Blog: Addressing violence against women: By all means necessary

By Amanda Serumaga, Resident Representative; Anjalee Dabee, Gender Expert; and Renooka Beejan, Head, Socio Economic Development Unit; UNDP Mauritius

March 5, 2020

Photo UNDP Mauritius / Stephane Bellerose

This year, on a Thursday evening in February, Dorine Phokeerdass was murdered in plain sight in Vacoas, Mauritius. Ms. Phokeerdass had left an abusive and violent relationship; and as she walked down the street with her new partner – her ex-husband killed her. She was a mother of 11. A few months earlier on 7 September 2019, seven women were victims and survivors of domestic violence. They were assaulted, strangled and menaced by intimate partners and in-laws.

Gender-based violence knows no boundaries

Gender-based violence (GBV) knows no boundaries. It cuts across class, religion and ethnicity, affecting an estimated one in three women in the course of her lifetime.  It is a pervasive phenomenon in developing and developed countries alike. Violence against women manifests in multiple behaviours including rape, sexual coercion, incest, honour killings, female genital mutilation, acid burnings, stalking and trafficking. Perpetrators of violence against women can be intimate partners, family members, members of the community or strangers.

In 2018, UNDP in Mauritius partnered with the Parliamentary Gender Caucus Mauritius National Assembly to commission a study entitled on The Sociological Profiling of Perpetrators of Domestic Violence in Mauritius . The study findings include that a root cause of domestic violence is the unequal gendered power dynamics in within communities in Mauritius. The study also noted that violence cuts across all socio-economic levels and ethnic groups and communities in Mauritius, ranging from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse to psychological violence.

Based on the eighth periodic report submitted by Mauritius in the same year, the Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) raised concerns about the gender stereotypes that perpetuate violence against women, and the prevalence of reported cases of gender-based violence, made mostly by women. The Committee called upon the State Party to strengthen the institutional and legal responses to victims and perpetrators.

The Gender Social Norms Index sheds light on why enormous “power gaps” still exist between men and women. Credit: UNDP #CheckYourBias

A 'Whole of Government' response

In January 2020, in response to these national and international concerns, the Honourable Prime Minister established a High-Level Committee (HLC) to eliminate Gender Based Violence. Under the Prime Minister’s leadership, the Ministerial Committee aims to a rollout a 'Whole of Government' strategic plan to address some of the inequality that contributes to domestic violence through an integrated approach.

In line with the UNDP Signature Solution 6, UNDP has been invited to collaborate with various institutions in the national gender machinery to achieve the targets set out in SDG 5 Gender Equality on women’s empowerment and address gender equity. By extending technical support to the Parliamentary Gender Caucus and the Executive including the Office of the Prime Minister’s and Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare, UNDP is supporting the development of a Domestic Violence Perpetrator Rehabilitation Programme; and providing technical assistance on the institutionalization of a Perpetrator Rehabilitation referral pathway through amendment to the Protection from Domestic Violence Act.

Keeping a watch on progress

UNDP is also working with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare to set up a Gender-based Violence Observatory.  With participation of both public and civil society institutions, the aim is to collect and analyse the data on the scope and trends of GBV in Mauritius. With data and analysis from the Domestic Violence Information System, high level policy makers, public service providers, the justice sector and the people's representatives will be better able to decide on priority actions and provide support to survivors of domestic violence through strengthened domestic violence protection laws.

A life uninterrupted

Mauritius is committed to achieving SDG 5 and eliminating domestic violence by targeting its root cause. Rightly so, the gendered norms around power that drive inequality have now gained the clear attention of the whole of government.  In 2020, as we celebrate Beijing plus 25 and CSW64, for the women of Mauritius, the prospects of a life uninterrupted by domestic violence just got better. #GenerationEquality #WithHer