LOVANIA PERTAB
POUBA ESSOO
Consultant
CSR, Gender & Poverty

The concept and definition of Domestic Violence has become so vast and far reaching that researchers have now termed violence between spouses or partners as “Intimate Partner Violence”.

Indeed, a look at our Protection from Domestic Violence Act shows that Domestic Violence in Mauritius basically covers all persons living under the same roof.
Intimate Partner Violence refers to any behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to those in that relationship.
It is indeed unfortunate that the UN Classification of offences as used by Statistics Mauritius does not have a separate segment for Domestic Violence cases generally and Intimate Partner Violence in particular.

In Mauritius, we have been introduced to the concept of Intimate Partner Violence in the study undertaken by Dr R Sultan of the University of Mauritius, entitled “A quantitative Assessment of Intimate Partner Violence & Associated costs in Mauritius” – May 2017.
In November 2017, in reply to a PNQ on Domestic Violence, the then Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development & Family Welfare announced that her Ministry was finalising an “Action Plan on Intimate Partner Violence”.

We were then informed through a communiqué from the Prime Minister’s Office on 18 May 2018, that Cabinet had taken note of the report and that the Ministry would disseminate the report to all stakeholders concerned including policy makers. Indeed, the report was mentioned in the media on the following week.

Prior to this, in April 2018, another report on the “Sociological Profiling of Perpetrators of Domestic Violence in Mauritius” commissioned by the Parliamentary Gender Caucus was published.

Both reports reveal that ALCOHOL abuse is one main factor that leads to Intimate Partner Violence. The quantitative assessment of Intimate Partner Violence ranks alcohol as the second cause of Intimate Partner Violence in Mauritius. 65% of the 53,000 battered spouses or partners suffered from violence because their partner was under the influence of alcohol.

No figures are available in the key findings and recommendations of the report commissioned by the Parliamentary Gender Caucus. However, one of its findings mentions that “substance and alcohol misuse are also factors that lead to the escalation of situational couple violence”.

Let us be clear about something: Consuming alcohol per se does not cause Intimate Partner Violence. Intimate Partner Violence is a learned behaviour which is dictated by culture, religious practices and lack of skills how to manage anger and resolve conflicts. In fact, Intimate Partner Violence is a means to exercise control or power over the other partner. It is certainly not a loss of control…

In our country, the consumption of alcohol is a social state of affairs: alcohol is consumed at most events, be it at weddings, birthdays and social gatherings. It is also consumed at official events: banquets, cocktails, launches… In addition, alcohol is regularly consumed on an individual basis. You just have to roam around our towns, villages and beaches during weekends to realise how much alcohol we consume.

Now that it is established that there exists a strong link between alcohol abuse and the occurrence of Intimate Partner Violence in Mauritius, what do we do?
The two reports mentioned above do not make any recommendation to address this problem. In our opinion, if the root causes are not addressed thoroughly and properly, studies and their cosmetic recommendations, official speeches, workshops and missions are useless.
There are certainly some fundamental aspects of the problem which have to be looked into:
– Should the law be amended so as to distinguish between Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence in order to give special attention to the aggravating factor of alcohol abuse?
– The abuse of Alcohol and Intimate Partner Violence are key public health issues that require urgent attention from the Ministry of Health.
– The statistics on gender violence are not reliable. According to figures published in the 8th issue of the Economic & Social Indicators on Gender Statistics for the year 2016, there were 2,077 reported new cases of domestic violence. In the PNQ on Domestic violence in November 2017, Minister Daureeawoo detailed the number of cases reported to the Police as being 3,250 and 1,616 to the 6 Family Support Bureaux. The latest study comes up with a figure of 63,000 women victims of Intimate Partner Violence.
– It is high time that the subject of Intimate Partner Violence and alcohol prevention be addressed in a holistic manner in our schools and colleges.
– We suggest that a working relationship be established between The Ministry of Gender, the Police Department and the Ministry of Health so as to come up with a five-year action plan to combat Alcohol Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence.
Let us have hope: hope that our outcry reach the ears of relevant authorities so that this Human Rights and Health issue be addressed urgently.