Prides all over the world have been cancelled due to the pandemic but thankfully at least one has survived. The tiny island of Mauritius, population 1.2 million, has defied the trend and LGBTs there have made their voice heard in a country where gay sex is still illegal.
Organised by the local LGBT rights group, the Collectif Arc-en-Ciel, Mauritius Pride on Saturday 10 October, held in the Rose Hill area of the island, promoted calls to repeal Section 250 of the penal code that criminalises sex between two men and appealed for a more tolerant society.
The theme of the Pride march was “Eski to tann mwa?” which translates as “Do you hear me?”
Mauritius is considered to be Covid-free after the island shut its borders and instigated tough rules at the start of the pandemic. The virus was suppressed in six weeks. However, marchers were still encouraged to wear masks.
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.”
More than 500 marchers took to the streets on Saturday in a small but noisy and colourful demonstration.
Miss 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.”
The organisers were assisted by the London-based Peter Tatchell Foundation. Mauritius born LGBT+ Campaigner and Executive Officer at the Foundation, Pliny Soocoormanee, 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.”