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Key findings
  • A slim majority (54%) of Mauritians say it is “sometimes justified” or “always justified” for parents to use physical force to discipline their children. o The use of physical discipline receives above-average support from men (58%), the less educated (58%), rural residents (59%), and poor citizens (58%).
  • One-fourth (25%) of Mauritians report that child abuse and neglect are frequent phenomena in their community or neighbourhood, but 72% disagree.
  • Urban and poor citizens are more likely to see child abuse and neglect as widespread problems.
  • A majority of Mauritians say resources are available in their community to help abused and neglected children (80%), children with disabilities (78%), and children and adults with mental or emotional problems (78%). o Poor citizens are less likely than their wealthy counterparts to say that support services for vulnerable children are available in their community.
  • More than half (56%) of Mauritians say the government is doing a good job of protecting and promoting the well-being of vulnerable children, while 36% express their disapproval.
  • Negative assessments of the government’s performance on child welfare are more widespread among the poorest citizens.

Mauritius’ legal machinery to ensure the protection and healthy development of its children  took a leap forward with the Children’s Act 2020, which prohibits child marriage, recognises online platforms as a facilitator of child abuse and exploitation, and bans corporal  punishment (End Violence Against Children, 2022).  

The government’s recent steps include earmarking funding for the construction of residential  care institutions for children in distress, increasing monthly foster-care allowances, and  adding an allowance for children with special needs.  

But despite efforts by the Mauritian government, civil society, and other stakeholders, many  children still face threats such as poverty, discrimination based on ethnicity or disability,  sexual exploitation, and abuse (Humanium, 2021). Last year, the harrowing story of 2-year-old Keyla, who endured unspeakable abuse at the hands of those entrusted with her care  (L’, 2023), sent shockwaves throughout the island, a powerful reminder of the  need to confront deep-rooted issues endangering the welfare of children.  

Root causes often revolve around precarity, dropping out of school, unstable family  backgrounds, negligence, or sexual trauma (Ombudsperson for Children, 2022). According  to Statistics Mauritius (2021), 4,746 cases of child abuse were reported to the Ministry of  Gender Equality and Family Welfare’s Child Development Unit in 2021, down from 5,917 in  2020.  

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9  (2021/2023) questionnaire to explore Africans’ attitudes and perceptions related to child  well-being. 

In Mauritius, survey findings show that in contrast to the legal prohibition against corporal  punishment, a majority of citizens endorse the use of physical force to discipline children,  though most say the practice is not widespread in their community.  

Majorities also describe child abuse and neglect as infrequent, say that resources to help  vulnerable children are available in their community, and approve of the government’s  performance in protecting and promoting the well-being of children. But economically  disadvantaged citizens offer far less rosy assessments of child well-being than their better-off  counterparts. 

Suhaylah Peeraullee

Suhaylah Peeraullee is the Head of Research and Consulting at StraConsult.

Zuhayr Mustun

Zuhayr Mustun is a researcher at StraConsult Ltd.