Attorney General Husnu Suood has said the practice of female circumcision in the name of Islam has been revived in Addu atoll.
Speaking at a human rights function last night, Suood said although there have been significant successes in human rights in the past six years new problems and violations were emerging, “especially atrocities against women and children”.
Suood said “false scholars” were promoting anti-Islamic activities that also violated human rights principles.
“I will note one thing I learned in the past two weeks: religious scholars are going around to midwives giving fatwas that girls have to be circumcised. They’re giving fatwas saying it is religiously compulsory. According to my information, the circumcising of girls has started and is going on with a new spirit.”
He added it had to be stopped and “cannot be tolerated.”
“This is not something we can just stand by and watch. In the recent past, I would say this had ceased almost completely. But today in Addu atoll, the circumcision of girls is going on at some speed. I call upon the relevant authorities to stop this.”
Suood said one of violation the authorities have been alerted to was violence against women in the name of Islam.
“Violence against women and children in the name of Islam, or in the name of promoting Islam, is something we should be concerned about,” he said.
Suood said Islam is a religion that protects the dignity of human beings, and referred to the efforts to put an end to the practice of female infanticide during the early days of Islam.
“Robbing people of their human rights or burying their rights in the name of religion is not acceptable,” he said. “I believe it is in defiance of our religion.”
He added there were cases of husbands forcing their wives to sleep on the floor “in the name of religion, saying, ‘this is how it is in Islam’.”
Further, some families were refusing to send girls to school or let them find employment across the country.
Another growing concern was the rise of human trafficking, he said, with a number of under-age girls recently brought to the country for sex trafficking.
“Human trafficking was certainly not something we have heard of in the Maldives in our recent history, especially the trafficking of women for sexual purposes,” Suood said, adding that the growth of the problem was something the government had to take immediate action against.
He further noted the rise of child abuse, referring to the recently passed law on special provisions for sex offenders as a step forward.
The attorney general also said that harassment and abuse of expatriate workers remained a serious problem.
A report by the Human Rights Commission revealed the dire situation of some expatriates in the country, who endure cramped and unsuitable living quarters and the non-payment of wages.
Opening his remarks, Suood said it was essential for Maldivians to change their mentality and ways of thinking to make progress on human rights issues.
The most important task at hand was to identify the areas where special measures were needed, he urged.
“Six years ago, our attention was mainly focused on political freedom and political rights, and how those rights could be won,” he said, adding there has been significant development in that area with the ratification of the new constitution.
But, he added, writing down rights on a piece of paper does not secure them. A bill of rights could not guarantee essential liberty unless Maldivians changed their “mentality and attitude”, he said, proposing human rights be taught as a school subject from pre-school to higher education.