocacy group Collectif-Arc-en-Ciel, sued the stating saying section 250(1) of the Mauritian Criminal Code 1838 which outlaws anal sex between two men violated the constitutional protections based upon a person’s sex. Collectif-Arc-en-Ciel is the largest LGBT human rights advocacy group in Mauritius. The plaintiffs were aided by the advocacy group Human Dignity Trust.

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 Court further specified that “consensual acts of sodomy between consenting male adults in private” should not be considered illegal.

“Receiving this judgment in my favor is an enormous relief. From today, as a citizen and a human being, I am now free to love whoever I want to without fear,” Abdool Ridwan (Ryan) Firaas Ah Seek, plaintiff and president of the Collectif Arc-en-Ciel, said in a statement after the decision was announced. “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,”

In their decision, the judges noted that the law was not an organic local creation but instead was an inherited and enforced relic from past rulers.

“Section 250 was not introduced into Mauritius to reflect any Mauritian values but was inherited as part of our colonial history from Britain,” the judges wrote. “Its enactment was not the expression of domestic democratic will but was a course imposed on Mauritius and other colonies by British rule.”

Advocates at Human Dignity Trust hailed the decision.

“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,” Téa Braun, chief executive of Human Dignity Trust, said in a statement after the decision.

Human Dignity Trust acknowledged that while the law was “largely obsolete” and there was “no evidence of the law being enforced for many years in cases of consensual sexual activity between people of the same sex,” its “mere existence” constituted a “violation of human rights” that encouraged “further acts of discrimination.”

Many countries in Africa remain hostile to the LGBTQ+ community and have laws outlawing same-sex sexual relations. In some cases, the laws call for the death penalty.

In May, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023 was passed by the Uganda Parliament and signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni. The law calls for the death penalty in cases of “aggravated homosexuality,” which refers to repeat offenders and people living with HIV engaging in same-sex sexual relations. People found to be “engaging in acts of homosexuality” can be sentenced to life in prison.

In August, a 20-year-old man was arrested and is facing a potential death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” after he was accused of having “performed unlawful sexual intercourse,” according to Reuters, which viewed a copy of the charging sheet.

Braun centered such incidents while cautioning much work remains to be done.

‘This victory brings the number of jurisdictions that still criminalize LGBT people to 65,” Braun said. “Mauritius now joins other African nations such as South Africa, Botswana, Seychelles, Angola, and Mozambique in eradicating similar colonial-era criminalizing provisions from their lawbooks.”

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Donald Padgett

Managing Editor at OutTraveler. Also write for Out, The Advocate, and Plus magazines.

Managing Editor at OutTraveler. Also write for Out, The Advocate, and Plus magazines.