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MLF Writes to new Minister Perraud on Priorities for Women

06.02.2015

MLF Writes to new Minister Perraud on Priorities for Women

LALIT has pleasure in publishing the letter sent by Muvman Liberasyon Fam to the new Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development & Family Welfare, Ms. Aurore Perraud. In the letter the Association puts emphasis on priorities for women. LALIT is also publishing one of the attachments to the letter i.e. the Government’s “Protocol” which allows women and girls who have suffered sexual assault, or anyone who has suffered sexual assault, the possibility of going to the HOSPITAL first, and then having the police, if called in by the victim, in the caring atmosphere of the hospital. It is not necessary to go to the Police, first, as people keep repeating.


Hon. A. Perraud,
Minister for Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare,

Dear Madam,

The long-standing women’s association, Muvman Liberasyon Fam, would like to put on record, for your information as new Minister, some of the changes that we would like to see for all women.

1. Cabinet needs to be informed on Women’s Problems being in large part the result of not enough Jobs and not enough Housing
The MLF knows from experience in the women’s movement over nearly 40 years, and having learnt from the generation of women before us, too, that women’s emancipation and liberation, and even our protection from physical violence in a male-dominated, very hierarchical society, depend largely on plentiful, good jobs for women, reasonable wages and conditions for women, and on the freedom and capacity for women to lodge themselves and their children independently. Work and housing are not the responsibility of your Ministry, we realize, but what we request is that these women’s issues be thrashed out at political level, and at Cabinet level. We call on you to raise the issues.

2. Name of your Ministry
We request that the Ministry revert to its previous name: “Ministry of Women’s Rights”. We believe that the concept of “gender equality”, which has replaced the more profound concepts of women’s emancipation and women’s liberation, was introduced, not as a result of women’s struggles, but in order, rightly in a way, to begin to put women’s rights on the agenda in societies where women are so oppressed that they are not able to use terms like “emancipation” and “liberation”. But in Mauritius terms like these had already been household words for 25 - 50 years, respectively, before the name-change. So, the name-change to “Gender Equality” for the Ministry was thus a step backwards in the case of our own country. We realize that this demand, too, is not in the realm of what is directly your prerogative, but debate on the issue would, in itself be important.

3. Violence Against Women
We suggest two immediate actions on the issue of violence against women, which has rightly been in the news a great deal over the past few years. As background, for your perusal, we enclose the Charter Against Violence Against Women, endorsed by the women’s movement.

a) That your Ministry publish the Thea Mendelssohn Report on domestic violence. This could then be the point of departure for a national debate. The Report, which dates from the 1990’s, was the document used by your predecessors while preparing the 1997 Domestic Violence Act. It was our Association that called on the Ministry to get an expert in from Australia in order to advise on best practices from the State, on laws against domestic violence and on other measures against domestic violence. Her Report has never, however, been published, let alone debated. It is perhaps the “other measures” that have been left hidden “dan tirwar”. But whatever it is that has remained secret, we have no idea “why”.

b) That your Ministry set aside resources in order, jointly with the Five Main Hospitals in Mauritius and one in Rodrigues, to campaign so that all women in the country know that, in cases of sexual assault, the first stop can be the Hospital, where there have been Sexual Assault Units for years. MLF in fact lobbied and mobilized for this, and we won it as a gain for women. Victims are thus cared for first – physically, psychologically, against STDs, pregnancy prevention, etc. Women and children who suffer sexual assault do not have to go to the Police first. And yet, the Hospital Sexual Assault Units keep falling into disuse for lack of the massive sensitization campaign about their existence that is such a crying necessity. (We attach the Protocol concerned that was developed in the past with the Police, but never popularized, except by MLF with our limited resources, and seen on your Ministry’s site, see attachment on that.) We still hear everyone on Radio, including the Police and other officers of the State, advising victims with all the conviction in the world to “go to the Police”. In fact, once a victim is in one of the Sexual Assault Units, then, should she wish to give a statement to the Police, a woman officer is invited into the caring atmosphere of the hospital in order to take the statement there.

4. National Women’s Council
We call for a national consultation on the role of the NWC. In particular, we call for the following changes in the conceptualization of the Council:
a) That the aim of the NWC be clearly stipulated as for the emancipation and liberation of women.
b) That only non-religious, non-communal women’s associations be registered with the NWC. This is not just because these organizations are divisive, but also because all the religious hierarchies are notoriously conservative on women’s issues. At the end of the year gathering in the NWC (Floreal Regional), we even had the embarrassing spectacle of one women’s organization present praying. This immediately and predictably provoked a kind of “surenchere” reaction by some women of other beliefs. The best thing would be, we believe, to limit registration by your Ministry to only those organizations which are secular and open to women of any(or no)religious practice or faith, and whose aimsare the advancement, emancipation and/or liberation of women.
c) That no profit-making organizations, or small enterprises, be registered with the NWC either. Profit-making enterprizes aim at profit, not at women’s emancipation. They tend to divide women into employers and employees, instead of uniting us as women. And there are other places for such organizations to federate.
d) That the NWC be independent of the State.
e) That all the bureaucratic measures against democracy in women’s organizations be removed from the NWC regulations and also from the Registrar of Association’s regulations. Women’s organizations must have full control over all their funds. It must be made easier to register changes in office bearers. There should be no tax or other bureaucratic impediment on democracy, as there is at present. In addition, we call on you to take a stand in favour of the Registrar of Associations using his discretion so as to allow minutes (a women’s association’s “collective memory”) in the mother tongue, mainly Mauritian Kreol, pending a change in the law allowing Mauritian Kreol if it is the vernacular of the meeting, as it inevitably is.

We take this opportunity of wishing that your Ministry, after a change in Government and at this New Year, takes new initiatives to further women’s emancipation.

Yours sincerely,


Rajni Lallah, Ragini Kistnasamy,
for the Muvman Liberasyon Fam.

Protocol of Assistance to Victims of Sexual Assault [Between Ministries and Police]
Main Provisions
With the application of the Protocol (since March 2006), adult victims of sexual assault may call:

(Scenario 1) At the Police station found in the area where the offence has been committed; or
(Scenario 2) Directly at any of the Sexual Assault Units of the 5 regional hospitals (Dr. Jeetoo, SSRN, Flacq, J,Nehru & Victoria).

Scenario 1: When a victim of sexual assault reports the case to the Police Station in the locality where the offence has been committed:

* Victim gives a regular declaration regarding only the gist of the offence. The full statement may be taken, at a later stage, at the hospital. Thereafter, the victim proceeds to the nearest regional hospital;
* The Police Station contacts the Police Medical Officer and makes arrangements for the early examination of the victim;
* The Medical Records Officer (Casualty) will immediately inform the Ward Manager or the Charge Nurse of the Casualty about the case so that arrangement will be made forthwith to receive the victim who is then seen, on a fast track, by the doctor for emergency treatment, if required;
* The Ward Manager/Charge Nurse will inform other medical officers, Ward Manager, Charge Nurse of designated Wards for admission of victims (Gynecologist, Psychologist, medical Social Worker) about the case so that they arrange to see the victim at the hospital;
* A specific place has been earmarked by the Ministry of health and Quality of Life in one Ward for female adults where the team mentioned above will see the victim as and when required. Arrangements will be made at the level of the hospital for victims to be treated in the presence of a close female relative;
* The medical examination is undertaken and swabs are taken by the Police Medical Officer at the hospital;
* Appropriate treatment for HIV/AIDS should be given to the victim.
* The Police Station informs the Ministry of Women’s Rights, Child Development, Family Welfare and Consumer Protection of the case of sexual assault. Subject to their consent, adult victims will be provided with psychological assistance by the Psychologists of the ministry of Women’s Rights, Child Development, family Welfare and Consumer Protection.

Scenario 2: When a victim of sexual assault goes directly to any of the 5 regional hospitals:
* The victims goes directly to the Casualty Department.
* The Medical Records Officer (Casualty) will immediately inform the Ward Manager or the Charge Nurse of the Casualty about the case so that arrangement will be made forthwith to receive the victim who is then seen, on a fast track, by the doctor for emergency treatment, if required;
* The Ward Manager/Charge Nurse will inform other medical officers, Ward Manager, Charge Nurse of designated Wards for admission of victims (Gynecologist, Psychologist, Medical Social Worker) about the case so that they arrange to see the victim at the hospital;
* A specific place is being earmarked by the Ministry of health and Quality of Life in one Ward for female adults where the team mentioned above will see the victim as and when required. Arrangements will be made at the level of the hospital for victims to be treated in the presence of a close female relative;
* The Ward Manager/Charge Nurse will inform the Police Post which in turn contacts the Police Station in the locality of the hospital and makes arrangements for a statement of the victim to be taken;
* A Woman Police Officer from the Police Station of the locality of the hospital will take the preliminary statement of the victim. Further statements would need to be taken, at a later stage, by officers of the Police Station of the region where the offence took place;
* The medical examination is undertaken and swabs are taken by the Police Medical Officer at the hospital;
* Appropriate treatment for HIV/AIDS should be given to the victim.
* The Police Post informs the Ministry of Women’s Rights, Child Development, Family Welfare and Consumer Protection of the case of sexual assault. Subject to their consent, adult victims will be provided with psychological assistance by the Psychologists of the ministry of Women’s Rights, Child Development, family Welfare and Consumer Protection.