The Supreme Court of Mauritius has declared the country’s criminalisation and ban of same-sex intimacy ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘discriminatory’ in a landmark ruling.

Abdool Ridwan Firaas Ah Seek, President of the local LGBTQIA+ organisation Collectif Arc-en-Ciel, bolstered by Human Dignity Trust in London, acted as the main plaintiff. He challenged the constitutionality of Section 250 of the Mauritian Criminal Code, that dated back to 1838. The section criminalised consensual same-sex relationships, by up to five years in prison.

The judgement delivered on Wednesday (4 October) emphasised that Mauritius is a democratic secular state, finding no justifiable reason to intrude into the private lives of LGBTQIA+ individuals.

The court ruled that Section 250 of the criminal code is “discriminatory” and “unconstitutional” and stated that: “It criminalises the only natural way for him and other homosexual men to have sexual intercourse, whereas heterosexual men are permitted the right to have sexual intercourse in a way which is natural to them.”

The judge further acknowledged that the plaintiff’s sexual orientation is “natural and innate… cannot be altered and is a natural variant of his sexuality.”

Upon the announcement Human Dignity Trust tweeted: “BREAKING: Momentous victory for human rights in #Mauritius as the Supreme Court strikes down discriminatory law criminalising same-sex intimacy. Mauritius joins a growing list of African nations that have decriminalised same-sex sexual activity.”

Commenting on the ruling they stated: “The Trust applauds this decision, as well as the ongoing work of the government to reform wider sexual offence laws to eliminate discrimination and provide proper protection against sexual violence.

“This victory brings the number of jurisdictions that criminalise LGBTQIA+ people to 65. Mauritius now joins other African nations such as South Africa, Botswana, Seychelles and Mozambique, which have eradicated similar colonial-era criminalising provisions from their lawbooks.”

Pliny Soocoormanee, a gay Mauritian and Executive Officer at human rights organisation The Peter Tatchell Foundation, explained his delight to the ruling: “I am overjoyed that after 185 years of LGBTs being criminalised in Mauritius, this homophobic law has finally come to an end.

“We were never asking for special treatment – just equality and respect. Mauritius may be small but the message this sends to the world is huge. Criminalisation in every country belongs in the past. As a gay Mauritian, this day will live with me forever.”