President Abdulla Yameen has returned the sexual offences bill passed by parliament last month for reconsideration.
According to the President’s Office, in a letter to the speaker of parliament, President Yameen provided details of issues noted by the Attorney General after reviewing the legislation (Dhivehi).
“The bill containing some provisions that are contrary to Islamic Shariah and Islamic principles was among the reasons considered for returning the bill,” the President’s Office stated.
Under article 91 of the constitution, within 15 days of receipt the president could either assent to a bill or “return the bill for reconsideration of the bill or of any amendment proposed by the president.”
The sexual offences bill was passed on December 30 with 67 votes in favour out of the 69 MPs in attendance.
Following the passage of the bill, Vice President of the Fiqh Academy Dr Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef condemned the conditional recognition of marital rape as a crime and called on MPs who voted in favour to repent.
“With the exception of forbidden forms of sexual intercourse, such as during menstrual periods and anal intercourse, it is not permissible under any circumstance for a woman to refrain from it when the husband is in need,” Dr Iyaz had said on a local Islamic question and answers website.
While the bill did not categorically criminalise marital rape, it allowed for four exceptions: while a case for dissolution of the marriage is in a court, while the divorce filed by either husband or wife is pending a court, sexual intercourse to intentionally transmit a sexually transmitted disease, and during a mutually agreed separation (without divorce).
Dr Iyaz however contended that a woman must still show “complete obedience to her husband” even if she had filed for divorce.
Moreover, in cases of a revocable divorce, a man can renew the marriage during the waiting period (i’ddah) by having sexual intercourse. The woman’s consent would not be necessary in such cases, he argued.
He added however that the woman would have the right to go to court if the man’s intention of resuming the marriage was abuse.
Dr Iyaz is currently campaigning for the Hulhuhenveiru parliament seat on behalf of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.
The contentious bill was drafted and submitted in October 2012 by now-Progressive Party of Maldives MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed. Nasheed wrote in the draft legislation that it was not intended to replace Shariah, explaining that it did not preclude application of a Shariah penalty for an offence specified in the bill.
The proposed law covers sexual offences ranging from adultery, homosexuality, incest, bestiality and necrophilia.
A 2007 study by the Ministry of Gender and Family revealed that 58.2 percent of female respondents agreed that they were obliged to have sex with their husbands, whilst 29.3 percent of women believed it was acceptable for a husband to beat his wife for refusing sex.