The Maldivian government has said it remains committed to legislative reforms regarding the treatment of minors and other victims of sexual offences in the country.
President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told Minivan News the government had scheduled meetings next week with the both the environment and Islamic ministries to amend local laws that he contended, in certain cases, punished sexual abuse victims as if they were criminals.
The government last week announced it was looking to review legislation in the country in line with relevant authorities amidst international media coverage of a decision by the Prosecutor General (PG’s) Office to press charges against 15 year-old girl for having “consensual sexual relations”.
In a case unrelated to these charges, the girl’s stepfather was also facing criminal charges for alleged sexual abuse of the minor after authorities last year discovered a new born baby buried in the outdoor shower area of a home on the island of Feydhoo.
Judicial authorities told Minivan News earlier this month that the charges against the 15 year-old were yet to be filed with the Juvenile Court at the time.
Director of the Department of Judicial Administration Ahmed Maajid was not responding to calls today.
After pledging last week to review laws on the back of a number of similar cases where young women had been victimised and punished by authorities – Masood claimed that discussions would be held next week on the treatment of minors and adults who had been sexually abused.
“If needs be we will come out with legislation were victims [of sexual abuse] are treated as victims,” he said. “It’s incredible that sometimes these victims are actually being seen as perpetrators [of crime] under the law.”
Masood added that the government would be making further announcements on its future plans to address these concerns once it had held talks scheduled for next week with ministerial and legislative authorities.
Acting Minister of Gender, Family and Human rights Dr Mariyam Shakeela, Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed and Attorney General Azima Shukoor were not responding to calls at time of press.
The filing of criminal charges of “consensual sexual relations” against the 15 year-old girl were slammed this month as an “absolute outrage” by NGO Amnesty International.
The NGO’s Maldives Researcher Abbas Faiz stressed that suspected victims of rape and sexual abuse required counselling and support rather than facing prosecution.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) Vice President Ahmed Tholal told Minivan News at the time Amnesty’s statement was released that he was hugely concerned about the number of reports of sexual abuse against minors in the country.
Back in September 2012, a 16 year-old girl was sentenced to house arrest and 100 lashes for fornication with a 29 year-old man.
Permanent Magistrate of Hulhudhuhfaaru in Raa Atoll, Magistrate Abdul Samad Abdulla, sentenced the girl to eight months house arrest, and public flogging once she reaches the age of 18.
Ali Rashid, an official of the Hulhudhuhfaaru Magistrate Court,referred Minivan News to Article 25 of the act detailing special actions to be taken in cases of sexual offences against children (Act number: 12/2009).
Article 25 says: “Unless proven otherwise, it cannot be considered that a child between ages 13-18 had given consent to committing a sexual act. And unless proven otherwise, it will be considered that the sexual act was committed without the child’s consent.”
In November 2011, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, speaking in parliament, raised concerns about the issue of flogging in the Maldives.
Pillay said at the time: “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.”
Her statements and calls for discussion on the issue were met with outrage from then political opposition and religious conservative Adhaalath party, giving rise to protests and demonstrations. The Foreign Ministry, under the former government of Mohamed Nasheed, dismissed the calls for discussion on the issue, stating: “There is nothing to debate about in a matter clearly stated in the religion of Islam. No one can argue with God.”