Additional reporting by JJ Robinson
The religious Adhaalath Party (AP) has declared that the 15 year-old rape victim who was recently sentenced to 100 lashes and eight months of house arrest “deserves the punishment”, as this is the penalty for fornication under Islamic Sharia.
The party, members of which largely dominate the Maldives’ Ministry of Islamic Affairs, stated that the sentence of flogging had not been passed against the for being sexually abused by her stepfather, but rather for the consensual sex to which she had confessed to having on another occasion.
“The purpose of penalties like these in Islamic Sharia is to maintain order in society and to save it from sinful acts. It is not at all an act of violence. We must turn a deaf ear to the international organisations which are calling to abolish these penalties, labeling them degrading and inhumane acts or torture,” the statement read.
“No one has the right to criticise any penalties specified in Islam,” the party added.
Quoting verses from the Quran, the statement said that no citizen should be allowed to express ideas and opinions about a verdict made in accordance with the religion in a court of law in a 100 percent Muslim country.
The Adhaalath Party further cautioned that criticising issues like this would “encourage enemies of Islam, create confusion among the general public and open up opportunities for people who aim to stop the practice of similar penalties commanded in Islam.”
“Furthermore, Allah has decreed that expressing disapproval of issues such as this contradicts with faith in Islam,” the statement continued, quoting more verses from the Quran.
“Allah has also commanded that we show no kindness when implementing these penalties.”
The party also stated that it was saddened by the physical and psychological abuse the girl had suffered at the hands of her parents, calling the state authorities to ensure they were given the punishments they were due as detailed in Islamic Sharia.
“If such sinful activities are to become this common, the society will break down and we may become deserving of divine wrath,” the Adhaalath Party stated.
Flogging amounts to degrading punishment or torture: UN
United Nations has expressed concern over the case of the 15 year-old being sentenced to flogging.
“The child is allegedly a victim of long-standing sexual abuse. Under international legal human rights obligations of Maldives, corporal punishment, including flogging, amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or even to torture,” read a statement issued by the UN in the Maldives.
“ The approach to sexual abuse which has been adopted in numerous international human rights frameworks is that governments should implement prevention, prosecution of perpetrators, and protection measures to ensure that sexual abuse does not occur. Where it has occurred, governments should put in place measures for rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of victims.”
US “deeply disturbed”
The US Embassy in Colombo said it was “deeply disturbed” by the recent ruling, noting that the minor was “also a victim of rape”.
“We call upon the Maldivian government to recognise that she must be protected rather than punished by authorities. We welcome President Waheed’s statement that his government “will push for a review” of the decision. We urge the Maldivian judiciary to immediately drop all charges against the girl and for the Majlis to enact legislation that protects women and minors who have suffered sexual abuse.
“Promoting gender equality and advancing the status of all women and girls around the world remains one of the greatest unmet challenges of our time, and one that is vital in all countries to ensure full democratic rights, regardless of culture,” the Embassy stated.
President Mohamed Waheed, who has previously insisted on the executive’s inability to interfere in judicial matters, stated on his official Twitter account yesterday: “I am saddened by the sentence of flogging handed to a minor. Govt will push for review of this position.”
The government is currently pushing for re-election to the UN Human Rights Council and launched its campaign in Geneva today (February 28), spearheaded by State Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon, daughter of former 30 year autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
In a statement today, the Foreign Ministry said the Maldives had prioritised its term in the Council “by focusing on women and children’s rights and the rights of persons with disability, had been a vocal campaigner for the prevention of torture, and brought the issue of the right of all to live in a safe and clean environment to the forefront of the Council’s debate.”
In a second statement later today, the Foreign Ministry expressed “deep concern by the prosecution and the Juvenile Court’s sentence to flog a 15 year-old girl on the charges of pre-marital sex.”
“Though the flogging will be deferred until the girl turns 18, the government believes she is the victim of sexual abuse and should be treated as such by the state and the society and therefore, her rights should be fully protected. The Government is of the view that the case merits appeal. The girl is under state care and the government will facilitate and supervise her appeal of the case, via the girl’s lawyer, to ensure that justice is done and her rights are protected,” the Ministry stated.
“The Juvenile Court’s verdict has brought home the critical and severe need to review existing mechanisms, especially legal framework, available for protecting the rights of the children in the Maldives. The government calls on all stakeholders to view cases of child abuse and child-sexual abuse through a human rights lens and to base each case on the best interest of the child.
“In view of the urgent attention required for protecting the rights of the children, the government has established a Committee to review the existing child protection mechanisms, particularly the legal mechanism, in view of the universally accepted norms and principles, and recommend to the state areas that require urgent changes,” the Ministry said.