Mauritius: We all need to fight ageism, sexism and gender violence

Mauritius: We all need to fight ageism, sexism and gender violence

Date: May 13, 2015
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Port Louis, 20 February: Is it because Yolande Beerjoolall was 86-years-old that her rape and murder got little media coverage, while beauty queens and political scandals get front and full page coverage. Where was the outrage? Where were the protests? Where were the voices of authority condemning this heinous crime?

Yolande Beerjoolall lost her life being beaten and raped on 1 February. Her murder was so brutal, even the best medical care could not save her. Despite the brutality, the case has been shrouded in silence. When younger women are raped, they are blamed for it. When older women are raped, we hear nothing of it. It is simply not enough that the drunken perpetrator has been arrested and awaits trial. We need to investigate the sickness behind such a cruel and ruthless act.

Our society has a selective memory- this is not the first time that elderly have been victims of brutal crimes. In 2010, in Floreal, an elderly couple’s house was looted. The three gangsters tied up the powerless and deaf 82-year-old man and raped the 78-year-old. The couple were so traumatized, it took them or nearly four hours before they could move and seek help from their neighbours.

Marie Louise Fidele who looks after her 80-year-old aunt is also traumatised by the recent case. “I had cared for my late mother who died of cancer and now I am looking after my aunt. I really cannot believe this atrocious behaviour. How can anybody in his right mind rape such a fragile body?”

In an interview with Gender Links, Minister of Social Security- Fazila Daureeawoo, expressed utter shock and sadness about the case, also explaining that her government gives psychological support to families who have gone through such trauma. “Over and above the Elderly Protection Act, we are working on how to reinforce the laws so that penalties on violence against the elderly, women, children and the disabled are more severe. We are all concerned and this is why we are giving training to social workers to that they can be close to the people. We are losing basic values in our society, it is therefore urgent to work with the youth. We are what we are today because of our elders. We must thank them and not kill them,” said Daureeawoo.

Gender violence concerns us all. We can only hope that the Committee on Gender Based Violence that, according the Government Programme 2015-2020, will sit in the Prime Minister’s Office will see to it that the media, non-governmental organisations, politicians, religious leaders all play their part in addressing the scourge. For instance, The workshop that Elizabeth Kakukuku of the SADC Gender Unit held, which discussed gender gaps in national laws, should have been attended by officials from all Ministries, not only the Ministry of Gender.

We may not be able to cure a sick society, but we must ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice and that victims are supported- not only by their families but by their communities, the media and the government. Talking about rape and abuse can no longer be taboo, when it is so widespread in our society. Women must know their rights, how to protect themselves and where to seek support. I am urging our private and public media to help fight this scourge by hosting debates and broadcasting programmes dealing specifically with sexism, ageism and gender based violence. The media must take responsibility and be both a part of prevention and the solution. Unless we all take responsibility, we cannot tout ourselves as the role model on gender in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Loga Virahsawmy is the former Gender Links Francophone Director and now sits on the GL Board. This article is part of the Gender Links News Service, offering fresh views on everyday news.



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