Report: Family Protection including Gender-based Violence in Mauritius

Report by Nnenna Ihua, Researcher at YUVA

Family protection is an important aspect in any society because the family is a small unit and families make up the society. Happiness and peace including safety are determinants of a healthy society. In Mauritius, Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare is responsible for family protection including gender-based violence, domestic violence, child abuse, elderly abuse, family conflict and conflict among neighbours. Police Family Protection Unit (PFPU) was set up in 1994 with the aim of providing specific services to vulnerable in Mauritius. PFPU is decentralized on a regional basis with a special policing approach for its operation with some underlying principles such as welcoming phase, active listening, individualism, non-judgmental attitude, freedom of decision and confidentiality.

Continue reading “Report: Family Protection including Gender-based Violence in Mauritius”

YUVA at US Embassy’s talk on Gender Inequality in Entrepreneurship

YUVA was invited to attend a talk on “Gender Inequality in Entrepreneurship” at the US Embassy, Port Louis. The panel of speakers addressing the issue included Sadhna Sokhal, Managing Director of Legem Ltd and African Women Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) alumna, Karen Yvon, Director of Keda and Nazeem Junggee, Mandela Washington Fellow and Director of 1950 Studios.

Gender Inequality is one of the often-raised issues that have existed since the beginning of interaction between men and women. No doubt, gender plays a major part in the division of labour in today’s society. Gender inequality in Entrepreneurship has given rise to numerous policies, aiming at wiping off gender discrimination on recruitment, salary and promotion processes. Continue reading “YUVA at US Embassy’s talk on Gender Inequality in Entrepreneurship”

2018-2019 Main Budgetary Measures for Socio-economic Development

This Brief gives an overview of the main measures announced in the Budget 2018-2019 with a special focus on social aspects of the Budget relating to the 4 priority areas of YUVA.

Employability

  • Rs 1 billion to target some 14,000 unemployed and to tackle youth unemployment
  • 3,000 youths to join the National Skills Development Programme (NSDP) for technical training
  • Youth Service Programme introduced under the aegis of the Ministry of Youth and Sports to develop soft skills such as team building, discipline, communication and work ethics
  • 3,000 unemployed to be enrolled in the National Apprenticeship Programme run by MITD
  • Youth Employment Programme (YEP) to cater for post-HSC unemployed

Continue reading “2018-2019 Main Budgetary Measures for Socio-economic Development”

The Situation of HIV/AIDS in Mauritius

According to estimates, a total number of 329 cases of HIV/AIDS cases were detected in the year 2016 in which 319 cases were Mauritians and 10 cases were foreigners. The yearly positivity rates of HIV recorded seem to be 0.36% for the year 2016, which concludes that the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Mauritius is 6671. Statistics clearly indicate that men have the highest prevalence of HIV as out of the 6671 cases 5061 are men and 1610 are women. Since 1987 Mauritius has reported approximately 953 deaths due to HIV. Continue reading “The Situation of HIV/AIDS in Mauritius”

Help Us Eradicate Child Prostitution in Mauritius: YUVA

Mauritius is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Secondary school-age girls and, in fewer numbers, younger girls from all areas of the country, including from Rodrigues Island, are induced into prostitution, often by their peers, family members, or by businessmen offering other forms of employment.

NGOs report girls also are sold into prostitution by family members or forced into the sex trade in exchange for food and shelter. Taxi drivers provide transportation and allegedly introduce girls and clients. Girls and boys whose mothers engage in prostitution reportedly are vulnerable to being forced into prostitution at a young age. Some women addicted to drugs are forced into prostitution. In recent years, small numbers of Mauritian adults have been identified as labor trafficking victims in the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Canada. Malagasy women transit Mauritius en route to employment as domestic workers in the Middle East, where they often are subsequently subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Women from Rodrigues Island are subjected to forced labor in domestic service in Mauritius.

In previous reporting periods, Cambodian fishermen were subjected to forced labor on fishing boats in Mauritius’s territorial waters. Mauritius’ manufacturing and construction sectors employ approximately 30,000 foreign migrant workers from India, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar, some of whom are subjected to forced labor.

The Government of Mauritius does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.

During the reporting period, the government maintained strong efforts to identify and provide protective services to child victims of sex trafficking and continued to conduct extensive public awareness campaigns to prevent child sex trafficking and reduce the demand for commercial sex acts involving children. However, there remained a general lack of understanding among law enforcement of trafficking crimes outside the realm of child sex trafficking, despite increasing evidence that other forms of trafficking exist in Mauritius, including the forced labor of adults. The government failed to identify or provide any protective services to adult victims and did not make any tangible efforts to prevent the trafficking of adults during the reporting period.

Recommendations for Mauritius

Use anti-trafficking legislation to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders, including in cases involving forced labor or adult women exploited in forced prostitution; provide law enforcement officials, magistrates, prosecutors, social workers, and labor inspectors with specific anti-trafficking training so officials can effectively identify victims, investigate cases, and refer victims to appropriate care; increase coordination between law enforcement entities, NGOs, and international organizations on cases involving foreign trafficking victims; establish procedures to guide officials in the proactive identification of victims of trafficking among at-risk populations, including women in prostitution and migrant workers; create an inter-ministerial committee to increase coordination among relevant government entities and facilitate the government’s overall trafficking efforts; develop a national action plan to combat trafficking and allocate sufficient funding to implement the plan; increase the number of labor inspectors responsible for monitoring the employment of migrant workers; and conduct a national awareness campaign on all forms of trafficking.

Prosecution

The Mauritian government decreased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. The Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2009 prohibits all forms of trafficking of adults and children and prescribes penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment for convicted offenders. In addition, the Child Protection Act of 2005 prohibits all forms of child trafficking and prescribes punishment of up to 15 years’ imprisonment; the Judicial Provisions Act of 2008 increased the maximum prescribed punishment for child trafficking offenses to 30 years’ imprisonment. All of the aforementioned penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, the government reported six investigations related to child sex trafficking, which resulted in the prosecution of five alleged traffickers; all five prosecutions remained pending at the close of the reporting period. This is a decrease from the previous reporting period, when the government initiated seven prosecutions and obtained seven convictions in child sex trafficking cases.

The government has never reported any prosecutions of cases involving adult victims of sex trafficking. It has never taken any law enforcement action against labor trafficking offenses, including forced labor on fishing boats in Mauritius’ territorial waters and forced labor of migrant workers in the construction and manufacturing industries. Although the Mauritian Police Force included training on trafficking to approximately 200 new police recruits as part of their basic training requirements, with the exception of cases involving child sexual exploitation, there remained a general lack of understanding of trafficking among law enforcement. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking during the reporting period.

Protection

The government sustained strong efforts to protect child sex trafficking victims, but failed to identify or provide adequate protective services to victims of other forms of trafficking. The government identified seven child sex trafficking victims during the reporting period, a slight decrease from the 12 victims identified in 2012. The Minors Brigade systematically referred all cases of identified children in prostitution to the Child Development Unit (CDU) of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development, and Family Welfare for assistance. CDU officials referred an unknown number of abused and exploited children to two NGOs running multipurpose shelters for care. It also encouraged the placement of trafficking victims in foster homes for long-term shelter. The government provided victims with medical and psychological assistance in public clinics regardless of whether they resided in a shelter, in foster care, or with relatives. Children victimized in prostitution were accompanied to the hospital by a child welfare officer, and police worked in conjunction with these officers to obtain statements from the children. The government encouraged child victims’ assistance in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes.

Identified victims were not reported to have been incarcerated inappropriately, fined, or otherwise penalized solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The government failed to identify or provide any services to adult victims of sex trafficking or labor trafficking. Due to the lack of understanding of human trafficking among law enforcement, some adult victims of forced prostitution and forced labor may have been penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficking. For example, law enforcement officers and prosecutors generally did not investigate whether adult women were involuntarily engaging in prostitution. Additionally, under Mauritian law, migrant workers who strike are considered to be in breach of their employment contracts and can be deported at the will of their employers. Some migrant workers who gathered to protest abuses relating to their employment were deported during the reporting period; these deportations took place without conducting comprehensive investigations or screenings to identify if the individuals were victims of forced labor. The 2009 anti-trafficking law specifically provides legal alternatives, such as temporary residency, to removal to countries in which the trafficking victims would face retribution or hardship.

Prevention

The government sustained strong efforts to prevent the sex trafficking of children and reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, but demonstrated weak efforts to prevent other forms of trafficking. The Police Family Protection Unit and the Minors Brigade continued extensive public awareness campaigns on child abuse and child rights at schools and community centers that included information on the dangers and consequences of engaging in or facilitating child prostitution. The Ministry of Tourism and Leisure also distributed pamphlets warning tourism industry operators of the consequences of engaging in or facilitating child prostitution. However, the government does not have an inter-ministerial coordinating body or a national action plan dedicated to combating all forms of trafficking. The government did not conduct any awareness campaigns relating to other forms of trafficking and did not make any discernible efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor during the reporting period. The Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations and Employment (MOL) is required to approve all employment contracts before migrant laborers can enter the country. However, reports indicate many migrant laborers enter the country with incomplete contracts or contracts that have not been translated into languages that the workers understand. Additionally, the MOL’s Special Migrant Workers Unit, which is responsible for directly monitoring and protecting all migrants workers and conducting routine inspections of all migrant workers’ employment sites, was staffed by only four inspectors; this number of inspectors is severely inadequate, as there are approximately 37,000 migrant workers currently employed in Mauritius.

YUVA begins a journey in working towards the eradication of human trafficking in Mauritius.

Source information retrieved from Trafficking in Persons Report 2014

cover2

Untitled-1

Enhancing Youth-Elder Alliance in Governance in Mauritius

YUVA Dialogue 2015 is being held tomorrow at Port Louis. This is inline with the commemoration of the International Youth Day 2015 in Mauritius. YUVA has invited YUVANs, school and university students, members of local NGOs and the press to debate on the topic, “Enhancing Youth-Elder Alliance in Governance in Mauritius”.

Youth constitute the majority of the population on the African continent. This forum explores the convergence of traditional (Mauritian Tradition) and modern ways of social engagement in political governance interactions. It discusses the imperative for youth participation in governance, as well as the challenges and opportunities for dialogue between youth and elders in governance systems. It will also discuss cultural norms that have prevented the development of collaboration between youth and elders, as well as the consequences of constricted relationships, for example the entrenchment of elders as leaders.

1) The imperative for youth-elder collaboration in governance

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets, inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?” — Plato, 4th Century BC (Guardian, 2009)

A 2012 study of youth across Africa published by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and cross-checked by the Africa Governance Institute (Africa Governance Institute) captures a range of African youth perspectives on governance;

  • 56% of African youth are interested in current affairs. Urban youth have a higher level of interest than rural youth.
  • Less than 1⁄4 of African youth surveyed think their country is a full democracy, and less than 1⁄2 are satisfied with their democracy.
  • While a majority of youth believes that violence is not justified in politics, 75% of those surveyed do not exclude the adoption of non-conventional forms of political action (including violence) if their socioeconomic situation is not improving and their political voice is not heard.
  • 80% of young people do not consider emigrating abroad as a relevant solution, and all insist on the fact that the conditions of their social, political and economic integration need to be established in their respective countries and in Africa.

2) Eldership as leadership

The following proverbs show that leadership is generally considered the responsibility of elders who have accumulated years of life experience. These experiences, ostensibly, are the requisite competencies required for public office. The cultural notion of leadership as the responsibility of older individuals is reflected in the structure of several contemporary governance systems:

“A young man standing cannot see what an old man will see sitting down.” — Igbo, Nigeria

Meaning: Elders are guided by the wisdom of experience and, therefore, will always have advantage over the young.

“An Okro plant cannot grow taller than its farmer.” — Creole, Sierra Leone

Meaning: The youth (Okro plant) is planted by the farmer (elder) to whom it owes its existence and sustenance. Thus, the youth cannot be greater than the elder.

“When a kid goat bends down, it sucks from its mother’s breast.” — Swahili

Meaning: Youth are admonished to defer to elders, and reap the reward of nurturing.

3) Inhibited communication

“When the elderly person is doing things wrongly, things that are destroying or capable of destroying both the old and the young, both the present and future generations, the young is expected not to question that action even though he or she would be affected in the consequences of the wrong actions of the elder/leaders.” — Rajesh B. (Mauritius, 2015)

“We live in a country infested by young people, we live in a country where our leaders do not want to be challenged, questioned and called to order by the younger population. We live in a country where the culture and respect card gets used every time young boys and girls call their leaders to order, we live in a country where our leaders use ‘culture’ and ‘respect’ to keep the youth silent and limited.” – Aneesha Bibi Z. (Mauritius 2015)

As a result of inhibited youth expression, youth voices are faint in the structures of governance, and can be ignored by elders. Also, young individuals who attempt to criticise governance systems, failures or actions can be discredited and disgraced. Youth who dare to confront elder leaders may find themselves cast as cultural offenders, and violators of the hallowed tradition of respect.

4) Social Media and Political Expression

Social media has allowed youth to voice opinions and, to some extent, engage with elders in governance. It has been reported that there are 100 million active Facebook users in Africa (TechCrunch, 2014).

How far do you agree that young people of Mauritius are utilizing social media to improve the accountability of political leaders?

The current generation does not want to be treated as the ‘other’. They want to be engaged, they want to talk, they want to contribute. Is the Government of Mauritius doing enough to endorse Internet access and the usage of smart phones?

5) Setback and frustration in governance

“If the world has one picture of African statesmen, it is one of rank corruption on a stupendous scale. There hardly seem any leaders who haven’t crowned themselves in gold, seized land, hand over state businesses to relatives and friends, diverted billions to foreign bank accounts and generally treated their countries as giant personalized cash dispensers”. – Moyo, 2009, p.49

Note: This discussion topic has been adapted from Ms. Ify Ogo’s (PhD Candidate, Maastricht University) presentation at the MINDS Annual African Youth Dialogue 2015.