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Port Louis, Mauritius. These may not be household names for most, but they are engraved in my memory. They were considered less than animals by their torturers: brutally raped and sodomised, their stomachs slit before they were murdered. Their faces were unrecognisable.
But is there really hope? While Mauritius is cited as a regional model for democracy it is also known for its poor performance in combating gender-based violence GBV. There has never been any substantial research to quantify, measure, or prevent GBV. Politicians and stakeholders want immediate results and therefore do not finance research that might take time. It makes us a nation of fire fighters, always putting out the flames but not trying to find ways to stop them from igniting in the first place.
Although there are measures to accompany and help survivors, legislation prohibiting all forms of GBV is not covered under the Mauritius Protection from Domestic Violence Amendment Act. The Sexual Offences Bill has been shelved. Such bills sit on similar shelves in other SADC countries.
Lack of protection, stigma and fear mean many women and most sex workers do not even report instances of gender-based violence and rape. Of the 3 gender violence cases officially reported to the police between January and September , and the 2 reported to the Ministry of Gender Equality during the same year, it is unlikely that a single case was from a sex worker.
Statistics are blind when it comes to sex workers; there is a general view that rape and violence form part of their work.