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First training session of magistrates on gender-based violence

Four months after the announcement of a new TAIEX mission, 50 staffs from IJLS and Police Prosecution in Mauritius (including Rodrigues) participated in the first training session on gender-based violence (GBV) organised as part of the European Union TAIEX initiative.

The training organised in Mauritius from 2 to 4 April was facilitated by three experts from Belgium and the Netherlands as well as by several local experts who have shared local challenges and solutions.

The Honourable Ms Kalpana Koonjoo-Shah, Minister of Gender Equality and Family Welfare stated :

“Mauritius has ratified different international treaties to show our commitment to end violence against women and to provide equal rights to everyone. Our country became a signatory to the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2008. Adopted by the United Nations in 1979, CEDAW has become the most important human rights treaty for women. Having signed this convention, Mauritius is legally obliged, to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women in all areas of life and to ensure women’s full development and progress so they can exercise and enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms as men.

While working towards the achievement of Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Government hopes to achieve sustainable as well as substantive gender equality for a better world for the next generation.

Every state has the responsibility and obligation to address violence against women. In January 2020, the High Level Committee on the Elimination of Gender Based Violence, under the chairpersonship of the Honourable Prime Minister was established with a view to address existing gaps at the legislative, institutional and operational levels. Subsequently, the National Strategy and Action Plan of the High Level Committee on the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence in the Republic of Mauritius was also launched in November 2020. The key elements of the National Strategy revolve around having a shared understanding of the nature and extent of GBV in Mauritius, the commitment of multiple stakeholders, strengthening of the existing legislative and policy framework, capacity building of stakeholders; and a strong monitoring and evaluation mechanism.

Since 2021, my Ministry has benefitted from the assistance of the European Union, through the TAIEX, in addressing gender-based violence. In 2022, we successfully conducted a colloquium on gender-based violence, where experts from Belgium, Netherlands and France shared their experience and best practices in addressing gender-based violence.

In line with the Sub-strategy 2 and 3 of the National Strategy and Action Plan, there is a need to engage the support of key stakeholders in all spheres to address this social scourge. Magistrates and Prosecutors are considered a crucial part in this machinery to address GBV.

In this respect, my Ministry requested the Technical assistance of EU through TAIEX for 3 days capacity building programmes for Prosecutors, Police Officers, Officers from the Brigade pour la Protection de la Famille, Barristers from the Mauritius Bar Association and Institute for Judicial and Legal Services in order to more effectively implement the established standards for protection and institutional practices for prevention of and counteraction to domestic violence cases. The State Law Officers from the Attorney General’s Office also participated in the workshop with a special focus on Specialised Courts for GBV; dealing with digital evidence in GBV cases and identifying barriers in the legal system.

While focusing on a victim-centred approach and to improve the institutional cooperation in preventing and combating the said forms of violence, my Ministry is envisaging to work in close collaboration with the European Family Justice Center Alliance (EFJCA) which is a legal entity and the officially recognised network of the Family Justice Centers and affiliated multi-agency models in Europe.”

According to H.E. Mr Oskar Benedikt, Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Mauritius:

“The EU is committed to support Mauritian efforts to combat all forms of gender based violence. Our goal is very clear: to end all forms of violence against women and girls. We owe it to all the victims. We reaffirm once more today – by mobilising eminent gender experts from our Member States in a Team Europe approach – our joint commitment with the Government of Mauritius to fight violence against women and girls.”

50 participants, including members of the Institute for Judicial and Legal Studies (IJLS), Attorney General’s Office, Police Prosecution, Police Force (Mauritius and Rodrigues) and representatives from the Family Welfare and Protection Unit (Mauritius and Rodrigues) and Brigade Pour la Protection De la Famille participated actively in the 3-day workshop.

The objectives of the workshop are to :
– improve judicial response from Magistrates’ and actors of the Justice System
– deepen legal understanding
– prioritise survivor-centric approaches
– foster collaborative synergy
– reinforce public confidence.

The workshop included a specific working session with barristers at the seat of the Institute for Judicial and Legal Studies of Mauritius (IJLS) on i) developing Strategies for Improving the Judicial Response to Domestic Violence and ii) trauma-Informed Judicial Approaches.
Several sessions were facilitated by local experts who shared the local challenges and solutions.

International experts facilitated several sessions including on ‘Dealing with Digital Evidence in GBV Cases’ and ‘Prosecutorial Strategies in GBV Cases’.

The workshop also provided several opportunities for local experts and international experts to interact, notably on strategies for effective coordination between police, prosecutors and support services.

The new technical assistance mission of experts from selected EU Member States (as part of the TAIEX – Technical Assistance and Information Exchange – instrument, an EU instrument for mobilisation of expertise) was jointly announced in November 2023 by the Minister and the Ambassador.
The experts were in Mauritius in November 2022 for a 3-day colloquium on Gender-Based Violence to contribute to the revision of the Protection from Domestic Violence Act. At the request of the AGO Office, these Public officials from Belgium and Netherlands are being mobilised once again to provide this dedicated training to magistrates on GBV cases.

Other training sessions will follow during the year with the arrival of a long-term gender expert as from May 2024.

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