OPEN LETTER TO HONOURABLE AURORE PERRAUD—MINISTRY OF GENDER EQUALITY, CHILD DEVELOPMENT & FAMILY WELFARE: Plea for our children’s safety

Honourable Minister Perraud,
I am a daughter. I am a mother, a sister, a friend. For you I will just be one of the many anonymous SHE that strolls down the streets of our beloved country.
On December 10th 2014, I went to the polls to elect my country’s representatives, those persons who would stand for us at the general assembly. Those who will be our voices.
Amongst those representatives, we Mauritian elected you. Little did I know at that time that I would be writing to you today. But drastic times call for drastic measures.
Fast forward to the 15th April 2015. On that day we discovered the body of Helena Gentil.
Like you, I have been stirred by her story. As a woman I was deeply moved by what she had gone through. Like us on this day, thousands of women were mourning too. Unfortunately, for many, her story has opened scars that would have been better left untouched. I witnessed your reaction. When you said protection of our children is the responsibility of society at large, I said YES it is. When you said that the murderer of Helena should have the maximum prison sentence, I said YES too. Because, reading the headlines of our papers, and the names that come up day after day, I clearly get the impression that I live in a society where being a “SHE” is more of a bane than a boon.
From what I understand, your mandate is not an easy one. You probably have countless dossiers to handle. But if I were you Honourable Minister, protection of lives would be my number one priority. I have my pen, you have your voice, but what about those girls, those women, who have neither of those two weapons?
Some time back I came across a quote from Kurt Cobain. For me his words has shed a new light on sexual assaults and enabled me to see things under new perspectives. Now l consent we are tackling the issue in the wrong way. Twenty years ago, Cobain stated: “Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on earth and it happens every few minutes. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there.”
Considering the discouragingly large number of HYPERLINK "http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/06/28/teach-men-not-rape-turn-off-outrage-machine/xnKG1WH7rcwd5kgmMERPYO/story.html"  headlines covering rape today, the insight Cobain offered 23 years ago could not be more relevant or necessary today. Until we admit they exist those things won’t stop. Until we take the task at hand and twist the Mauritian way of handling sexual assaults those things won’t stop.
Still today sexual assaults are shrouded in shame and in guilt. You will concede none of these feelings are positive and unsurprisingly none of them are yielding positive results.
While writing this letter I came across the Mauritius Human Right report for 2013. The document stated that in Mauritius, “Rape was widespread, but most victims chose not to report or file charges against their attackers due to cultural pressures and fear of retaliation. As of September 1, the police Family Support Bureau had received 39 reports of rape. Six persons were found guilty of rape during the year.”
We are now in 2015, have things changed? No.
On this same line of thought, unless my memory is failing me, most rapists who have been convicted have had 2 years imprisonment. This is, according to me, a sentence worth repeating - 2 years imprisonment! Here we see that in Mauritius rape is a crime which is treated like a petty crime.  Reverting to the Mauritius Human Right report:  The law prohibits rape,(...) Police and the judicial system did not effectively enforce the law. The penalty for rape is 20 years’ imprisonment, with a fine not exceeding 200,000 rupees ($6,667).
Yet in most cases, unless you can prove me wrong, imprisonment rarely exceed 5 years.
The convicts serve their sentence and after those 2 years, walk out of our prison gates. Completely free. And what happened after those 2 years? I wish I did not have the answer to that question. But I have it. Years after that, they are out leading a normal life and partying again in the midst of hundred potential victims.
This is how we protect our children. This is how our system perpetuates the vicious circle, and keeps predators in our midst. Knowing this isn’t it not time we change a system that is giving undue protection to criminals?
Isn’t it time to debunk the myth of shame surrounding sexual assaults? Time to tell the victims that they are victims and that shame should surround not them but their assailant? Time for an entire culture change that shifts the responsibility for rape to where it belongs: the perpetrator.
Changes will come when we will give those cases their due attention by enforcing the police force,offering fast track judgments for rape cases, investing  more in the protection and education of children. Increase the financing of NGOs and accompany field workers in their tasks.
I am eagerly waiting for the bill your minister is due to present shortly. I plead to you Honourable Minister; work to change the laws that keep monsters in our midst.
Time is ripe to lay the foundation stone and take measures that will change our society and protect our children. For all the Nadine, the Anita Jolita, the Helena and all those who still today remain silent. For all those who are suffering a silent death while carrying the burden of shame for fear of being judged or because they feel nobody will listen, or will be courageous enough to stand by them.
You have most probably came across this quote from Warren Buffet; “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." - Let us be the generation that would plant the tree, so that ten years down the line, Mauritius will not have to mourn another Helena.
Hope will come from the small gestures. Changes will come from empathy and from realizing that, silence, is not the best tool to fight the worst of crimes.
Respectfully.


Commentaires

Very sensible and very true.THE law enforcement you pledge is a real cunnumdrum in our society.Rape & Drugs should be given high priority of concern throughout the whole mauritian society.This type of thing can happen to anyone at anytime, but unfortunately and sadly it looks to be considered as minor cases.The other sad part as you pointed rightly there are many victims who prefer to remain in the dark and suffer in silence because facing a tribunal will be like being raped a second time.The rapist will have a lawyer who will try to prove to the court that his client is innocent and the victim is the culprit.The humiliation the victim will have to face in an open court is quite understandable that they prefer keep silent.But it's good you ring the bell about the fact that a rapist should at least get the maximum sentence if not life imprisonement instead of those meager sentences and sometime they are freed before for good conduct which is a SHAME.Unfortunately our Justice in Mauritius still has a long way to go before we can call it JUSTICE.In the same stride i recall the case of Nadine Dentier, similar to the little Helena, raped and murdered.Up to now our Justice still turning round the pot.

Thanks for your comment "Afar" you are right this is only the tip of the iceberg! Hope we live to see those changes we are suggesting.

Thanks for your comment "Afar" you are right this is only the tip of the iceberg! Hope we live to see those changes we are suggesting.

Mrs. Narain,you are spot on. I would add that rape is only the tip of an iceberg called CHILDREN abuse. I would leave this as wide as it is. Anyone who abuses sexually or any other abuses against children, women or the weaks should be named, shamed, placed on a register (ad vitam eternam) and given an appropriate sentence. As abuse and rape are worse than murder as they might not kill the person but kill the soul. The abused is face with a slow death. Everyday becomes a battle just to live until one can sleep again. PLEASE protect the children and the weaks from all abuses. When are we going to have A Minister for Children?