Mauritius has signed and ratified the Convention of All Forms of Discrimination Against women (CEDAW) and has invested a lot of energy in developing and passing a number of gender-sensitive legislations such as the 1997 Domestic Violence Act, the Sex Discrimination Act 2002, Sexual harassment Act 2005, the 1995 amendment to the Mauritian Citizenship Act, Combating and Trafficking in persons Act of 2009 and the Criminal Code (amendment) Bill (No.VIII of 2012).
So many legislations for the protection and advancement of women but patriarchy is so embedded that these legislations do not seem to change much. Indeed it is better to have them than not to have them. But how do we ensure their enforcement? As a young citizen of this country, I am very much concerned about how people, especially large numbers of women continue to live at home by suffering silently. The research produced by Gender Link “war at home” states that a quarter of women (24%) in Mauritius have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. Despite being victims of atrocious violent conducts from their spouse, having broken limbs and severe black eyes, they still restrain them from voicing out their agony as they are embarrassed and afraid of retaliation. It is also shocking to hear male leaders saying that not much can be done for “Les crimes passionels”. True, the latter might be of the private domain but there must be some measures taken byall the ministries and organizations to work in collaboration with civil society groups so that we can eliminate violence. It is not only the duty of one group or person or ministry to solve this dilemma. Violence is a societal problem and therefore the responsibility of each and everyone. Legislations are not enough to eradicate the embeddedness of patriarchy and associated violence.
Can statistics capture hidden torment? We need to know and understand that there are unreported cases. Soldiers who have died at war are rewarded with medals. We have just seen the list of decorated people – we have some 20 women out of 100. Perhaps it is time to start decorating our “women home soldiers”. They are also ‘at war’ in the home and for that matter without any deadly weapons. They struggle to make families grow and thrive but they remain unrecognised.