OBJECTIVES OF FAMILY WELFARE AND PROTECTION UNIT
The Family Welfare and Protection Unit (FWPU) was set up in July 2003 to implement policies and programmes in favour of families and to address the problem of Gender-Based Violence.
PROTECTION FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT (PDVA)
Prior to 1997, violence against women was treated as any other case of assault. There was no specific legislation for protection from domestic violence. The Government of Mauritius passed in 1997, a new law to protect spouses from domestic violence: Protection from Domestic Violence Act 1997 (PDVA).
The Act provides for the issue of:
Protection OrderOccupation OrderTenancy Order
Protection Order: restraining the abuser from further acts of violence and ordering him to be of good conduct; the Order can last for a period not exceeding 2 years.
Occupation Order: granting exclusive rights to the victim to live in the residence which may belong to the victim, the abuser or both.
Tenancy Order: giving the victim exclusive right to occupy a rented house and the spouse who rented the house would continue to pay the rent.
Subsequent amendments were brought to the PDVA in 2004, 2007, 2011 and 2016 so as to provide for protection to all family members living under the same roof, harsher penalties for non-compliance of orders of the Court and for the rehabilitation of perpetrators through counselling amongst others.
GENDER BASED VIOLENCE
Gender-based violence is one of the most notable human rights violations throughout the world. It is violence directed against a person because of their gender.
Violence is related to the unequal power relations that exist between men and women which perpetuate the subordination of women to men.
In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. The Declaration defines violence against women as 'any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life'.
(Source: un.org/women watch/daw/vac/v.overview.htm)
INTERPRETATION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
According to the Protection From Domestic Violence Act, 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:
(a) wilfully causing or attempting to cause physical injury;
(b) 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;
(c) intimidation, harassment, ill-treatment, brutality or cruelty;
(d) 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;
(e) confining or detaining the spouse or the other person, against his will;
(f) harming a child of the spouse;
(g) causing or attempting to cause damage to the spouse's or the other person's
(h) threatening to commit any act mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (g);
Domestic Violence is an umbrella term that encompasses both Intimate Partner Violence and Family Violence.
Intimate Partner Violence is a pattern of abusive behaviours used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner. This includes people with any current or former romantic involvement, for example dating, previously dating, on again/off again, married, divorced, living together or apart. The term “intimate partner violence" describes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse.
Family Violence is any abusive behaviour that occurs between members of a family or household who are not involved in a romantic relationship. This includes chosen family as well as people related by blood, marriage, foster care, adoption or any other familial relationships. Family violence can include threats or the actual use of physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological, or financial abuse.
TYPES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Any act which causes physical harm as a result of unlawful physical force. Physical violence can take the form of, among others, serious and minor assault, deprivation of liberty and manslaughter.
Any sexual act performed on an individual without their consent. Sexual violence can take the form of rape or sexual assault.
Any act which causes psychological harm to an individual. Psychological violence can take the form of, for example, coercion, defamation, verbal insult or harassment.
Any act or behaviour which causes economic harm to an individual. Economic violence can take the form of, for example, property damage, restricting access to financial resources, education or the labour market, or not complying with economic responsibilities, such as alimony.
Emotional violence includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, isolation, intimidation and controlling behaviour.
STRATEGIES TO ADDRESS GENDER BASED VIOLENCE
The FWPU adopts well-defined strategies to address Gender Based Violence and they are:
InterventionPreventionRehabilitation Harmonisation and Data Collection
FAMILY SUPPORT BUREAUX (FSBX)
The Family Welfare and Protection Unit (FWPU) offers its services through six Family Support Bureaux (FSBx) around the island namely at Goodlands, Flacq, Phoenix, Bambous, Souillac and Port Louis.
SERVICES OFFERED TO THE VICTIM BY THE MINISTRY:
a. Legal and psychological advice to support women victims of domestic violence and their children;
b. Assistance to victims of domestic violence with regards to their application for a Protection Order, Occupation Order and Tenancy Order under Protection from Domestic Violence Act (PDVA);
c. Provision of psycho-social support as a follow-up following provision of Court Orders under the PDVA;
d. Counselling services to adult perpetrators; and
e. Referral to other institutions as appropriate, amongst others
LOCATION OF FAMILY SUPPORT BUREAUX (FSBX)
Victims of domestic violence and their children are provided with emergency which offer immediate crisis, round the clock secured housing and psychological support, advice and counselling related to acute situations.
Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaigns are conducted to sensitise the public at large on issues pertaining to gender-based violence and the welfare of families.
Over the years, this Ministry has ramped up its efforts to address the issue of gender-based violence through projects and programmes to promote family welfare.
To address the problem of domestic violence and promote greater involvement of men in family responsibilities, the Ministry is implementing the MACP with a view to:
enhance the understanding and importance of gender equality to men. ensure the effective participation and involvement of men in family wellbeingpromote equal opportunities to men and women in the development process and ensure that men become caring partners through the implementation of Male Responsibility and Family Well-Being.
Pre-Marital Counselling is an opportunity for engaged couples and future married couples to learn about each other and oneself in depth while paving the way for an enduring, harmonious, successful satisfying and happy marriage.
The Marriage Enrichment Programme helps couples to strengthen their relationship and be better prepared to face the challenges of married life and develop the ability to resolve conflicts.
The Inter-Generation Relationship Programme helps the three generations on the importance of inter-generation relationships. It aims at strengthening ties within the family and promote family values among the three generations that is youths/parents and grandparents.
This programme aims at building positive parenting and family bonding through the inculcation of values for family life. It also serves as an essential requisite for married and engaged couples to lead a successful married life.
The Domestic Violence Perpetrators' Rehabilitation Programme was launched in 2018 with a view to:
Bring a change in mind-set that would help perpetrators to abstain from committing acts of violenceEnable them to manage anger which often lead to domestic violenceEmpower them to resolve conflicts in a peaceful mannerEducate them to become responsible partners in their relationship
The FWPU launched the economic empowerment programme in 2016 where victims of gender based violence are empowered so that they can join an institution for gainful employment, greater financial stability and independence. The Empowerment Programme also helps to build the self-esteem and self-confidence of the survivors.
The Victim Empowerment and Abuser Rehabilitation Policy was set up as a workplace initiative in both private and public sectors to address the problem of gender-based violence, particularly domestic violence. The purpose is to enhance the knowledge of both employees and employers on the existing legislations, services and to urge them to be compassionate on the situation of domestic violence so that basic assistance could be provided to victims whenever required.
Domestic Violence Information System (DOVIS), a computerized system for the registration of reported cases of domestic violence is used as a tool to monitor, assess, record and generate specific reports on such cases dealt at the Family Support Bureaux under the aegis of the Ministry.
The Ministry is in the process of setting up of an Observatory on Gender Based Violence which will lead to harmonised data collection for informed policy making and monitoring and evaluation of initiatives on gender based violence.
Special Events Celebrated By The Family Welfare And Protection Unit
Following the proclamation by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution in 1993, the 15th of May is observed as the International Day of Families. This day highlights the importance of families as fundamental units of society. It provides an opportunity for government, organisations and individuals to disseminate knowledge on the strengths and needs of families.
By resolution 54/134 of 17 December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day Against Violence Against Women, and invited governments, international organisations and NGOs to organise activities designed to raise public awareness of the problem on that day.
Inter Faith Forum
Victims and survivors of domestic violence very often turn to religious leaders for spiritual guidance and support. Religious Leaders play an essential role in the response to and elimination of domestic violence, as they carry the responsibility to protect and nurture the spiritual wellbeing of the community as a whole and its individual members.
In this respect, this Ministry is collaborating with Religious Bodies for positive social change through the Interfaith Forum. An information pack on gender based violence was launched by the Honourable Minister on 12 August 2021 as a tool to empower religious leaders.