The Supreme Court of Mauritius declared on Wednesday that a law criminalizing sodomy is “unconstitutional.” The court found that the provision of the country’s criminal code criminalizing sodomy discriminated against gay men on the basis of sex.The court ruled on claims brought forth by “Collectif-Arc-en-Ciel” (CAEC), on behalf of an individual named Abdool Ridwan Firaas Ah Seek. According to Seek, he realized he was gay when he was 13. Prior to Wednesday’s ruling, section 250 of the Mauritius Criminal Code made it a criminal offense for two men to engage in consensual anal sex, even in the privacy of their own homes. Seek brought forth a claim to the court, arguing that this violated his right to freedom from degrading treatment, as the law empowered law enforcement to enter and search his home on only a mere suspicion of a section 250 offense.In response, the state of Mauritius argued that it has already passed laws to prohibit discrimination against homosexuals. But Seek’s team insisted that while it is not illegal to be homosexual in Mauritius, section 250 made it illegal to express one’s homosexuality. They also said that the criminalization of sodomy caused gay people to be labeled as criminals in society.The court found that section 250 violated provisions of the Mauritius Constitution that protect equal rights and liberty in the country. Specifically, section 16 of the constitution prohibits discrimination based on “sex.” Similar to landmark LGBT rights cases in the US, the court interpreted “sex” to include “sexual orientation.” Though section 250 was “ostensibly neutral” because it only prohibited a certain sexual act—anal sex—its effect was discriminatory against gay men. Therefore, the court declared it unconstitutional.Social media and LGBTQ+ rights groups applauded the decision online on Wednesday. According to Human Dignity Trust, a non-governmental organization that supported Seek’s legal efforts, the decision brings the number of countries that continue to criminalize homosexuality down to 65. Other African countries’ efforts to remove laws that stigmatize the LGBTQ+ community have been met with fierce legislative opposition and public discourse.

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