Supporting understanding and acceptance of the LGBT community in Mauritius

A same sex couple shares laughter during the Collectif Arc En Ciel campaign

Thousands of LGBT individuals worldwide face everyday persecution due to their identity. In Mauritius, the rights of the LGBT community are vulnerable due to prejudice and misunderstanding. Despite the success of pro-LGBT initiatives, such as the 2008 Employment Rights Act including a ban on workplace discrimination related to sexual orientation, LGBT individuals still face the threat of violence and shaming.

The High Commission of Canada to South Africa recently funded Collectif Arc En Ciel (CAEC) to launch a promotional campaign to support understanding and acceptance of the LGBT community in Mauritius.

The funding for CAEC’s campaign was made possible by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), which funds small projects implemented by local organizations. LGBT rights and inclusion was one of the priority areas for CFLI funding in 2015.

Moving beyond expectations

Promotional posters by Collectif Arc En Ciel advocating LGBT rights

Filming for LGBT advocacy campaigns

Targeted billboards, newspaper ads, and roundtable discussions on popular radio stations brought the issues of LGBT rights to the forefront of people’s minds. As the first country-wide LGBT rights campaign in Mauritius, CAEC was successful in its goal of raising unprecedented media attention and discussions around acceptance of the LGBT community.

“For nearly 20 days, we were able to speak freely about the living conditions of people in the LGBT community: discrimination, exclusion, violence, etc,” said CAEC coordinator Pauline Verner.

Exceeding the campaign’s expectations, CAEC received numerous messages conveying support, and professionals from different fields offered to volunteer their services to support the campaign.

The campaign was not met without resistance from some members of the public. Although Verner says the campaign received some adverse reactions, a public platform for discussing LGBT issues is necessary for progress.

Future directions

Near the end of the promotional campaigns, CAEC organized a public conference and debate with the goal of generating inclusive discussions on LGBT issues and moving forward from the campaign. Several speakers reiterated the message that LGBT persons are not asking for special treatment, but simply for equal treatment.

According to Verner, the “greatest joy is that this campaign has allowed some people in need to know the CAEC and contact us for help.”

Canada remains steadfast in its commitment to be a global leader in human rights. Every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, deserves the opportunity to live freely.