Mauritius: A nine-member delegation of the Parliamentary Committee (PC) on Youth, Sports, and Child Matters of the National Assembly of the Republic of Zambia and Senior Officers of the Zambian Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, led by the Member of Parliament and Chairperson of the PC, Sydney Mushanga, met with the Minister of Gender Equality and Family Welfare, Kalpana Devi Koonjoo-Shah, and other Senior Officers of the Ministry, on Wednesday 23 August 2023, in Port Louis.
The delegation is presently on a study visit to the Mauritius National Assembly with the objective of learning and sharing the best practices on the protection and rights of children.
During their visit, the delegation had working sessions regarding Child Protection and Development and the Child Development Unit (CDU), which is the primary body ensuring that Mauritian child rights are in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Discussions during the meeting with the Minister and her Officials pertained to how the Republic of Mauritius has achieved international recognition by the United Nations Committee in Geneva in January 2023 as regards its efforts towards children’s rights.
They also dwelt on the services offered by the CDU, including: around-the-clock protection through the Hotline 113, varied alternative care options for distressed children such as Foster Care, and dedicated assistance for commercial sexual exploitation victims.
Legislative advances, notably, three groundbreaking Acts as the Children’s Act 2020, which promotes comprehensive child rights, prohibition of child marriage, and sets the criminal responsibility age at 14; the Child Sex Offender (CSO) Register Act 2020, which institutes a CSO Register to supervise sexual offenders against children and; the Children’s Court which is active since January 2022 and emphasises on a child-centric environment for legal proceedings, were also evoked.
Furthermore, other services and measures which reflect the commitment of the Government towards the promotion of Family Welfare and address Gender-Based Violence (GBV) were outlined during the meeting.
These comprise: the Family Welfare and Protection Unit, which provides family support and tackles GBV through a spectrum of services varying from counselling to legal guidance, rapid assistance via the hotline 139, and the ‘lespwar’ Mobile App; the National Strategy and Action Plan initiated in November 2020 which outlines our approach to combating GBV and focuses on societal change and perpetrator accountability; and Community Programmes aiming to fortify family ties and promote core values through initiatives like the Inter-Generation Relationship Programme.
The meeting also focused on upcoming legislations in the pipeline, such as a Comprehensive Bill to address domestic violence and to encompass prevention, survivor support, and holding perpetrators responsible and; the Adoption Bill aiming to align Mauritian Adoption Legislation with the provisions of the Hague Convention so as to ensure that international best practices are adhered to.
Finally, the Minister and present Officers reiterated the commitment to further strengthen gender equality, child rights, and family welfare and thanked the delegation for this fruitful meeting which catered to mutual learning and promoted further collaborations.