My experience as a Human Right Defender at the United Nation Human Rights Committee

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” (Article 1 – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights) a magnificent quote that can be understood as a justification for the existence of human rights by the fact that individuals are entitled to freedom and equality in dignity and rights. Yet, this testament of 1948 does not in itself prevent any form of deprivation human rights, violations of which have been lingering often too much for decades now!  

UN GENEVA

Jürgen at the seat of the United Nations in Geneva

My interest for human rights materialised since I was ten years old but I was not conscious about its importance. I still remembered myself reading 5 plus Dimanche with so much eagerness on Sundays to inform myself about what was happening in Mauritius. Despite being a kid, I could understand and feel this pain that was being depicted in some of the press narratives. I was not indifferent; yet, I was powerless. It is only at the age of 16, following my exposure with Amnesty International Mauritius that I learnt about the significance of human rights and why I should be part of the movement. This thirst for activism further grew stronger since my involvement with the Young Queer Alliance back to its creation in 2014.

Lasavanne JS at ILGA

- Jürgen with the ILGA team who provided the YQA with technical support

I think that my sufferings should not be used as an excuse to act as a victim but rather to be used as strength in overcoming my past and militating for a better future for those that are experiencing this pain.

Besides, throughout my life, I have been struggling so hard to get accepted due to my diverse identities and my queerness and I have often been a victim of bullying and violence because of being different. Yes we are all different but my difference was somewhat not considered as a form of normal behaviour. I have been persecuted, isolated and rejected for who I’m. Despite all these harsh moments in my life, I have been resisting and challenging all these societal norms and showing up to my persecutors that I was strong enough to stand up and fight for what I believe in. I think that my sufferings should not be used as an excuse to act as a victim but rather to be used as strength in overcoming my past and militating for a better future for those that are experiencing this pain.

This what I did in Geneva! Fighting for what I believe in. Expressing my inner emotions and hopes in ensuring that no individual shall experience what I have been through.

Before heading to Geneva and advocating for the rights of LGBTI, an alternative report was submitted by the Young Queer Alliance to the UNHRC in line with the 121st Session of UNHRC and the fifth periodic review of Mauritius highlighting the current violations of Covenant rights of LGBTI people in Mauritius. These violations include: Violence and hate speech against persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, blood donation ban on MSM, Marriage equality and civil partnership and decriminalising on consensual same-sex relationship among consenting adults as well coming up with strong recommendations to ensure that the Mauritian state recognises and protects LGBTI people. 

After the submission of the report, I have been delegated to represent the organisation in Geneva to advocate for the rights of LGBTI by delivering an oral statement and lobbying with the human rights committee to formulate strong recommendations for LGBTI in Mauritius. However, my presence in Geneva would not have been possible without the technical support of ILGA World who has been guiding me during the whole process. A Special thank goes to Kseniya who has been my mentor as well as a source of inspiration during this whole journey. Without forgetting Najeeb and Nabeela who have trained me to be able to perform effectively during the 121st session.

UN GENEVA

- Palais de Wilson, Geneva

All the sessions have been conducted at Palais de Wilson which is a mesmerising building with hi-tech security. I have been impressed by its unique architectures and still cherished the days that I have been there making history for the LGBTI Community of Mauritius.

My intervention was crucial for the LGBTI community of Mauritius as I represented their voices, their hopes and their dreams. I gave the best of myself by delivering a convincing and heart-touching message to the Human Rights Committee. I also felt that I could not make a single mistake as the world was watching me and that this might put at stake all the hard work that have been done by the YQA over the past three years and the hopes that the community has placed in me. I felt that my job was accomplished when the committee and friends and organisation members followed my interventions and were supportive at every step of the task being undertaken.

Thinking about this lack of consideration and involvement and some mindless young queer people and allies still vouching for this government still makes me wonder in the type of society we want to live in if we cannot depart from those rejecting us?

Despite the rationality and humanism of our works, I felt dejected by the replies and statements provided by the State Party which were very evasive and lack in substance. For instance, a rhetoric: “We would like to stress the importance of respecting different cultural practices, being a multiracial and multi-religious country. These are sensitive issues.” – The Mauritian delegation incoherent reply to many issues that came up during the review; particularly for the LGBTI community. This kind of response cannot be used as an excuse to ignore and deny basic human rights to LGBTI persons. The absence of adequate legislation to protect LGBTI people against discrimination and violence can result in grave violations of human rights whereby a segment of the Mauritian population is ostracised and marginalised. However, LGBTI rights are not a priority or even part of the agenda of the current Government consisting of the Mouvement Socialiste Militant and the Mouveman Liberateur. Thinking about this lack of consideration and involvement and some mindless young queer people and allies still vouching for this government still makes me wonder in the type of society we want to live in if we cannot depart from those rejecting us?

At times, you have to stop living so comfortably in your bubble as you cannot see the trouble. This clearly resumes the indifference of many people towards LGBT people.

However, despite this lack of humanity from the state party, the Human rights committee has made strong recommendations for LGBTI persons which give me hope for the future as well as a sense of satisfaction as at least my intervention did make a difference in this homophobic world. At times, you have to stop living so comfortably in your bubble as you cannot see the trouble. This clearly resumes the indifference of many people towards LGBT people.

 Extracts of the recommendations made by the UNHRC to the state party:

Discrimination against lesbian, gay. bisexual, transgender (LGBT) persons.

The Committee is concerned about reported cases of hate speech and violence including death threats, brutality and humiliation against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. The Committee is also concerned that LGBT persons are not authorized to officially enter marriage or civil partnerships, and are denied other rights related to personal status. The Committee is further concerned that the provision of article 250 of the Criminal Code of Mauritius criminalizing “sodomy” and “bestiality” has not yet been repealed (arts. 2 and 23).

 The State party should firmly prevent and protect LGBT persons from all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, include this ground of discrimination in all relevant legislation, including in the Criminal Code. The State party should also take all the necessary measures to eradicate discrimination against LGBT persons with regard to marriage or civil partnerships CCPR/C/MUS/CO/5 3 and repeal article 250 of the Criminal Code. Furthermore, the State party should ensure that all complaints of violence including death threats and brutality based on discrimination against LGBT persons, are registered by the police, investigated and those responsible are duly prosecuted and, if convicted, sanctioned with appropriate penalties. Moreover, the State party should train police officers, judges and prosecutors, and conduct awareness-raising campaigns on the rights of LGBT persons.

 Dear Mauritian Nation, I have a dream that one day Mauritius will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice where LGBT persons won’t be judged on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity but rather by the content of their character. This is my dream; this should be our dream.

 Lasavanne J.S

 

Useful links:

http://www.youngqueeralliance.com/modules/docpool/documents/8-ngo-report-hrcteeyqa-mauritius.pdf (YQA Alternative report)

http://webtv.un.org/live-now/watch/121st-session-human-rights-committee-/5020523796001 (Mauritius fifth periodic Review)

http://ccprcentre.org/ccprpages/mauritius-hiding-behind-multiracial-society-and-sensitive-issues (CCPR Centre Article)

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Others about us

  • Eric Whitaker (U.S. Department of State)

    I find the youngsters of Young Queer Alliance very creative and I welcome this shelter project in Mauritius. Congratulations for this beautiful project that I will surely narrate at Washington. 

  • Saarvesh Doorjean (Peer Outreach, YQA)

    I am so proud of us. I have learnt many things and got to know many people working with the Young Queer Alliance. A big thank you and the team at YQA.

  • Aldo Dell'Ariccia (European Union)

    I took the opportunity to comment the initiative of the Young Queer Alliance for launching a national campaign theme "Equality for All", and thank the members of the association for their determination and dynamism.

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