Mauritius celebrates Pride despite coronavirus and gay sex being illegal

Mauritius celebrates Pride despite coronavirus and gay sex being illegal
Mauritius Pride 2020

The island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean has press ahead with Pride as young LGBT+ people spearhead a new bid to make gay sex legal.

Prides around the world have faced cancellation in 2020 due to COVI-19. However, the island of Mauritius – with a population of 1.2 million – went ahead on Saturday (10 October).

LGBT+ rights group, Collectif Arc-en-Ciel, held the event in the Rose Hill area – close to the capital, Port Louis.

Mauritius Pride 2020
Scrapping the gay sex ban is a central demand. Peter Tatchell Foundation

Collectif Arc-en-Cielf is also at the forefront of efforts to decriminalize gay sex, along with the island’s Young Queer Alliance.

Under Section 250 of the Mauritian Criminal Code Act, which dates from 1898, it is punishable by up to five years jail. The island has retained the colonial era law despite gaining independence from Britain in 1968.

The authorities rarely enforce the law. And many of the 1.4million tourists who visit the island in a usual year don’t even realize it exists. However, campaingers argue the law’s very existence harms the LGBT+ community and all Mauritians.

‘Violence and hate is commonplace’

Anjeelee Kaur Beegun, director of Collectif Arc-en-Ciel (CAEC), said:

‘We have been advocating for equal rights for LGBTs for 15 years! We have had significant victories such the Equal Opportunities Act and the Worker’s Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but true equality is still our goal.

‘A colonial-era law criminalising consensual same-sex activity is still used to stigmatise and threaten LGBT+ people. Transgender persons are not protected against discrimination at all. And violence and hate speech towards LGBTs persons is commonplace in Mauritius.’

Mauritius Pride 2020
Section 250 punishes gay sex with five years jail. Peter Tatchell Foundation

Indeed, in 2018, organizers had to cancel their plans for the island’s 13th Pride at the last minute.

The event’s main organizer received hundreds of death threats. And police warned them that large number of anti-LGBT+ protestors, some carrying weapons, had dispersed along the parade route.

However, the Pride was lucky to go ahead in 2020 despite a new threat – coronavirus.

Mauritius says it is COVID-free after shutting its borders and instigating tough rules at the start of the pandemic. The authorities managed to suppress the virus in just six weeks.

Despite this, organizers still encouraged marchers on Saturday to wear masks.

Mauritius Pride 2020
The march was a colorful and noisy demonstration of LGBT+ life in Mauritius. Peter Tatchell Foundation

Around 500 people took part in the noisy and colorful Pride with the theme ‘Eski to tann mwa?’ which translates as ‘Do you hear me?’

Beegun added: ‘We hope that through this march we are able to sensitise decision makers and the population about the harsh realities of LGBT+ people and compel them to be more empathetic.’

‘Building a real rainbow nation’

Mauritius Pride 2020
The Peter Tatchell Foundation helped the Pride organizers. Peter Tatchell Foundation

The London-based Peter Tatchell Foundation supported this year’s Pride.

Mauritius born LGBT+ campaigner Pliny Soocoormanee is executive officer at the foundation. He said: 

‘We marched because we want to build a more tolerant, more equal and more inclusive society – a real rainbow nation.

‘LGBT+ people are not asking for special rights but simply to be treated equally and with respect. We wish to see the repeal of Section 250. We are part of a wave of change. LGBT+ liberation can be delayed but won’t be denied.’

[Syndicated Content]

Published on GayStarNews Read the original article

Author: Tris Reid-Smith

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