What’s going on in Mauritius? The society is plagued with an upsurge of violence in various forms. A robbery gone wrong in a hotel ends up in a murder of a tourist. Violent armed robberies in holiday rental villas. Domestic violence on the increase. Battered women and worse of all abuse of children. The relatively peaceful paradise is being taken over by evil doers.
In a special report (no longer available) NewsNow stated that the mental trauma, physical pain and emotional suffering caused by domestic violence is perhaps impossible to assess. However, an estimation by a study showed that a figure of RS.1 billion (USD 36,000,000 approx.) is undervalued.
The scourge of domestic violence is growing. Hundreds, if not thousands of women are suffering, mostly in silence, in a crime that is most often committed behind closed doors. Domestic violence is not confined to a particular social class or specific community. As for domestic violence against spouses it would seem that official Protection Orders are not enough as a deterrent. Figures below for domestic violence involving spouses who were actually under a Protection Order.
2008: 350 out of 1,933
2009: 426 out of 2,967
2010: 458 out of 3,514
2011 to March 31: 121 out of 603
A call has been made to the government for harsher penalties for those that resort to domestic violence. The Prime Minister has recently announced that a draft proposal is ready. Also, a British expert has been invited to come to Mauritius to offer training on help to victims.
Some of the official statistics and reports make horrendous reading. Not forgetting that this is a small island nation with 1,283,415 people, the reported numbers of crimes is quite alarming.
The U.S. Department of State, 2010 Human Rights Report on Mauritius highlights some of the problems and cases about violence against women and children. Extracts below.
The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and police and the judicial system enforced the law; however, rape was widespread. The penalty for rape is 20 years’ imprisonment with a fine not to exceed 200,000 rupees ($6,557). As of November 1, the police Family Support Bureau had received six reports of rape cases; no statistics on prosecutions were available at year’s end. Many victims chose not to report or file charges against their attackers due to cultural pressures and fear of retaliation.
The law criminalised domestic violence; however, it remained a major problem. Domestic violence activists stated that police did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties for domestic violence ranged from 10 years’ imprisonment to 20 years’ imprisonment with a fine not to exceed 200,000 rupees ($6,557) if aggravating circumstances were involved. Anyone found guilty of violating a protection order may be fined up to 25,000 rupees ($819) or imprisoned for up to two years. The local NGO SOS Femmes reported that women remained in abusive situations for fear of losing financial support and that few filed complaints against their abusers. The Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development, and Family Welfare maintained an abuse hotline and a Web site on legal protections for victims.
Child abuse was more widespread than was acknowledged publicly, according to NGOs. The law criminalized certain acts compromising the health, security, or morality of a child. The state-funded National Children’s Council, the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development, and Family Welfare, and the Office of the Ombudsperson for Children provided counselling, investigated reports of child abuse, and took remedial action to protect affected children. The Police Unit for the Protection of Minors conducted public education programs on the sexual abuse of minors.
On September 13, in Richelieu, the body of seven-year-old Patricia Martin was found. The postmortem examination revealed that she was raped and burned alive. Police arrested her uncle, Marie Jose Tristan Casimir, on the same day. He remained in police detention at year’s end.
The police completed their investigation into the January 2009 case of a 15-year-old boy from Rodrigues Island who filed a complaint of an indecent act against a foreign citizen with permanent resident status. The case was referred to the DPP.
There were no updates available in the following 2008 cases of child abuse: the January arrest of a foreign resident for sexually exploiting a 12-year-old girl with consent of her aunt and uncle; the June arrest of a woman for sexually exploiting a 13-year-old girl; and the July arrest of three men for sexually exploiting a 12-year-old girl.
Child prostitution was a problem, and the government targeted the practice as a law enforcement and prevention priority. The law prohibits child prostitution and child pornography and provides for a maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment for child trafficking. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years. Any person found guilty of statutory rape may face a sentence of up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine not exceeding 100,000 rupees ($3,278).
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. For example, the national Children’s Council operated a daycare center in Baie du Tombeau to help single mothers and abused children find employment.
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So what does all this violence mean in a small island nation? Probably that many negative factors are at play in an ever-changing society where some are struggling to keep up with development. However, everything cannot be blamed on poverty alone. There is a general loss of morality and values in this society which is contributing to the degradation of humanity. Some people are now behaving like wild animals and believe that they are above the law. It is time for law-abiding citizens to press their political representatives to take action in the form of better resources and laws to tackle this growing evil.
References, in-depth information: Special Report by NewsNow (no longer available) - The rising toll of battered women U.S. Department of State - 2010 Human Rights Report on Mauritius