Domestic Violence is a serious social problem, and the victims of domestic violence are amongst the most vulnerable members of our society. Based on the Annual Report of the Judiciary 2016 (Mauritius), the number of cases lodged under the Protection from Domestic Violence Act at the District Courts between 2013-2016 was 7,758.
Definition of Domestic Violence?
"Domestic violence” includes any of the following acts committed by a person against his spouse, a child of his spouse or another person living under the same roof:-
- wilfully causing or attempting to cause physical injury;
- wilfully or knowingly placing or attempting to place the spouse or the other person in fear of physical injury to himself or to one of his children;
- intimidation, harassment, ill-treatment, brutality or cruelty;
- compelling the spouse or the other person by force or threat to engage in any conduct or act, sexual or otherwise, from which the spouse or the other person has the right to abstain;
- confining or detaining the spouse or the other person, against his will;
- harming a child of the spouse; and
- causing or attempting to cause damage to the spouse’s or the other person’s property;
Recourse for victims of Domestic Violence?
- The Protection from Domestic Violence Act provides that any person who has been the victim of an act of domestic violence and who reasonably believes that there is likely to commit any further act of domestic violence against him/her, may apply to the Court for a protection order restraining the respondent from engaging in any conduct which may constitute an act of domestic violence and ordering him to be of good behaviour towards the applicant;
- In line with one of the UN recommendations that States should set up appropriate mechanisms to implement policies and programmes, the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare has set up the Family Welfare Protection Unit. Victims of Domestic Violence can initiate the procedures for a protection order through the Family Welfare Protection Unit where there will be officers from the Ministry that will assist the victims from taking a statement, swearing in an affidavit and assistance in court;
- Victims of Domestic Violence also should go to the nearest Police Station so that he/she can give a statement; and
- It has to be pointed out that a protection order application can also be initiated by retaining the services of an attorney-at-law and a barrister-at-law.
What happens in Court when there is an application for a protection order?
When an application for protection order is made in the District Court, the Magistrate will have the opportunity to assess the evidence in front of him/her and then if he/she is satisfied, an interim protection order will be issued. On the next court sitting the person against whom (The Respondent) the interim protection order has been issued will have the opportunity to be present in court. If the interim protection order is resisted, the Respondent will then be in a position to either defend himself/herself or retain the services of legal representatives.
Finally the Court will fix this application of protection order for Hearing and when the Magistrate has assessed the evidence adduced in front of him/her, the protection order will either be granted for a determinate duration or the order will not be granted.
Domestic Violence Hotline
The Domestic Violence Hotline is 139 and it is a free service which can be accessible from any number in Mauritius 24/24. The Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare has also made accessible an application to report domestic violence as illustrated by the video published by L'Express Maurice on its Youtube channel:-