I personally know too many women in Mauritius, and some very close to me, who have been victims of gender-based violence.  UN Women tells us that one in three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence — mostly by an intimate partner.  In 2012, 1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family.  I do not have updated stats for Mauritius, but I would think that we are not very far from this international trend – and this is horrifying.

Our laws and the public policy frameworks we have in place have pitifully failed with regards to violence against women, as the numerous accounts of domestic violence seem to indicate. This brings me to think that, in a way, by failing to protect the rights of survivors and/or penalize the torturers, couldn’t we be reflecting Mauritian social prejudices whereby domestic violence is something that should be dealt with at home… or even tolerated in a certain way.  Is it this same prejudice that changes some educated, strong and independent Mauritian women into victims of domestic violence?

It is high time to have a comprehensive legal framework against gender-based violence – which could be drafted not only by legal or political stakeholders, but with the full participation of the survivors who are the best ones to know what it is all about.  UN Women can assist in training judges, attorneys and police on the implementation of such laws.  They can also assist us, at a national level, in disseminating information about the law to the general public.   It is high time to have female police officers in all police stations, 24/7, specialized in domestic violence.  Women police officers do exist – you see them regularly making people cross the road…  Isn’t there a better use for them?

It is also essential to facilitate the access to information and increase awareness around this dramatic issue.  Our daughters need to learn to stand firm and all the Mauritian children have to understand that we all have equal rights, and that discrimination doesn’t have any kind of place in our society.

-Marina Ythier Jacobsz

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