16th January – 3rd February 2023
Consideration of Mauritius
17th-18th January 2023
By Bethany Morley / GICJ
On the 17th and 18th of January 2023, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Working Group of the UN Human Rights Council conducted a combined sixth and seventh periodic report of Mauritius in the 2673rd meeting of the 92nd session of the Committee.
As part of the interactive dialogue, participating states raised several issues, such as: data protection, the corporal punishment law, and legislation to protect children online from child sexual abuse and exploitation. Particular attention was paid to the lack of implementation measures which has manifested in the adoption law taking 8 years to adopt and a general prohibition against corporal punishment.
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) is deeply concerned about reports of Mauritius failing to fully commit itself to the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We urge Mauritius to adopt the recommendations of the experts and fully commit to the fulfilment of children’s rights to ensure better safeguards are in place to protect children from violence and exploitation.
The CRC is a body of 18 independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its States parties. It also monitors the implementation of the Optional Protocols to the Convention, on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. The country in question presents reports following extensive national consultations with all relevant stakeholders, NGOs, and civil society organisations.
Mauritius ratified the CRC on the 26th of July 1990 and will be celebrating 33 years of the Convention on the Rights of a Child in the coming months. Further, the country ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict on 12 February 2009 and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography on 14 June 2011.
Mauritius’ previous meetings with the CRC took place in 2006, with the most recent taking place in January 2015, whereby the Committee considered the consolidated third to fifth report of Mauritius (CRC/C/MUS/3–5). The concerns raised paid particular attention to data collection, birth registration, corporal punishment, and the prevention of sexual exploitation of children.
The progress achieved by the State party
All the subsequent legislation that was passed in the national assembly in December 2020 has now been proclaimed as of the 24th of January 2022:
- The Children’s Act 2020 (Act No. 13 of 2020).
- The Child Sex Offender Register Act 2020 (Act No. 15 of 2020)
- The Children’s Court Act 2020 (Act No. 14 of 2020)
Further, two more regulations have been implemented to provide improved services in residential care for children.
Statement by Mauritius
Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development, and Family Welfare, Ms. Kalpana Devi Koonjoo-Shah, welcomed the Committee and expressed thanks for the constructive engagement that was to take place. Ms. Koonjoo-Shah introduced the report on Mauritius, emphasising that since the previous report in 2015, the bulk of the recommendations have been implemented or are in processing.
It was reported that global conflicts and the Covid-19 pandemic have severely impacted the global economy, reversing development progress, affecting livelihoods, and delaying the development of the 2030 UN Sustainable development goals. However, Ms. Koonjoo-Shah emphasised that despite these constraints the government of Mauritius provided measures to relieve those who have been most severely affected in particular the elderly, women and children.
The main measures put in place were subsidies, wage assistant schemes, increases in pensions, social aids for the vulnerable, virtual schooling, vaccination programmes, etc. Furthermore, three new pieces of legislation have been passed and two more regulations have been implemented to provide improved services in residential care for children.
Following the opening remarks and the presentation of the country’s report, Ms. Koonjoo-Shah gave the floor to the three independent experts namely, Ms. Marshall-Harris, Ms. Sdikou and Ms. Sopio Kiladze where Mauritius faced critical questioning.
Ms. Marshall-Harris, the coordinator of the country task force for the dialogue with the delegation of Mauritius, praised Mauritius for the progress made thus far through the introduction of new legislation, particularly highlighting the recent ban on corporal punishment. However, she noted that there is no direct reference and incorporation of the convention banning corporal punishment by name in the new legislation. Directly referencing the convention would make the application of the legislation by stakeholders easier. As currently the general prohibition against corporal punishment, which was provided under the act to further support efforts to eliminate violence against children, is not directly referenced.
Further, questions were raised as to whether the implementation of the legislation has been carefully planned. Ms. Marshall-Harris asked the Mauritius delegation to share the strategies of implementation they have in mind. The independent experts queried as to whether the stakeholders have been correctly trained, and asked if there are any comprehensive plans to increase public awareness of these issues.
The floor was given to Ms. Sopio Kiladze, who concurred with Ms. Marshall-Harris, and probed Mauritius about the implementation of the corporal punishment law, highlighting that there needs to be measures and plans in place to stop corporal punishment which has historically been prominent in Mauritius.
Additionally, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for Mauritius, Ms. Aissatou Alassane Moulaye Sdikou, noted how the adoption law has not yet been ratified, which has thus far taken 8 years to adopt the bill
The Mauritius delegation responded as the floor was then given to the head of the child development unit of the ministry. She noted that different measures to ensure the rights of a child are a reality in Mauritius. Emphasising that there are past examples of strategic implementation such as a NAP from 2014-2022, which was implemented and most of the recommendations which were made to the legislation were implemented, ensuring that the NAP reflected in the voices of children.
The floor was then given to Ms. Kiladze who questioned Mauritius’ data on child sexual abuse and exploitation, particularly of children online. Further, the country's data protection regarding the availability of and access to up-to-date and disaggregated statistics, particularly on children living with disabilities and those with HIV,
Regarding data collection, Ms. Koonjoo-Shah, agreed that data is being captured haphazardly by different institutions. She emphasised how the government has signed an agreement which means data can be collected in a harmonised manner. Further, they are similarly working closely with other stakeholders to have a common platform for collecting and sharing data to make it as desegregated as possible.
Sexual exploitation and abuse
Ms. Kiladze noted that a large issue in Mauritius is sexual exploitation and abuse, which is innately tied to tourism and travel. She expressed doubts about adequate policies, strategies and legislation to punish offences and activities related to the sexual exploitation of children. Further, she questioned the ability for children to report their experiences of sexual exploitation.
The Mauritian delegation noted that the three acts in question, namely the children’s act, the child sex offenders register act and the children’s court act in addition to other existing legislation, the provisions of the CRC are claimable by all children with the enactment of the legislation. Further, the country pledged to strengthen policies and programmes for the prevention, recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
The committee noted a lack of aid in determining the suitability of prospective adoptive parents to ensure that adoption is in the best interests of the child. Ms. Sdikou expressed concern that the rights of a child are not at the forefront of the country’s priorities, noting how the adoption law has not yet been ratified, which has thus far taken 8 years to adopt the bill.
The Mauritian delegation emphasised the importance of children’s rights. Further, regarding the adoption bill, the Mauritian delegation noted that it is at the level of the attorney general’s office.
Ms. Sopio Kiladze questioned the country’s process of adequately registering every child at birth.
The Mauritian delegation noted that ensuring every child is registered at birth is a priority for the country. It pledged to collect birth statistics to assess if the number of children born matches the number of birth registrations and to organise awareness campaigns.
Regarding budget allocation, the committee noted that there are no adequate measures to ensure that the correct budget is being allocated towards the implementation of the Rights of a Child. Further, it becomes difficult to distinguish where the budget is being applied. It was noted that the budget for children is not adequate and does not reflect the reality of children that constitute 25% of the population.
The Mauritian delegation expressed that the budget and allocation of resources are being enlisted this year (2023) as there need to be measurable goals. Emphasising that it is not difficult to advocate and lobby for the minister of finance to ensure the smooth implementation of the various mechanisms in the children’s act.
Children of migrants
Ms. Sdikou noted that there is a lack of labour in certain segments whereby Mauritian employers subsequently turn to migrant labour. As children of migrants do not have access to the same levels of healthcare or education asMauritian children, Ms. Sdikou questioned what the country was doing to end this discrimination and give free access to the children of migrant parents to these basic necessities.
The Mauritian delegation emphasised that migrant workers normally don’t come with children, but if they do there is no policy of discrimination, and all children can get access to schools, and child protection services.
Position of Geneva International Centre for Justice
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) welcomes the progress made by Mauritius since the previous CRC took place in 2006. Further, we praise the country for the three pieces of legislation which have been passed in the national assembly in December 2020. However, we remain deeply concerned about reports of the country of Mauritius not fully committing itself to the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Furthermore, with the number of children whose fundamental rights are being restricted, we urge Mauritius to adopt the recommendations of the experts and fully commit to all rights of the child to ensure better safeguards are in place to protect children from violence and exploitation. The country should introduce special measures to combat inequality, exploitation, and violence faced by children.