Local child protection NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) has condemned “systematic flaws” in child protection systems following the death of a three-year-old boy in Vaavu Rakeedhoo.
ARC called on the state to enhance protection measures without delay after it emerged that authorities had been made aware of the regular abuse suffered by Mohamed Ibthihaal prior to his death.
“ARC remains deeply concerned about the systematic flaws in the child protection system in the country, and that cases of child abuse continue to be neglected and overlooked due to the deficiencies in the legal, judicial and social sectors tasked with the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in the Maldives,” read the statement.
Ibthihaal’s body was found in his home just before midday yesterday (January 28), with locals describing severe bruising to his left ear and genitals.
Police have revealed that the mother has been taken into custody after the Criminal Court produced a warrant. Haveeru has reported multiple island sources as saying that she has confessed to the killing.
Rakeedhoo Island Councillor Abdulla Rasheed told Minivan News that officials from the Ministry of Law and Gender were also on the island, while the victim’s siblings were in the care of their grandmother on another island.
History of abuse
ARC’s statement revealed that it had been unable to receive information from the ministry on the case, though the island council has said the ministry was aware of the mother’s record of abuse.
The gender ministry has yet to release any statements on the incident, though the Family Protection Authority has today denied having any prior knowledge of the case.
ARC has been joined by Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon today in welcoming the launch of investigations into the Rakeedhoo abuse case.
Dunya stated that the death of the boy once again underscores the critical need to strengthen the national child protection mechanism and highlights the absolute vulnerability of children in society, read a foreign ministry press release.
“Every child is a precious gift from God who makes our lives joyous and wholesome, and it is our duty to protect and safeguard them” said Dunya.
ARC called upon the government to update legislation on child protection, noting that the state is obliged under international law to assure the protection of children.
“ARC strongly urges the Government to conduct an assessment of the State’s capacity to respond and react to cases of abuse with a specific view to enhance the child protection system by providing sufficient resources to Family and Children Service Centres (FCSC) in the Atolls, and to establish an effective monitoring mechanism to ensure the safety of children who are removed from their home environment.”
The NGO noted that the existing legislation on child rights was adopted in 1991, calling on the government to submit the draft Child Protection Bill to the People’s Majlis at the earliest opportunity.
As members of the public prepare to hold a rally in support of child protection tomorrow afternoon in Malé, ARC arranged an event titled ‘Break the Silence on Child Abuse’ at the Youth Centre in the capital.
The event – held between 5pm and 6pm – is seeking to raise awareness of the role individuals can play in preventing child abuse.
“In the wake of this horrific incident, ARC invites everyone to attend this event and vow to fulfill our individual responsibility to work together to ensure that never again will such an atrocity be committed against children in our country,” read a statement regarding the event.
The NGO has also called upon media to observe ethical practices by not publishing pictures or personal details of the victim.
Pictures taken of Ibthihaal just weeks ago by a local photographer has been used widely in the coverage of the case (see main picture), but some outlets have today published images of the boy’s dead body.
(PHOTO: IBRAHIM ASAD)
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