Mauritius: Situation of Hindu single mothers; protection offered to Hindu single mothers who are physically abused by their family members (father, brothers, uncles, etc.) (2000-September 2004)
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||8 September 2004|
|Citation / Document Symbol||MUS42949.FE|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Mauritius: Situation of Hindu single mothers; protection offered to Hindu single mothers who are physically abused by their family members (father, brothers, uncles, etc.) (2000-September 2004), 8 September 2004, MUS42949.FE, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/42df613f29.html [accessed 24 April 2014]|
Situation of Hindu single mothers
The following information was provided in correspondence sent to the Research Directorate on 7 September 2004 by the president and founding member of the non-governmental organization (NGO) SOS Femmes. Although single mothers-especially Hindu or Muslim single mothers-are often not accepted by their family or society, they are rarely turned out of their home. Typically, their family continues to provide them with accommodation-as well as criticism and guilt-but the children are generally spared the abuse that their mothers endure. In general, if the father belongs to a race or caste different from the mother's, she can be rejected, but, according to the president of SOS Femmes, the rejection does not last for long.
The president stated that she had met many Hindu single women. She indicated that cases in which these women are rejected by their family or society are rare, despite the criticism they sometimes endure. She noted that all the single women she had met live with their original family or have been able re-integrate into them.
General situation of battered women
Two of the sources consulted by the Research Directorate indicated that the Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare, lawyers and NGOs had all reported that violence against women, especially domestic violence, was prevalent in Mauritius (United States n.d.; Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 5). Country Reports 2003 indicated that "the NGO SOS Femmes published a study on domestic violence . . . in which 84 percent of the women surveyed reported being victims of physical abuse" (25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 5). Moreover, many women still choose "not to prosecute or report their attacker, primarily due to cultural pressures . . . [and] remained in abusive situations for fear of losing financial spousal support" (Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 5), or for fear of facing violent retaliation or having their children taken away from them (Mauritius News Aug. 2004). The Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare indicated that the number of cases reported to the Domestic Violence Intervention Unit between September 1997 and January 2000 totalled 3,296 (Mauritius n.d.a).
Mauritius is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (United Nations 9 June 2000; MISA 25 Nov. 2003). By passing its Protection from Domestic Violence Act (ibid.; Freedom House 2003; United Nations 9 June 2000), Mauritius became the only country in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) other than South Africa to have enacted a comprehensive legislative program to protect women from violence (IPS 11 Dec. 2000; ibid. 3 May 2001). Under the Protection from Domestic Violence Act, "structures for the provision of 24 hour service, free legal assistance and psychological counselling have been set up" (United Nations 9 June 2000; see also Mauritius News Aug. 2004). Family Support Bureaus (FSBs) have been established in six Mauritian cities (L'Express 10 June 2004).
When adopted by the Mauritian government in 1997, the Protection from Domestic Violence Act defined domestic violence as "any act committed by a person against his [or her] spouse or the child of such spouse" (Mauritius n.d.b). In 2004, the government passed an amendment to redefine domestic violence (Mauritius News Aug. 2004; L'Express 26 May 2004). As a result, the new Domestic Violence Act now protects mothers battered by their sons, daughters-in-law abused by their mothers-in-law, and all children abused by their parents (ibid.; SOS Femmes 7 Sept. 2004). The amendment now stipulates the punishment of any act of violence committed under one roof (Mauritius News Aug. 2004). It also increased the penalty applicable to offences under the Act (ibid.). For more information on the Protection from Domestic Violence Act before it was amended, please consult the following site:
However, an article in the magazine Mauritius News indicated that a woman had been killed by her husband only a few weeks after the amendment, despite the fact that she had a protection order that was intended to keep him away (Aug. 2004). The article goes on to say that "much of the measures and structures proposed have failed in practice and has not led to any major shift in attitude of the authorities" (Mauritius News Aug. 2004). However, in June 2004, a judge ordered a man to be removed from his home for beating his wife and rejected the perpetrator's allegation that his expulsion from the home violated his constitutional rights regarding his private property (L'Express 30 June 2004).
The breach of a protection order results in the arrest of the offender (Maurice n.d.c). However, such an order is sometimes not enough, as in the case of Sandhya Bappoo, who was beaten to death by her husband despite the fact that she had a protection order against him (L'Express 15 June 2004).
Since September 1994, the Mauritius Police Force includes a Children and Women Protection Unit (CWPU), specializing in assisting "children, women and men [who are victims] of abuse and violence" (MPF n.d.a). Programs offered by this unit include counselling for victims, interviewing victims of abuse by specially trained officers, liaising with national and international agencies (government ministries, United Nations, NGOs, etc.), organizing training programs on domestic violence, and providing the Protective Behaviour Programme in primary and secondary schools, as well as other programs involving punitive and preventive measures (MPF n.d.b).
According to an article in Mauritius News, police are often criticized for their failure "to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and . . . their lack of speedy response when breaches of [a] [p]rotection [o]rder are reported to them" (Aug. 2004).
Protection offered by the government
In a 3 August 2004 article, L'Express reported that "many communities now have shelters where victims and their children can go to escape the violence, vocational programs to provide victims with the skills to make it on their own, and concerned persons ready to help with emotional support and understanding."
The Domestic Violence Intervention Unit was set up soon after the Protection from Domestic Violence Act was introduced in 1997 (Mauritius n.d.d). Victims in six towns have access to 24-hour help hotline numbers (ibid.). The unit works in cooperation with the police, the courts, social workers and several other agencies (ibid.). The unit's employees consist of female police officers, social workers, psychologists, legal advisors and counsellors (ibid. n.d.e). The Shelter for Women in Distress, a parastatal body under the National Women's Council, helps battered women find temporary safe accommodation (ibid. n.d.f). Family Protection Officers assist victims by advising them of their legal rights and options, and by notifying alleged abusers that their conduct is against the law and that further violence will be prosecuted (ibid. n.d.g).
Protection offered by NGOs
According to the president and founding member of SOS Femmes, her organization offers free counselling and legal assistance to female victims of violence, especially with regard to obtaining protection orders, which can force an abusive spouse to vacate his home for a determinate period of time of no more than 24 months (7 Sept. 2004).
In a March 2003 article, the president of the Mauritian NGO SOS Femmes describes various strategies to fight violence against women (WGNRR). For example, in 2002, the organization sent 33,000 letters to Mauritian men, whose names were chosen at random, throughout the country and launched a public poster campaign with the same message as the letters: to encourage men to join the fight against domestic violence (WGNRR Mar. 2003). According to the SOS Femmes president, many problems are still unresolved (ibid.). Verbal and economic violence are scarcely recognized by the courts (ibid.). Moreover, women are too often blamed for their situation and obtain little support from their families (ibid.). SOS Femmes says it is one of the few organizations that can help victims of domestic violence (ibid.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003. 25 February 2004. "Mauritius." United States Department of State. Washington, DC.
L'Express [Baie-du-Tombeau, Mauritius]. 3 August 2004. No. 15139. Veena Dabydoyal. "The Curse of Domestic Violence."
_____. 30 June 2004. No. 15105. Deepa Bhookhun. "Un mari violent refuse d'être expulsé de chez lui."
_____. 15 June 2004. No. 15090. Pauline Étienne. "Freedom to Choose: Still a Long Way to Go."
_____. 10 June 2004. No. 15085. Nicholas Rainer. "Une épidémie silencieuse."
_____. 26 May 2004. No. 15070. Jane Lutchmaya. "La loi sur la violence domestique renforcée."
Freedom House. 2003. "Mauritius." Freedom of the World 2003.
Inter Press Service (IPS). 3 May 2001. Hazwell Kanjaye. "Beijing Promises for Advancing Women Unfulfilled." (NEXIS)
_____. 11 December 2000. Lewis Machipisa. "Enough Talking, Time for Action." (NEXIS)
Mauritius. n.d.a. Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare. "Findings of the Survey on Domestic Violence Carried Out by the Planning & Research Unit."
_____. n.d.b. Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare. "Provisions of the Protection from Domestic Violence Act."
_____. n.d.c. Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare. "Consequences of Domestic Violence."
_____. n.d.d. Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare. "Background."
_____. n.d.e. Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare. "Administration."
_____. n.d.f. Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare. "Shelter for Victims."
_____. n.d.g. Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare. "Duties of the Family Protection Officers."
Mauritius News [London]. August 2004. "Domestic Violence – Fatal Results."
Mauritius Police Force (MPF). n.d.a "Children and Women Protection Unit (CWPU): History."
_____. n.d.b. "Children and Women Protection Unit (CWPU): Campaign."
Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA). 25 November 2003. Loga Virahsawmy. "Mauritius: Strangled By Our Own Silence."
SOS Femmes. 7 September 2004. Correspondence sent by the president and founding member.
United Nations. 9 June 2000. Indira Thacoor Sidaya. "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development, and Peace for the 21st Century."
United States. n.d. Library of Congress. Mauritius Country Study. "Role of Women."
Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR). March 2003. No. 78. Rada Gungaloo. "Mauritius: 33,000 Letters ... Asking Men to Act Responsibly."
Additional Sources Consulted
Attempts made to reach Amnesty International-Mauritius, Muvman Liberasyon Fam, Safeland, Flice en Flac, SOS Femmes, UNDP-Mauritius, UNIFEM-regional office for Southern Africa, and Women's Legal Action Watch were unsuccessful.
Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Le Mauricien, UNIFEM, WomenWatch, World News Connection (WNC).