Touria Prayag's Blog

l’express Weekly June 15 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on June 15, 2012

The nation has spoken

The match is over, the results are out and the referee has gone home. The criminal code amendment bill has gone through with an overwhelming majority. It is an outright victory of human rights, secularism and democracy. But more than the bill itself, which is a tiny step in the struggle for women’s rights and human rights in general, it is the symbolism behind it, the debate it generated and the reactions which ensued that are even more signifi cant.

First, the debate surrounding the bill has brought to the forefront one crucial fact: the realisation – better late than never – that Mauritius is a secular state. Recognising this simple evidence, by the prime minister himself no less, supported by the minister of fi nance and comforted by the majority and the opposition alike, constitutes a leap in the way matters can be conducted in this country. For years, we have been boasting that we are multi- racial and secular and for years we have been allowing religions and religious lobbies to decide everything for us, from the number of children we should have to the kind of music we can legitimately listen to.

Secondly, the debate has allowed us once again to revisit the question of whether an MP is elected to defend the interests of the country or those of his own religion or ethnic group. Thanks to the courage of the likes of Xavier Duval, Shakeel Mohamed and Mireille Martin, we have really been served the quality of debate worthy of this country. These MPs, and many more like them, have managed to convince their constituents as well as the nation at large that Mauritius can no longer be ghettos of religions and ethnic groups.

The greatest achievement of this episode, though, is the grace with which the pro- life have accepted the verdict of this democratic process.

Bishop Piat’s reaction is highly commendable: “ The church respects this outcome. However, our respect for democracy should not overshadow our civic responsibility.” This is exactly what the stand of all religions and religious groups should be: to preach to their members the teachings of their religions and inculcate a culture of responsible behaviour.

This graceful attitude of the church opens an era where the pro- life and pro- choice can work hand in hand to defend the same causes. For, we have more grounds in common than many realise. We do not believe that abortion is a casual event or that it should be anyone’s chosen method of contraception. We just think it is a necessary evil. We do not believe in promiscuity or sexual irresponsibility. We believe there is a lot of work to be done in that area and we will take part in and encourage any efforts to promote responsible sex. We can work together because we have been able to talk to each other. And that is the major outcome of this bill.

In concrete terms, what does the bill represent for the women of this country today? Very little. And women do not see it as the end of their struggle. “ Give me liberty or give me death,” was Patrick Henry’s revered statement. That should remain the call. We are not there yet but presenting the bill, openly debating it and voting for it, were incredibly bold moves.

I hope they set the tone for more.

Write to us: weekly@ lexpress. mu



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