Mauritania: Mauritians Rank Gender-Based Violence As Top Women's-Rights Issue for Government to Address

Most citizens say domestic violence should be treated as a criminal rather than a private matter.

Key findings

  • Mauritians see gender-based violence (GBV) as the most important women's-rights issue that the government and society must address. o Men are just as likely as women to cite GBV as the country's top women's-right issue.
  • Nearly three in 10 citizens (28%) say violence against women is a "somewhat common" (24%) or "very common" (4%) occurrence in Mauritius, while 67% disagree.
  • An overwhelming majority (83%) of Mauritians say it is "never" justified for a man to physically discipline his wife. About one in six think it is "sometimes" (16%) or "always" (1%) justified.
  • Nearly four in 10 respondents (37%) consider it "somewhat likely" (27%) or "very likely" (10%) that a woman will be criticised, harassed, or shamed by others in the community if she reports GBV to the authorities. Only one-fifth (20%) say this is "very unlikely." o But most (88%) believe that the police are likely to take cases of GBV seriously.
  • Nearly seven in 10 citizens (69%) say domestic violence should be treated as a criminal matter rather than as a private matter to be resolved within the family.

In Mauritius, one in four women have experienced some form of gender-based violence (GBV) (Government of Mauritius, 2021; United Nations Mauritius, 2021). According to Statistics Mauritius (2020), reported cases of GBV spiked at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown in March-May 2020, jumping five-fold compared to the same period in 2018 and 2019. In addition to violating the basic human rights of countless women, GBV is estimated to cost the state 2 billion rupees per year, 0.6% of gross domestic product, in health care, social services, and lost productivity (UNDP Mauritius & Seychelles, 2020).

The country's weapons to fight GBV range from the Constitution, the National Gender Policy, and the Domestic Violence Act to support structures such as the Police Family Protection Unit, the Parliamentary Gender Caucus, the 139 hotline (available 24/7), the mobile app Lespwar fitted with an emergency button to alert the authorities, and the Gender-Based Violence Observatory, which provides data and evidence to inform policy processes (Republic of Mauritius, 1968; Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare, 2022; Mauritius National Assembly, 2016; Mauritius Police Force, 2024; No Peace Without Justice, 2017; Government of Mauritius, 2022; Australian High Commission Mauritius, 2020).

In 2020, the government launched the National Strategy and Action Plan on the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence (2020-2024), which aims to change societal norms and beliefs that do not align with the principles of gender equality and equity, to prioritise support services for survivors and hold perpetrators accountable, and to identify and address discriminatory practices that perpetuate GBV (Government of Mauritius, 2020).

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare also works with civil society and development partners to increase the availability of GBV services and to reduce public tolerance for violence against women and girls (UNDP Mauritius & Seychelles, 2023).

In the final year of implementation of the national strategy, this dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 (2021/2023) questionnaire to explore Africans' experiences and perceptions of gender-based violence. (For findings on gender equality, see Darga & Hurroo, 2023).

In Mauritius, GBV ranks at the top of women's-rights issues that citizens say their government and society must address. Most respondents say physical force is never justified to discipline women, and they consider domestic violence a criminal rather than private matter. But while most believe that the police take GBV cases seriously, many also consider it likely that women reporting GBV cases to the authorities will suffer community backlash.

Asafika Mpako Asafika is the communications coordinator for Southern Africa

Stephen Ndoma Stephen is the assistant project manager for Southern Africa

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