1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: Mauritius has a good track record of protection and respect of human rights and remains the top ranking country in overall governance in Africa according to Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance. However, some challenges remain in terms of gender-based violence, domestic violence, protection of children and discrimination against LGBTI persons (the 2019 Equal March took place peacefully and under safe conditions granted by the authorities).
Following the increasing number of reported acts of violence against women in 2019, the government announced the establishment of a High Level Committee on Domestic Violence under the aegis of the Prime Minister's office. The Prime Minister also announced a Gender Equality Bill for the country soon.
An electoral reform recommended by the UN Human Rights Committee (under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) and aimed at putting an end to the declaration of the candidates’ ethnicity in the Best Loser System, failed to obtain the required majority in Parliament. In November 2019, Mauritius held parliamentary elections. International observers from SADC, AU and OIF considered that the elections were peaceful and organised in a professional manner. They also listed some areas for improvement and issued recommendations that will require close attention from all political actors, possibly leading to an inclusive reform process.
A number of pieces of legislation were still under preparation in 2019: the Financing of Political Parties Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Gender Equality Bill and the Adoption Bill. The Children’s bill was finalised in September but it was not discussed in Parliament.
2. EU action - key focus areas: (i) Women's rights: In 2019, the EU stepped up significantly its engagement on women rights and fight against violence on women through a number of events and awareness raising campaign for gender equality in 2019.
(ii) Children's rights and combatting child abuse: The EU continued to work with the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare towards the finalisation of the Children's Bill and advocated its discussion and approval in Parliament. The EU also initiated work with the Ombudsperson for Children.
(iii) Rights of LGBTI persons: The EU engaged with local actors on this issue through dialogue with the authorities and civil society.
(iv) Rule of law and institutional strengthening: An EU funded project contributed to the capacity building of the National Human Rights Commission. The EU also supported Transparency Mauritius’ activities on good governance and transparent public procurement.
3. EU bilateral political engagement: The annual Article 8 Political Dialogue held in June 2019 was an important opportunity to continue engaging with policy makers and civil society on human rights and democracy. The EU worked with all partners including the National Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsperson for Children, Transparency Mauritius as well as with civil society, to further promote human rights and especially the rights of women and children.
The EU stepped up significantly its engagement on women's rights for the year 2019. The 'Rise and Shine’ Campaign' was launched on International Women's Day with a view to promote women empowerment, gender equity and the elimination of Gender-Based Violence and Human Rights. The campaign included a silent march on 23 November to raise awareness about femicides and violence against women, followed by a debate on women's rights on 25 November 2019. This gave the opportunity to engage discussion with civil society and media on actions based on international best practices.
On the International Human Rights Day on 10 December, a panel discussion was organised on women and children’s rights, in collaboration with the United Nations. The High Level Policy Dialogue on Gender with the Government of Mauritius saw the adoption of a Joint Monitoring Framework to track progress in the implementation of the EU-Mauritius Gender Action Plan.
The EU continued its advocacy for the Children's Bill to be finalised and adopted as soon as possible. The draft Bill was tabled in Parliament in September 2019, but the Government committed to having it discussed in 2020.