Flogging for fornication “inhumane and degrading violence against women”: Navi Pillay tells Majlis

The Maldives’ peaceful transition to democracy has “set an important precedent in the Asia-Pacific region and serves as a beacon in the broader Muslim world,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in parliament today.

In a keynote address titled ‘Responding to the Past while Safeguarding the Future: the Challenge of Protecting Human Rights in the context of Democratic Transition,’ Pillay observed that as democratic transitions “are always fragile,” the recent history of the Maldives contained lessons for newly-established democracies.

Pillay praised the reform milestones achieved by the Maldives since 2003, including the establishment of a Human Rights Commission, the introduction of political parties, accession to main international human rights instrument, the drafting of a “new and very progressive constitution” and the first multi-party elections that followed its ratification in August 2008.

“This year, we have witnessed the same strong aspirations for democracy and human rights in the Middle East and North Africa which have brought dramatic and positive changes to the political environment of the region,” she said.

“After decades of oppression and systemic human rights violations, men and women of different ages, political orientations and social origins have come together in an unprecedented movement to bring about political change and to demand social justice.”

Strong and stable institutions

Pillay noted that successful transition to a functioning democracy was “very much contingent on the existence of independent institutions” and separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary.

While acknowledging that the new institutions started working “with limited resources and within a volatile and politicised environment,” Pillay said it was imperative for all parties to “embrace the path of reform and develop a culture of dialogue, tolerance and mutual respect.”

She urged parliament to enact long-delayed legislation and the judiciary to be “independent and forward-looking in applying the law in accordance with the constitution and international human rights obligations of the Maldives.”

The executive should meanwhile “respect the roles and independence of the other arms of the state and ensure effective implementation of the rule of law.”

Islam and democracy

The reform movement of the Maldives and public uprisings of the Arab Spring has established “the congruence between rights guaranteed by Islam and universally recognised human rights,” Pillay stated, which is “proof that Islam is not incompatible with human rights and democracy.”

She welcomed the ‘House of Wisdom’ initiative led by the Maldives, “which will help to promote an open and constructive debate, both inside and outside the Maldives, on how to reconcile international human rights standards and Islamic law.”

Social media

A third lesson for democratic transitions, said Pillay, was use of the internet and new social media to mobilise the public.

Activists, journalists and bloggers in the Maldives “opened new spaces for debate,” she observed, noting the changes to “repressive habits of the past” through decriminalising defamation and removing restriction to freedom of assembly.

The Associated Press (AP) however reported yesterday that Pillay expressed concern with reports of rising religious intolerance in the Maldives during a meeting with President Mohamed Nasheed.

The AP referred to the vandalism of monuments donated by Pakistan and Sri Lanka for the recently-concluded SAARC summit over allegedly “idolatrous” and un-Islamic imagery.

Women’s rights

While women were involved in the political mobilisation of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Pillay stressed that “rights and opportunities for women in these societies still face many challenges.”

“I strongly believe that democracy for the half the people is no democracy at all,” she asserted.

Acknowledging efforts by both previous and current administrations to promote gender equality and the removal of the gender bar for public office in the 2008 constitution, Pillay however noted that discrimination against women and girls continued in the country.

“A powerful illustration of this trend is the flogging of women found guilty of extra-marital sex,” she explained. “This practice constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women, and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country.”

Pillay urged the authorities to foster national dialogue and debate “on this issue of major concern,” and called on parliament to pass legislation on domestic violence as well as other laws to ensure women’s rights.

In response to a Minivan News report in 2009 of an 18 year-old woman fainting after a 100 lashes, Amnesty International called for a moratorium on the “inhumane and degrading punishment.”

Of the 184 people sentenced to public flogging in 2006, 146 were female, making it nine times more likely for women to be punished.

“I also urge you to discuss the withdrawal of the remaining reservation to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women concerning equality in marriage,” Pillay said. “These are necessary steps, not only for protecting the human rights of women and girls in Maldives, but securing Maldives’ transition.”

On the problem of migrant workers in the country, Pillay urged the government to enforce the non-discrimination clause in the constitution by adopting a comprehensive law and ratifying the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.’

Transitional justice

Lastly, the UN High Commissioner observed that new democracies faced a common problem of transitional justice or “establishing accountability for past human rights violations.”

“Addressing the past is often a complicated political dilemma, but we should never lose sight of the right victims have to truth, justice and redress,” she said.

Without coming to terms with human rights abuses and injustices committed by ousted regimes, said Pillay, “transitional democracies will face continued challenges in the path towards democracy, respect for human rights and ending impunity.”

Referring to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, Pillay revealed that she urged President Mohamed Nasheed to “lead a national consultation on this important subject.”

Pillay concluded her address by predicting that the Maldives “will increasingly have a special role to play in the region and the Muslim world as it has pioneered a democratisation process that is both modern and Islamic.”

“I firmly believe that the Maldives can make history as a moderate Islamic democracy. This opportunity cannot be missed, for the benefit of Maldives and of the wider region,” she said.

“Difficult road ahead”

Pillay, a South African national of Tamil descent who served as President of the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda for eight years, today concluded her three-day stay in the first-ever visit to the Maldives by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Meanwhile, in his remarks after the speech, Speaker Abdulla Shahid said the parliament was “honoured to have you here, a person who has fought tremendously for human rights in your country and is committed to the promotion of human rights all over the world.”

“As you have rightly said, Maldives has pioneered many of the experiences that the Arab Spring is spreading through the Arabian peninsula and the North African region,” he said.

“I can assure you, Madam High Commissioner, that we will not let our guard down. We know how difficult the job has been. We know how difficult the road ahead of us is. And we will continue to work in the national interest of this nation and we will succeed in this endeavor.”

He added that the leadership of the legislature, judiciary and executive is “fully committed” to upholding the liberal constitution of 2008, which is “a living document which we are going through everyday.”

“The experiences that we have had are strengthening the democratic structure of this country,” he said.


76 thoughts on “Flogging for fornication “inhumane and degrading violence against women”: Navi Pillay tells Majlis”

  1. lol funny to hear human rights from a person who advocates for abortion rights a person who does not accept the right of life for infants just because they are too small and cant talk they are killed, how human and democratic ey!!!! total b"£$%^ks...

  2. Islamic law doesn't allow any reform. There is no way to stop theses ignorant people from lashing the unlucky girls who happen to be not smart enough to make it with out producing off spring unless Maldive constitution is reformed. Girls need to be taught sex education either by their parents or at school before they reach puberty.

    Progress in this country will be bogged down foreseeable future because of these silly religious issues.

  3. Most maldivians have had extra marital sex at least once in their lives. Those who are about to attack this claim please look into your memory and your conscience. Cast your stone if you have not sinned.

    How come predominantly women get lashed. Is it because Islam treats women unequally? OR Is it because all mullahs are men? Or is it because extra marital sex is performed by women with women only? What kind of nonsense is this?

  4. How stupid Maldivains and their MPs are.

    Only now they are realizing what their Government is doing at the UN in the guise of human rights - destroy islam.

    Maldivains deserve Navi Pillay.

  5. Ashraf, Abul Barakaathul Bar Baree from all accounts practised Soofism.

    Salafi and Wahhabism came to our country after Gayoom became President, in my opinionthrough :

    1. the students who were taken to Pakistan to study in madhrasaas by agents in maldives recruited to spread wahhabism.

    2. Students who went to Saudhi Arabia and got recruited to the Wahhabi way

    3. Students who went to Malaysia to study and got recruited to the wahhabi way.

    4. The fothi fihaara imaams who was bankrolled by Wahhabis

    The interssting thing about all of this is that while Gayoom may have thrown a few beardies into jail, he did so because they threatened his power base not because he was concerned about their impact on people. When did Gayoom care about our country? He thinks he is an Arab, speaks only in Arabic with friends and he supported and allowed the salafi movement to take root in the Maldives.

  6. Oh ye of normative faith.

    Human rights is a product of humanism and it goes hand in hand with private enterprise, free-market capitalism and so on and so forth. It also is part and parcel of countries with a huge workforce and power that derived from unionized segments of society backed by economic and social power.

    At least that's what my white-skinned lecturers drilled into me.

    Our society is not ready for open debate on certain issues. It just creates conflict. Conflict which has already caused the disruption of services and social networks in our communities. Believe me or not, wave your rights-bearing pennants and banners all you want, sometimes civil and political rights must be balanced with economic, cultural and social ambitions of a people.

    We can be the most Anglophilic rights-spouting pretentious country in the world but if we do that on borrowed funds using borrowed ideals and alien languages then what are we but mere monkeys caught up in a trend?

  7. Ms. Pillay has shifted the focus from gender issues to changing the constitution to allow other religions. I am very critical of her for doing this.

  8. Flogging arouses feeling of shame and helps the culprit from repeating the same sin. It also serves as a lesson for others. Sexual adventure in unlawful relationships has become the most simplest thing among many Maldivians now. Its regretful to see how people attack punishments prescribed by Allah simply because they are afraid of being accused as barbarians by the rest of the world.

  9. If flogging is abolished then every Maldivian will turn into a kaafaru faranjee zineykuraa dhon ooru. We can't have that, can we?

    I say remove all power-lines and stare at the night sky and wonder what punishment Allah has for the person who created electricity to mock Allah.

    We need a Muzaaharaa to protest against the use of electricity. Al-Daulathul Muzaaharaa will shine bright.

  10. What right are you talking about....!? Go and tell Bankee Moooooooooooooon about human rights.

  11. agree with mohamed rasheed, she has absolutely no mandate to do that, and in doing so she has irreparably damaged genuin efforts within the country towards addressing gender issues. she also apparently advocated for muslim women marrying non muslims.....why is that even UN's bussiness?

  12. ...to be flogged or not to be flogged, that is the question!

    Flog the flogger, as it is he, who really deserves it...


  13. Navi Pillay knows a bit about what's going on, but she's ignorant on how intolerant Maldivians can really be. There are hundreds of 'apostates' in the country, all of them living a lie. And why? Because the moment they say so, mullahs will be outside, with swords and what not.

  14. Do men ever get flogged for fornication or it is always poor, abandoned women? As far as women's rights go, muslim countries are generations behind the rest of the world. Thank God I was born a hindu in India. I can do as I please, I can vote, I can drive, I don't go out wearing a ridiculous shroud like garment and I don't need my mehram's permission each time I want to take a leak...........

  15. If flogging for fornication is inhumane and degrading then why do it ? If you cant do the time dont do the crime !

    Its amazing that Pinley wouldnt see the other side of the equation, the fact that these women arrived at the flogging situation was due to them frolicking around with men in bedrooms. If they hadnt done that, then they would not have been flogged in the first place !

    Pinley is only taking one side of the equation ! For example if a thief stuck a knife in Pinley to rob her and then the court convicted the man to jailtime, would Kinley go around saying "ooh jail is such a horrible time. Let this man go free" what kind of idiotic nonsense is that !

  16. PS: The fact that women get caught is because most of the time its the women who get knocked up with the baby ! Having a baby outside of marriage (with no plausible excuse for her bulging belly) becomes irrevocable proof that she went frolicking around outside of Marriage !

    Hah ! What this obviously boils down to is that a man can get away with frolicking around with a woman in the sack, while a woman CANT (CUZ SHE GETS KNOCKED UP AND HER BELLY BECOME PROOF OF HER SIN !).

    And all these woman rights advocants are irritated about this ! They want women to be able to sleep around with other people without fear of being publically flogged ! keke !

  17. @Indira NewDelhi

    Looks whose talking, seems you have sleep for the past 50 years. So thats why you have forgotten everything India is famous for. not to mention the cast system and the dowry. "I don’t go out wearing a ridiculous shroud like garment" Do you expect them to sing your song only yours. Who know they may find your dress more ridicule than them. So stop using your brain on others affairs just use it for yourself. Thanks

  18. We, Muslim Maldivians call upon the UN to debate and decide weather a radical faminist abortionist is suitable to serve as a Human Rights Commissioner at UN?

  19. Pilley has to learn diplomacy from Dr.Waheed, our VP. can somebody paste a link to that pic where our VP Dr.Waheed was welcomed by priests in a prominent hindhu temple in india? See how respectful the Dr was to their culture and religion. Its sad that UN appoints airheads like pilley to prominent positions.. but again, all these appointments are done through political deals, not neccessarily on merit or capabilities.

  20. When the Maldives acceded to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the “Torture Convention”) on 20 April 2004, no reservation has been made by the Maldives and allowing flogging as torture under the Convention. The Maldives has made reservation to all human rights conventions, except the Torture Convention.

    When becoming party to a treaty, a state may formulate reservations, declarations and interpretative statements in order to limit its domestic application beyond what is permissible under the limitations referred to above under the The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT). The Maldives is also a party to (VCLT).

    Upon Accession/Ratification normally the Maldives made the following reservation:

    “The Government of the Republic of Maldives will comply with the provisions of the Convention, except those which the Government may consider contradictory to the principles of the Islamic Sharia upon which the laws and traditions of the Maldives is founded.

    Furthermore, the Republic of Maldives does not see itself bound by any provisions of the Convention which obliges to change its Constitution and laws in any manner. “

  21. Good words! The world well be a better place, if governed by the womans.

  22. @ tsk tsk has the best comment on the maldives situation (above)

    Blindly following the UN Maldives is bankrupt both ideologically and financially. That is why it is running on borrowed ideas and borrowed finance.

    It is obvious that people like @Ali above are running this show and the comment is a proof of lack of imagination or reality.

  23. @Ali
    Only one or two people in Maldives can utter such dry UN jargon... useless.

  24. a showdown is necessary against these fanatics running rampant among the streets of Male, terrorizing the masses,thinking they got the right to express everybody's thoughts when they have no clue what life and the purpose of life is not a victory march for most of us.

  25. @ skipper
    We, Muslim Maldivians call upon the UN to debate and decide weather a radical faminist abortionist is suitable to serve as a Human Rights Commissioner at UN?
    i a muslim maldivian think it is very stupid and is only based on supposition you throwing accusations at her. abortion is appropriate if situation arises to do so. life to dust,ar'nt we all?

  26. any idea where I could listen to the full speech that she gave at the Parliament?


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