Country visit by the Independent Expert on the human rights of older persons

Based on her visit to Mauritius from 28 April to 8 May 2015 the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, submitted her report A/HRC/30/43/add.3 for the 30th session of the Human Rights Council.

In her report, Ms. Kornfeld-Matte expressed her concern over persistent hierarchical structures in the Mauritanian society relating to caste. The Expert described the caste system as a source of exclusion in spite of the existing legal framework put in place to prohibit it.

The Independent Expert’s main findings:

Article 16 of the Constitution of Mauritius provides that no law shall make any provision that is discriminatory either of itself or in its effects. While it does not refer to discrimination on the ground of age or older age, specific enactments, such as the Equal Opportunities Act of 2012, explicitly prohibit discrimination based on age in various spheres of activity, namely employment, education, the provision of goods, services or facilities, accommodation, access to premises and sports, disposal of immovable property, and societies, registered associations and clubs. Among other protected grounds of discrimination under the law include…caste, ethnic origin and impairment, including physical and mental disabilities”.

Other concerns that were also raised by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2013 are the persistence of hierarchical structures in society, particularly relating to the caste system, which are a source of exclusion. Although law does not recognize the caste system, it is deeply rooted in Mauritian tradition”.

The rapporteur also emphasized caste in her recommendations to the Mauritanian government:

While the caste system is not recognized by law, hierarchical structures along caste and racial lines still persist. The Independent Expert stresses the importance of raising awareness of equality and changing people’s attitudes and beliefs to eliminate negative prejudices regarding certain groups. The Independent Expert encourages the Government to take affirmative action in favour of all marginalized groups including on the basis of age to redress the existing imbalances”.