Comment: Skeletons in the closet

As darkness fell over the cramped city of Male’ on the eve of January 3 this year, a woman’s body was found in a suitcase dumped in a construction site. She was 30 years old.

A few days later, her boyfriend was charged for her murder.

On June 22, a little boy lost both his parents. His father was stabbed with a knife and died in a hospital. His mother gave herself up to the police for the brutal offense.

At the age of 21, she now sits in a cell, her dreams crushed and her hopes dead. The prospect of spending her long life in prison would torment her. Perhaps a more agonising pain for her is the fear of facing what her son might think of her when he grows up. Her fateful act was the tragic climax in her struggle to leave a disruptive relationship that was a daunting trap for her.

The pain and suffering these two women endured represent the lives of many others in the Maldives. They include women, children, girls and boys, aged parents and also men. They are the victims of domestic violence – a social reality locked up as a family secret and never discussed by lawmakers in the country until Monday.

Rozaina Adam, MP, young and educated, explained what she meant by domestic violence as she presented her bill to the heavily lopsided parliament – with 72 men and only five women as its members.

“Domestic violence is the violence or acts of violence that occur between married couples or between divorced couples or between family members or between members in a household”, she said. “It may be someone inflicting violence on his/her wedded partner, it may be a guardian inflicting violence on a child or someone inflicting violence on his/her elderly parents… like any other society in the world, it’s a reality in our society too.”

Her definition outlined the space where domestic violence occurs. She also brought the relationships between the victims and offenders of these horrendous actions into public focus.

A home is meant to be a safe and happy place for everyone. In Maldives, like many traditional societies, people grow up and spend their entire lives surrounded with family, relatives and neighbors. It is however, a place of indescribable horror for the victims of domestic violence.

The victims live their lives in constant pain and fear, insecurities and uncertainties, distrust and breakups. The gruesome realities they face make them strong enough to bear the pain but often,  too weak to get out of it or end it.

Home is a boundary known to them, no matter how gross it is. Sometimes, leaving home means crossing over to uncertainty and face a greater fear of the unknown. They absorb the worst atrocities in their homes, imposed on them by their supposedly loved ones. In effect they hide their woes silently behind a smile or a deadpan mask, until life is forced out of them or it dies within on them, like it did for these two women.

Research, media reports and official records indicate a staggering level of domestic violence in the Maldives.

A study in 2007 showed, one in every three women aged 15-49 experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives.

According to an official source, 620 cases of abuse were reported to them from August 2005 to 2009. They include 200 cases on sexual abuse, 150 cases on physical abuse, 50 cases of rape and 50 cases on neglect and more. The number of cases reported to them on average stands at 145 per year since 2006.

On Sunday evening, the Deputy Minister of Health and Family, Ms Mariya Ali informed that the number of reported cases on domestic violence now stands at 100.

These statistics reveal a shocking truth, considering the clandestine nature of domestic violence, the stark absence of relevant legislation and the lack of necessary support for victims. It confirms the high prevalence of domestic violence in our small Muslim society and the urgent need to address it through law.

Since July this year, the local media has reported 9 incidents of rape including two cases of gang rape in the past week alone. Health officials warn that the incidence of rape could be much higher as rape is far more common among married couples.

Meanwhile, the political and social space in Maldives continues to get filled by a religious narrative that reinforces women as sexual objects. For instance, a question and answer posted on the website of Ministry of Islamic Affairs dominated by a religious pressure group called the Adhalaath Party reads:

“It has become very common for a woman to tell her husband ‘I do not want to sleep with you’, ‘I won’t do as you say’, ‘I will live my life the way I want’. What does Islam say about such women?”

The answer was provided by Sheikh Usman Abdulla – a renowned and respected Islamic scholar.

It says: “the main purpose of being married is to fulfill your sexual needs. In reality, the woman cannot say that. She has to obey her husband. Islam says if your husband wants you, you have to go (to him) even if you are cooking (in the kitchen). While this is how it is (in Islam), what the woman said is not acceptable in Islam.”

The impact of such narrative on women and children should not be under-estimated – especially in view of the general profile of the victims and the offenders. According to the reports on abuse, 9 out of every 10 victims were females and nearly 6 out of every 10 victims were below 18 years. It also revealed 8 out of every 10 offenders is a friend or a family member of the victim. And in 5 out of every 10 cases, the offender is the victim’s boyfriend or husband.

The horrific reality reflected by the records of abuse emphasizes the dire need for legislators to get their act together and treat domestic violence as a nonpartisan issue. It requires unequivocal support for the proposed bill by all parliamentarians. No one desires a repeat of the violent actions that unfurled at the beginning of this year.

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15 thoughts on “Comment: Skeletons in the closet”

  1. A husband must exercise intercourse within the Qur’anic paradigm of love and mercy.

    “The most perfect of believers are those most perfect of character; and the best of you are the best of you to your spouses.” Saying of Prophet Muhammadh pbuh[Tirmidhi, Ibn Hibban]

    And of His signs is this: He created for you spouses from yourselves that ye might find rest in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo! herein indeed are portents for folk who reflect. (Quran 30:21)

    “The best of you are the best to their wives, and I am the best of you with my wives.” Saying of Prophet Muhammadh pbuh[Ibn Hibban]

  2. Prophet (SAW) implemented rulings which liberated society as much as it could be liberated at the time. idea is not to stay there, but to obey meaning behind rulings and apply progressed version of a rule. The objective nature of the ruling is its intention, its form is subjective. it is against Islam to act oppressively when other means are available to combat problems.

    Also, a lot of Hadith are culturally subjective and not to be applied...

    The extremists are damaging the character of Islam

  3. The artiacle highlights a serious issue in our society. Please keep the issue in the fore by follow up artiacles.

  4. Nothing seems to be free from religious madness. Mango Mango

    Green said that women can divorce if she is just as much find her husband has become unattractive to her because there is not point in staying with someone you don't like....It will only lead to sin.

    And one more thing I would like to see a law that allows an abused child having the right to file her/his abuse case within the next 10 years from his/her age of 18 years onwards in the court

  5. We seem to have a culture of being focused on suppressing/expanding the gossip surrounding such cases rather than trying to solve the problems themselves.

    Remember that girl that was attacked and gang raped during ramadan in carnival in front of her tied up boyfriend? I think it's a pretty good indicator of where our morals as a society stand when most of the men & women I know said "she was there to have sex with her boyfriend anyways". If not that it was "oh they were there smoking ciggarettes during ramadan!".

    I guess the attitude of the super "religious" is summed up by the first comment. They think if they throw enough loosely related verses at something the problem will go away.

  6. @Hani,

    We are not claiming to be 'super religious' nor do I think that throwing enough 'loosely related' verses will solve the problem. But the real problem is there because these people do not follow the command of God Almighty or the 'loose verses' as you say. If all of us abide by God's commands there is no doubt that peace will prevail. But it's clear that's not going to happen. Dommage.

  7. I suppose the 'skeleton' mentioned in the heading refers to the secrets we as a community have kept in our closet, that need to be brought out for public scrutiny. As long as we are only concerned of being socially and/or politically correct, and do not feel our collective responsibility as members of this community, the vulnerable will suffer in silence.

  8. @Aishath Aniyya, provocatively, powerfully written...

    so sad

    no excuse for this type of violence, a violent man can change through development of humility and compassion,

    there is no excuse for domestic violence the law does need to get tough as you said.

  9. A woman in Saudi gets raped and she gets whipped for being in a place and position which made the men commit a sin.

    And the petro dollars propagate Saudi's version across the least developed countries. We being one.

    Fact is the world is materialistic. Human beings are materialistic. We yearn for power, money and sex. Religions are man made rules for living (hugely in favor of men), under a guise of divine guidance. Maldives is a very unlucky nation, having little productivity, generations of ignorance and stupidity, following a dark curse of a religion.

    Its every man to himself. Every nation to themselves. If you wish to live humanely, look into the mirror and start living yourself clean. Cleaning the country and making progressive steps will be a huge undertaking and the first step is to treat the next person like a human being first. Do not hide behind a religion and demand attention and care. You need earn your keep.

  10. i agree with ahmed...i think its just about time for all of us to change our lifestyle from FORCE respect to EARN remember earning respect is tricky but its worth the challenge so good luck

  11. @truth:

    Who the hell cares whatever what says about intercourse? What happened to some common respect and decency? Why does it have to matter so much what specific verses mean on the matter? Why can't men just keep it in their effing pants?

  12. @Hani

    All true believers of God Almighty care about his revelation. 'Common respect and decency' came only after HIS verses were revealed (to prophets at all times). The 'verses matter' because they give proper guidance to all mankind. Men should 'keep it in their effing pants' because GOD says so.


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