Heated Viber exchange exposes rift between Gayoom brothers

A heated exchange on a social media group set up between MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has been leaked and exposes a widening rift between President Abdulla Yameen and his-half brother and president of 30 years, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

In the Viber group, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb reprimanded newly elected Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Faris Maumoon for his absence from a vote on a constitutional amendment that set an age limit of 30 to 65 years for the presidency and vice president.

“Faris you have let down HEP Yameen on the very first vote,” Adeeb told the newly elected MP for Dhiggaru.

adeeb-faris-chat 2

Faris is nephew to President Yameen and the eldest son of former President Gayoom.

Gayoom, is the leader of the PPM, and had opposed the change to set an upper age limit of 65 years. The former president, who is now in his early 80s, had served six terms from 1978 to 2008.

The ruling coalition is seeking to replace Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed with the 33-year-old tourism minister.

Tensions are reportedly running high within the PPM with Gayoom also unhappy with the vice president’s imminent impeachment.

Adeeb warned Faris against discriminating based on his background: “I have served this party and sacrificed more than any individual and it’s time for a change.”

“If anyone has the strength to confront us, u are all welcome. But this will happen Insha Allah.”

President Yameen was elected on Gayoom’s popularity. But in the past 18 months, he has created his own power base, with hand picked MPs and ministers. His right-hand man is Adeeb.

Several senior PPM officials have confirmed to Minivan News that screenshots of the Viber conversation circulating on social media are authentic.

Faris replied saying that his “only aim is upholding President [Abdulla] Yameen’s government,” but said: “Proper discussion and deliberation cannot be bypassed.”

Adeeb then said “this is definitely not helping this country to take forward, and Faris not coming to vote shows your commitment and those who have elected you.”

Faris had won a by-election for the vacant Dhiggaru seat earlier this month after former ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

“Sir, I have every commitment and [support] to yourself and to the youth of our country. Especially the educated youth,” Faris told Adeeb.

After parliament voted to accept the amendments for consideration, Gayoom sent a text message to the PPM parliamentary group leader saying: “I am deeply saddened. There is no point to a man whose opinions are not considered staying on as PPM president.”

Former PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof has meanwhile called on Gayoom to retract support for his half-brother’s administration.

Opposition politicians have claimed President Yameen is fatally ill and wants a loyal deputy ahead of a life-threatening surgery, but the government has denied the rumours of the president’s health.

In a separate message to the PPM parliamentary group – also leaked online – Adeeb spoke of the importance of affording the space for President Yameen ” to rule this nation without internal resistance.”

“This nation needs to be sorted and it needs to give room for HEP Yameen to rule this nation without internal resistance. We need HEP Yameen’s policies to be implemented in this nation and PPM party, there is no nation where President is not the leader of the political party he represents.

“I have witnessed how difficult it is for HEP Yameen to rule with many frictions, I think we need to discuss this at party level,” wrote Adeeb.

He signed off as the “Elected VP.” Adeeb is also the vice president of PPM.

Addressing participants of a motorcycle rally yesterday, Adeeb said the country is very “stress free” at the moment and that there was no cause for anyone to worry.

The current administration will govern the nation in a “stress free” manner, he said.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed was transferred to house arrest last week based after doctors advised a “stress free environment” and rest for back pain.

The opposition MPs’ backing for the constitutional amendment was widely perceived as part of a deal in exchange for the opposition leader’s transfer to house arrest.

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Overseas workers banned from cashier jobs

A ban on foreigners working as cashiers took effect today in an attempt to boost employment among local young people, almost a third of whom are jobless.

However, overseas workers were still seen working as cashiers, while some employers said they had trouble finding young Maldivians to fill the roles.

The Ministry of Economic Development changed the regulation on migrant workers earlier this year to bar foreigners from working as cashiers in cafés, restaurants and shops.

The ministry also began free training programs in collaboration with businesses for Maldivians wishing to be cashiers, but some businesses remain unprepared for the change.

“My boss came today because I can’t work behind the counter anymore,” said an migrant worker who was previously a cashier at Mariyam Café in Malé.

He is still employed at the cafe but will take on a different role.

Although the new regulation aims to increase employment among young Maldivians, some businesses have experienced problems with younger local staff.

“I employed three or four [Maldivian] youths before. But I can’t manage the business with them because they do not come to work regularly,” said Mohamed Sanah, who runs Laasany, a family-run shop on Orchid Road in the capital.

Ali jaleel, owner of a local goods shop, praised the change in the rules.

“I’m the one who is always behind this counter,” he said. “I see a lot of foreigners working as cashiers.

“It would be a good change for Maldivians to do the job instead of them. At least the money wouldn’t go outside the country then.”

Some 26.5 per cent of Maldivians aged 15 to 24 are unemployed, according to World Bank figures from 2013, the most recent figures available.

Government figures place the number of overseas workers in the Maldives at 58,000, but other estimates place as high as twice that figure. Most are in the construction industry.

The Ministry of Economic Development and Youth Ministry were unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

President Abdulla Yameen pledged to create 95,000 jobs in his five-year term. He claimed 17,000 jobs were created within his first year, and claimed credit, but did not provide details.

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Hundreds march in support of President Yameen

With additional reporting by Ismail Humam Hamid and Mohamed Saif Fathih

Hundreds of young men marched in support of President Abdulla Yameen in Malé today.

The approximately 400-strong march consisted mostly of young men wearing pink headbands and carrying placards praising President Yameen and ridiculing opposition leaders Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party (JP).

Supporters carried placards alleging Gasim and Nasheed had “gone mad with the desire for power,” that Gasim “had destroyed the economy” during his tenure as finance minister, and that Nasheed had called on youth to “remain intoxicated” during his three year presidential term.

Progressive Party of the Maldives’ (PPM) Deputy Leader and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb organised the rally after nightly opposition protests in which the MDP and JP alleged the ruling party had repeatedly breached the constitution.

Adeeb, PPM Parliamentary Group Leader MP Ahmed Nihan, MPs Yamin Rasheed, Ibrahim ‘Wadde’ Waheed, Abdulla ‘Bochey’ Rifau and Ahmed Ameeth led the walk from Artificial Beach through Malé’s main thoroughfare, Majeedhee Magu.

The walk comes ahead of two major events due to take place tonight, a PPM rally at Alimas Carnival and an opposition walk starting from Usfasgandu in Malé at 8:30 pm.

“President for youth”

Speaking to Minivan News, Youth Ministry Coordinator Ali Shahid ‘Steps Ayya’ said he had always supported President Yameen both during his parliamentary career and as president.

“The Maldivian youth are with President Yameen. He has always shown the way for the youth. The youth do not want to go to jail. They want hope and stability,” he said.

Ihusaan Hussein, 27, said Yameen’s government is a government for the youth, and he had come to the march to stand against the opposition’s attempts to create political unrest. He called on the opposition to “come to the table and talk.”

One of the few women at the rally, Madheeha, 29, said President Yameen offers development and progress for all youth.

MP Nihan said the opposition were fooling the Maldives’ youth, pointing to Nasheed’s alliance with Gasim, the same man he had called a traitor for playing a key role in his ouster in February 2012.

Yameen had promised to focus on the youth during his campaign, pledging to build a youth city with state-of-the-art sports facilities in Hulhumalé. On assuming office, Yameen erased over 2,000 criminal records of young people to allegedly facilitate employment for youth hindered by police records.

Pickup arrest

Meanwhile, the Maldives Police Services this morning arrested two men aboard a pickup allegedly advertising the opposition rally tonight. They were Ahmed ‘Eagle’ Shareef and Abdulla ‘Tintin’ Rasheed. The police also confiscated the pickup and its speaker system.

The allied opposition parties subsequently held a press conference at JP headquarters, Maafanu Kunooz, where MDP MP Ahmed Falah accused the government of obstructing the right to free speech and assembly.

However, a police spokesperson told Minivan News the two men had been calling for protestors to gather near the High Court, an area in which protests are prohibited.

JP Council Member Ali Hameed said the opposition was not seeking a confrontation with the government.

“The JP and MDP represent 75 percent of the Maldivian population. If the government is thinking of going into a confrontation, please think again. We do not seek a confrontation,” he said.

MDP Malé City Councillor Shamau Shareef claimed the government was using gangs to intimidate political opponents while Falah accused Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports Naif Shaukath of assaulting a JP supporter.

Minivan News was unable to reach Shaukath at the time of press, while Youth Ministry’s Coordinator Ali Shahid said the opposition was linking the government to gangsters “because they cannot stomach the work President Yameen is doing for the youth and the development of the Maldives.”

Meanwhile, the Maldives Police Services held a press conference at noon urging all parties to exercise the freedom to assemble within the bounds of the Freedom of Assembly Act, and warned police would not hesitate to “take appropriate measures to ensure public peace, safety and harmony.”

Two men were arrested from opposition protests at the junction of Chaandhanee and Fareedhee Magu last night.



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Maldivian Youth “disenfranchised and excluded”, finds World Bank report

Maldivian youth feel “disenfranchised and excluded” and “disconnected from the fabric of society” suggests a World Bank report released today.

Rising globalisation, internet use, and economic expansion has “exposed young women and men to the outside world and new ideas and values, making them acutely aware of what they can aspire to,” read the report.

“Yet, both female and male youth face the shackles of the limited island economy, lack empowerment and community engagement, and contend with rigid norms of behaviour and increasingly conservative values, as well as an inadequate education and training system that ill prepares them for the labor market.”

The report argued that these issues meant that many young Maldivians are being “denied passage into adulthood”.

Titled ‘Youth in the Maldives: Shaping a new future for young women and men through engagement and empowerment’, the report was compiled using focus groups and surveys, in order to address the “dearth of data” on young people in the country.

Physical isolation, thwarted expectations, family breakdown, and gang participation were revealed as major challenges facing 15-24 year olds, while new insights were offered into the country’s large youth unemployment problem.

The World Bank recommended a concerted national youth campaign to present a new vision of youth, an increase in preventative healthcare, and further efforts to better understand the reasons for youth unemployment.

President Abdulla Yameen has maintained a pro-youth rhetoric since his election in 2013, pledging to create 94,000 jobs for the Maldivian youth – officially recognised as being aged between aged 15-35.

As well as launching a youth unemployment register and clearing the criminal records for many youth offenders, the government has recently launched the ‘GetSet’ entrepreneurship programme, in which young people between the ages 18-25 can apply for business start-up loans.

Unemployment

The Maldives has the highest percentage of youth unemployment in the South East Asia region with 22 percent of its youth unemployed, stated the World Bank report.

It found that young people lacked socio-emotional and other skills required in the job market, but that young people expect high or unrealistic wages, leading to the “national phenomenon” of “youth voluntary unemployment”.

“Added to this reality are the perceptions and expectations of parents with regard to what is an acceptable job and wage for their children, leading to limited support and encouragement for youth to be economically active,” the report continued.

Interviews and focus groups suggested that parents were actually contributing to youth unemployment by supporting them financially so as to avoid undesirable employment.

“Findings indicate that parents would rather pay their sons and daughters not to work than to let them work in a job which they consider beneath them; a notable 50% of young people surveyed in the field-based research solely stated that they rely on their parents as their main source of income,” the report read.

The reports also noted rising inter-generational tensions as the Maldives continues to undergo rapid social transformation.

“Older generations (adults) frequently see youth as ‘unambitious,’ ‘lazy’ and ‘disconnected,’ and focused on ‘me’ rather than ‘us,’ while the younger generations, especially those young men and women who have studied or worked in Malé and beyond, see themselves as part of a global village, fast-paced and modern society, where individual aspirations over take family traditions.”

The physical isolation caused by geographical distribution of the islands was also found to present difficulty in travelling, mobility, and accessing public services leading to limited opportunities -especially for women – the report found.

Changes needed

Addressing the growing issues of gang membership in the country, the World Bank noted that young people were joining gangs for reasons including inactivity and apathy, unemployment, drug use, and “the need for young men to prove their masculinity”.

Gangs were also said to fill a need for support and social structure as well as for male role models, with high rates of divorce meaning the Maldives has one of the highest rates of female-headed households in the world (35 percent).

“A further problem is that people with drug or criminal offenses experience difficulties in reintegrating into society and finding jobs; access to counseling and rehabilitation services, especially for young people, is limited and inadequate,” the report said.

In recent years gender inequality has also worsened in the Maldives, the report continued, with civil society groups reporting “significantly increasing restrictions” on how women dress, mobility, forms of employment, and the ability to make independent decisions.

Lack of reproductive health facilities were also cited as a problem in the report, with a lack of sufficient knowledge about preventative healthcare placing young people at risk.

The report concluded by calling for a long-term strategy of broad youth empowerment.

“Engaging youth to be productive and content members of society will first and foremost require a radical shift in the way that youth are perceived and valued by adults, policy makers and society-at-large,” concluded the World Bank.

Read the full report here



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Democracy House launches #policy22 campaign calling for youth participation in policy-making

Democracy House Maldives has launched its ‘#policy22′ campaign, highlighting the importance of youth participation in decision-making at the policy level.

The campaign – given its name in relation to the percentage of the Maldivian population classed as youth – seeks to create a platform where the youth’s concerns can be heard and acted upon by decision makers.

The youth-led NGO released a report titled ‘Youth Voices’ on December 25, with members of the youth community presenting the report to MPs outside the Majlis, and taking ‘selfies’ with those in support of the campaign.

Democracy House’s Dhumya Mohamed explained that the booklet contained concerns put forward by the youth through a number of consultations as well as including information from several reports on Maldivian youth.

“Over 40 individuals attended the last consultation. The most pressing issue brought forward by the youth was lack of opportunities to participate in policy level decision making,” said Dhumya.

The report notes that there is currently no culture of consultation with the youth despite making up such a significant proportion of the population. The report requests parliamentarians to get youth opinion during the legislative process and to ensure the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution.

Published last month, the booklet highlights additional problems brought forward during the consultations such as unemployment and the exploitation of youth in politics.

Youth unemployment

In the report, Democracy House expressed concern at the high youth unemployment rate, noting that there is little awareness and no proper enforcement of the Employment Act.

Suggestions to tackle the high rate of unemployment include utilising youth centers for youth leadership and capacity building programmes, and encouraging young entrepreneurs.

While speaking to Minivan News, Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamal said that the government’s aim is to reduce unemployment to three or four percent in the next five years.

Maleeh pointed out that a youth unemployment register has been created and that there are 13,000 registered individuals within the system.

“We provide the database for organisations who are seeking recruits. However, we have received complaints of individuals not reporting to interviews, work, and also of quitting work within weeks,” said Maleeh.

Maleeh speculated that a significant percentage of youth unemployment is voluntary while stating that the government is running awareness campaigns and career guidance to increase the motivation of young people.

The #policy22 booklet noted a “disconnect” between the current school curriculum and life skills noting that many were “not able to handle adult responsibilities after we leave school.”

Democracy House states youth unemployment to be as high as 43 percent, though the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates the figure to be at 30 percent. The current government has pledged to create 94,000 jobs during its term.

One request mentioned in the #policy22 booklet appears to be being addressed by the government, with President Abdulla Yameen launching the ‘Get Set – Maldives Youth Entrepreneurship Program’ last month. The scheme aims to provide MVR200 million (US$12.9 million) in loans to assist the development of small and medium sized enterprises.

Exploiting youth for political gain

The Democracy House report claimed that there is “misconduct and illegal activities” aimed at youth from the political arena such as “bribing and promises of advancement such as job opportunities, during campaigning”.

The report said that the youth is often used to gain numbers at political rallies and mobilised at political events “basically to make noise rather than do anything substantial”.

A 2012 assessment on gangs operating in Maldives said that many gangs receive income through exchanges with political actors or business people and that the exchange is usually in the form of money or sometimes alcohol.

The study read that gangs were given incentives to participate in political protests, start political riots, destroy property or injure a third party, and that money is often given to gangs to initiate a fight so as to divert media attention from a political issue.

Despite the strong youth platform of President Yameen’s election campaign, youth leaders have previously criticised the government for a failure to consult with youth groups when formulating policy.

Democracy House called for campaign activities to be better monitored, and candidates that go against political party and elections laws and regulations to be penalised.

Founded in 2008 the NGO aims to promote a culture of democratic ideals and values in the Maldives and amongst its people through educational initiatives.



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President Yameen launches MVR200 million ‘Maldives Youth Entrepreneurship Programme’

President Abdulla Yameen launched the ‘Get Set – Maldives Youth Entrepreneurship Programme’ at a function held last night to mark ‘National Youth Day.’

According to the President’s Office, MVR200 million (US$12.9 million) worth of loans would be provided through the initiative to encourage entrepreneurship among youth and assist the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“Two individuals may jointly apply ‎for loans to start up their businesses under this scheme,” the President’s Office explained in a statement.

“The recipients of the ‎scheme will be granted soft loans, along with the required technical ‎assistances through business incubation programmes.”‎

In his speech at the function, President Yameen pledged to help all young job seekers secure employment, adding that enough job opportunities were currently available for skilled youth.

“However, Maldivian youth should have the courage to remain in a job,” he said.

Yameen referred to a report released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) two years ago, which found that the number of unemployed youth worldwide was 750 million or 16 percent.

The number of youth worldwide who earn less than US$2 a day was meanwhile 230 million, he noted.

At present, he continued, youth is synonymous with unemployed, homeless, and indebted.

However, the “strong, potent power” of youth could be “harnessed” to change the course of a nation, he said.

“The slogan I choose during the presidential election was ‘where there is life, there is hope’,” he said.

Efforts were underway to fulfil the Progressive Party of Maldives’ campaign pledge to create 94,000 jobs in five years, he said.

The government would establishe sports arenas in islands with a population in excess of 2,000 people by the end of 2015, Yameen pledged, which would include facilities and infrastructure for most sports played by Maldivian youth of both genders.

The government has allocated MVR300 million (US$19.4 million) in next year’s budget to conduct programmes aimed at youth, he noted, which Yameen said he considered “an investment”.

The government was also focused on rehabilitating wayward youth, he continued, and called on youth leaders to “harness positive energy” to enact “positive change” and “build the nation”.

The current administration believed Maldivian youth were “resourceful, innovative and productive,” he said.

Speaking at a function held last week to celebrate TC Sports Club’s promotion to the football first division, President Yameen said politicians would be “forced to walk down the path shown by youth”.

The government was erasing or expunging police records of youth who have served sentences under an inititiatve to provide employment opportunities, he said.

In July, Home Minister Umar Naseer told parliament that criminal records of more than 2,000 youth had been cleared.

A 2012 report on gang culture in the Maldives noted that lack of employment opportunities was one of the main reasons young people join criminal gangs.

Criminal records even for minor offences are not cleared for five years, the report noted.

Meanwhile, the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office revealed earlier this month that it has declined to prosecute 56 first offenders as of the last week of October – part of the office’s ‘second chance programme’

Youth awards

At last night’s event, President Yameen also presented ‘National Youth Awards’ for 2013 and 2014 to “nine individuals and two NGOs for their outstanding accomplishments in the ‎areas of sports, journalism, Dhivehi linguistics, events management, fashion ‎design, and social service.‎”

“The National Youth Awards 2014 was presented to 4 individuals and two ‎NGOs for their ‎outstanding accomplishments in the areas of sports, ‎creative writing and social service,” the President’s Office noted.

The recipients included national football team captain Ali Ashfaq, who recently won the Malaysian league’s ‘Foreign Player of the Year’ title.



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China lends Maldives 100 million Yuan as free aid

The Presidents Office has announced China’s decision to lend 100 million Yuan (around MVR250 million or US$16 million) as free aid to the Maldives.

The agreement was signed yesterday (August 16), after President Abdullah Yameen departed on an official visit to China to attend the opening ceremony of the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics, and to hold discussions with Chinese President, Xi Jinping.

In addition, an agreement was made to provide the Maldives Police Service with 150 motorcycles.

According to the statement, the grant aid is to be used for developmental projects in the Maldives.

At separate meetings held on Saturday afternoon, discussions were focused on the investment opportunities in Maldives, and the mega development projects proposed by the government.

Furthermore, Yameen met officials from Tuniu, one of China’s top travel agencies, and attended a lunch hosted by the group.

China Bridge

During the discussion on Saturday, Xi also conveyed his government’s ‎commitment to propel bilateral relations with the Maldives onto a higher ‎plane.

In addition, Yameen outlined the key ‎developmental projects envisaged for commencement in the time ahead, and ‎emphasised that no project is as important or pertinent as the Male-Hulhulé bridge.

Yameen expressed his satisfaction that the ‎interest of corporate China towards the bridge project and other key ‎economic manifesto projects. He went on to note that he desired in time, for ‎the new bridge to be known as the “China Bridge” to symbolise the friendly ‎ties between the two countries. ‎

Xi thanked Yameen for briefing him on his ‎economic agenda and assured that he would alert Chinese authorities to ‎collaborate closely with the Maldives in ensuring the key development ‎projects, including the bridge can be implemented with due urgency.

Silk Road

Yameen noted that the Maldives had always been a ‎standing supporter of the one-China policy and the Five Principals of ‎Peaceful Coexistence governing relations between states. He also commended President Xi on his 21st Century ‎Maritime Silk Road. ‎

In return, Xi noted that the Maldives would feature among ‎the countries that are included within the Silk Road sphere.

Referring to the Chinese ‘New Silk Road’ project, Yameen told reporters prior to the trip that the government was “very interested” in participating in the initiative.

Yameen also revealed that a number of bilateral agreements would be signed during the visit, including a framework agreement on trade assistance, while Chinese assistance in providing police vehicles would be “formalised”.

Chinese news agency Xinhua reported yesterday that China’s maritime ‘Silk Route’ would pass through the Ihavandhippolhu Integrated Development Project – or ‘iHavan’ – in the northernmost atoll in the Maldives.

“The design of the project seeks to capitalise on the location of the atoll, which lies on the seven-degree channel through which the main East-West shipping routes connecting Southeast Asia and China to the Middle East and Europe,” reported Xinhua.

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Health Protection Agency plan youth services to bridge gap in sexual health education

A sexual health education pilot aimed at young people will be launched in Hulhumalé before the end of this year, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has told Minivan News.

“There is no comprehensive sexual education in the schools,” said the source. “We have to keep talking about these issues, about how to keep young people safe.”

The pilot will provide a comprehensive sexual health and general health service to all young people aged 10-24 years old.

According to the agency’s Reproductive Health Unit (RHU), the the project will attempt to bridge gaps in sexual and reproductive health services for young people.

A member of an established health service provider, who wished to remain anonymous, highlighted age-appropriate guidelines as key barriers to sexual health education.

The comments come after the body of a new-born baby was discovered in a house in Maafanu earlier this week. Local media reported that the 18-year-old mother, currently in police custody, committed infanticide after having hidden her pregnancy.

National Guidelines

The national guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Gender prohibit some elements of sexual health education – including condoms and safe sex – until students are 18-years-old.

“There is a standard which is maintained by the health sector. There are a lot of cultural and religious barriers in providing this information,” the source told Minivan News.

“Unless those issues are not tackled, the stigma in accessing [health education] will not happen.”

Reticence in the health sector is mirrored in the family sphere, argued the source, who stated that family members are reluctant to speak candidly with their children about sexual health.

“There are some views of parents that if you talk about sexual health, they might go and do it.”

With no accurate information from schools or parents, the student will often turn to peers or the internet for support on sexual health, noted the source, which results in the rapid spread of mis-information.

Religious barriers

Under the 2008 constitution the Maldives is a 100 percent Muslim country, with national guidelines surrounding sexual and reproductive health being strongly influenced by religion.

A report conducted by the Department of National Planning in 2013 concluded that religious beliefs had been the reason behind an increase in trends such as a preference for home schooling, refusal of vaccination and other medical services for women.

Expressing a similar view, the health sector source noted that religion had contributed to some of the barriers in delivering sexual and reproductive health education.

“That’s a huge barrier actually on sexual health education, because there’s certain beliefs on providing information, or on family planning, on safe abortion,” stated the source.

“They [religious scholars] have a lot of myths related to sexual reproductive health.”

The source suggestion that there is support for the assimilation of religion into sexual health education delivery, but that disagreements between religious scholars had meant that progress was slow.

Next steps

The RHU project is underpinned by the imminent release of their new guidelines, National Standards for Adolescent and Youth Friendly Health Services for Young People.

These guidelines outlines the key standards for health education for all young people aged 10 – 24 years, ensuring that they will “enter the productive age in the fullest possible wellbeing.”

Noting the closure of previous similar projects, such as the Youth Health Café, the RHU noted that there are a number of difficulties in launching a new healthcare service.

The RHU source also wished to remain anonymous, reflecting the strong emotions provoked by discussion of sex education.

“Convincing people to initiate something in health facility is not easy,” they stated.

“It will be difficult. At present it is very difficult, unless the person is coming seeking the services it is difficult.”

When asked if they felt that young people are getting the right information at the right age, RHU representatives responded with a firm “no”.

“Not all. They are not getting that information. As far as access, there is no access.”

Issues regarding a lack of support services for sexual and reproductive health in the Maldives have been well-documented in the past.

A report entitled ‘Maldives Operational Review for the ICPD Beyond 2014‘, carried out by the Department of National Planning (DNP), claimed that incidents of infanticide and unsafe abortions are symptoms of a lack of sexual education in young Maldivians.

The report identified, “clear indicators of the imperative need to provide access to information on sexual reproductive health and reproductive health services to the sexually active adolescents

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Police dismantle Villimalé hangout, take in six for disobedience

The police have dismantled a youth hangout hut in Villingili and taken six people into custody for “disobeying orders” and “obstructing the police duties”.

Maldives Police Services (MPS) has confirmed the incident in the suburb of the capital yesterday, saying that all six were released after bring given advise on future conduct.

According to police, the hangout was dismantled due to the prevalence of crimes at the spot and because it has been setup unlawfully.

“Police have received reports and observed prevalence of criminal activity at that spot, including drug abuse and fights,” a police official told Minivan News, adding that no unlawful substance or tools were discovered during the operation.

One person involved in the incident has alleged that police refused to show a council order before dismantling the area, while a local resident suggests that similar community leisure areas can be found across the island.

While police claim the operation was carried out “after discussion with the city council”, Malé City Council – under whose jurisdiction the land currently is – has denied authorising the move, or being officially informed of it.

“They discussed the issue of [dismantling] the place in Villimalé, but we told them to take all such hangouts around Malé instead of just that one place in Villimalé,” council member Shamau Shareef explained.

Police refused to comment on the alleged discussions to remove other hangouts around Malé.

The council has previously expressed concern over lack of police cooperation in providing security services, including requests to dismantle all such hangouts and to provide security for the recently held street market in Malé.

Councillor Shamau said that, in a similar incident, police had refused to remove an illegal ‘gaadiyaa’ street vendor’s booth recently.

“They [the vendor] are not paying any lease fees, and there is a court verdict against them. But the police said a court warrant would be required to remove it,” said Shamau.

Local media CNM has reported that some young people at the hangout confronted police demanding a city council order to dismantle the hut, which was not delivered to them.

“We were hanging out there at the joali when they started dismantling [the place] using hammers and other things. We asked them to show the city council’s request to dismantle the place. They said they don’t have to show it and then they handcuffed us in a very brutal manner and beat us up,” CNM quoted one of the youth as saying.

A Villimalé resident told Minivan News that there are many similar hangouts setup in public spaces by the community.

“They are well made and decorated even. Some of the places even have television sets,” he said.

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