Past and current presidents call for national rethink on gender rights

Former and current presidents of the Maldives have highlighted the importance of gender equality to national development on the occasion of International World Women’s Day on March 8.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, as well as former Presidents Mohamed Nasheed and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, have all spoken during the last two days on the importance of addressing gender related issues in the Maldives in areas such as domestic abuse and education.

The comments have been made as local independent institutions and civil society groups have alleged that the country has seen a regression in the rights of women and minors in recent years.

Local NGO Voice of Women, which claims to work as an umbrella group supporting other female-focused organisations in the Maldives, said that despite increased participation of women in political activities, there had been a perceived regression in the rights of females and children during the last year.

“The institutions in place to protect them have instead targeted them directly or let them down passively due to inaction,” read a statement by the NGO.

“Experience shows that countries cannot build a true democracy without the full and unhindered participation of fifty percent of our population; today we take the opportunity to recognize the courage and valiantness of the Maldivian women who are fighting against all odds and often times against the most harsh discrimination without taking a single step back, pressing for political reform and to establish a fair democracy in the country.”

The NGO’s statement was particularly critical of the treatment of women under the administration of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, which in recent months has pledged to review laws that it claims have previously victimised women and minors who are victims of sexual abuse.

“The government is unable to destroy the unwavering spirit and determination of the Maldivian women who are confronted with batons, kicked with boots, handcuffed, stomped with shields, pepper sprayed directly into the eyes, and water cannoned while peacefully protesting on the streets or jailed without charges, sexually abused and humiliated while in custody; these heroic women continue to fight for their rights, rights of their children, rights of their children’s children,” the Voice for Women statement claimed.

“They continue to fight for the freedom of their country, for justice, for peace and for democracy.”

Back in April last year, parliament passed the Domestic Violence Bill with broad cross party support as part of efforts to provide a legal framework to protect victims from domestic abuse through protective orders and improved monitoring mechanisms.

In a statement released yesterday addressing the rights of females, President Waheed delivered his best wishes to all women in the Maldives.

“The International Women’s Day is being marked to reflect on the status of women, assess their empowerment, advocate for greater opportunities for women to progress, and seek the support for all for those ends,” read a President’s Office statement.

“It is a high priority of the Maldivian government to support efforts in attaining gender equality in the society. The President highlighted women’s increasing contribution to national development. The increase in women’s contributions to and participation in the development of the country showed the change in the outlook of the people on gender related issues.”

Former presidents speak

Speaking Thursday (March 7) ahead of International Women’s Day, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said that under Islam, men and women were considered equal. He therefore requested an end to the practice of gender discrimination, particularly in obtaining education.

Local newspaper Haveeru quoted Gayoom, who is currently the president of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), as saying that some Maldivian females continued to be denied the opportunity to undertake higher education by their families.

He claimed that “misguided religious beliefs” were often behind such gender discrimination.

Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed was quoted in local media yesterday as calling for a change in how Maldivian men perceived women in general.

According to the Sun Online news agency, Nasheed told Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters gathered at the Dharubaaruge convention centre in Male’ that greater efforts needed to be made in empowering women “in all areas”.

“Not just because of efforts made by a gender ministry, but through transport ministry as well as health ministry as well as education ministry. We need to incorporate women into our main policies,” he was reported to have said.

Nasheed also called for new methods of protecting women against abuse during his address.

“Conservative” attitudes

Despite the calls of some of the nation’s most senior political figures, a recent national study found support for women’s equality was found to have experienced a “significant drop” despite overall progress in improving the human rights situation nationally.

The conclusions were made in the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM’s) second baseline survey on behaviours and attitudes regarding human rights in the Maldives, which was published December 10, 2012.

Male attitudes have become “more conservative” regarding women’s rights issues, whereas female views have become more supportive of rights in some areas, was one of the conclusions raised in the The ‘Rights’ Side of Life” [report].


6 thoughts on “Past and current presidents call for national rethink on gender rights”

  1. I think the complex-problem between men and women still has not been solved. We are all guesstimating, trying to arrive at the right conclusion. An 'attitudinal-change' maybe one way to describe this problem, as my one friend has said. As he puts it- "an attitudinal change in men towards women is necessary for equality and derogation of women to stop. This must start in one's home. A child must see their mothers equal to their fathers". A woman's behaviour is very complex at times, and often men have serious trouble understanding them, reading the diffused, confusing signals that they send or even deciphering the 'clues' they leave behind for you, as they like to put it. We are supposed to follow these 'clues' and 'find' them. Even attempting to decipher such a clue is pointless sometimes. This is in itself a long topic (keke). Men on the other-hand are very forthright I think. The complex relationship between man and woman starts however with nature- men and women are Equal yes, however they are not the same! The burden of child-bearing and other bodily-emotional changes does keep women at a disadvantage (I am not trying to be misogynistic here, just objective mind you)- the problem is we misread this 'weakness', as an excuse to dominate or 'claim' superiority over them. This is a documented behaviour in some men (especially violent-towards-women men). This urge to establish brutish authority over them. Such men actually know there is nothing a woman can do about this (the violence they receive). Perhaps my analysis is also 'biased' because I am a man. It nonetheless has some validations I believe. It is an example of the physically mighty preying on the less physically mighty, and only when we leave behind this brutish-nature (that of man) and realize that to succeed or to 'reign supreme' one does not need to trample on the 'lesser species', only then will women have a safe place in human society. Much more could be said on this, I'd rather not. This is not to discount women's transgressions either, by the way. Women need to understand also that men are 'different', and that you can't really transform them into 'women', for God's sake! You know, make them more like you- the person. That's just not possible. Neither can you keep them locked-away in your homes always (they are not your teddy-bears). They need to go out sometimes, go hunting or something, build homes and smoke fires once in a awhile. Brooding in such instances doesn't really help.

    Women also need to stop playing the weaker-card and organize into 'Stronger Groups' that could keep the 'brutes' in their place. For women there could be strength in numbers, a theory I have been developing. For millennia women have been exploding their hiney's to spawn the human armies that walk this earth and they should have had enough by now. Men still seem to think that they are superior or better though, this is just hilarious. It is difficult to reconcile the sexes for sure. Maybe it is all to do with sex (fornication or copulation), forming bonds of distinction or marriages, making your hive, your nest or something and settling down eventually. All they want is 'babies' afterwards you know. I think I've understood women quite well. For women 'security' is a very important thing (security or closure in a broader context though) and the social-evil remains that those who could end up providing such security and closeness to women, end up shattering that very same security- destroying not only the often close relationship between the sexes, that in itself is so difficult to build to start with, but also the woman itself, which is really so precious to begin with. It should be sacrilegious to harm a female I think. Women are sacred and precious, we must realize this- before it's too late you know. This is the point, they must not be harmed. This is what has not been reconciled, this is man's ego. Women might eventually have to seek enclaves away from men, till it becomes safer for them otherwise, if present trends do not change that is. We were supposed to be there for them, instead we have become their nightmares you see. Kihaa-dherakamehh mee-dhen dhoa (violence against women). Either this, or we start identifying ways to make men more female or vice versa, maybe then we will understand each other better. There is yes gross disparity between the two kinds, however as much so, there must be vast similitude's as well. We must find them.

    Mankind is still fundamentally violent, this is what needs to change. Present understanding of the human brain, the pre-frontal cortex particularly, might be inadequate. Though deficits in this 'area' is currently being associated with violent or anti-social tendencies. Some scientists have hypothesized that impulsive aggression and violence arise as a consequence of faulty emotion regulation. Genetically modifying humans might be the better answer. We can always wait a few hundred more thousand years for a better brain to refashion itself. There might be even bio-chemical or neuro-markers for violence which are yet to be identified, that could be amenable to modulation or modification. All very much a simplification by the way. We must be re-engineered eventually, we might need to be. Those flaws at the genetic-ladder are there for us to realize and correct them. The raw universe comes with often very vile error's also built into it. Anyway till we 'better' figure this out, we will continue to kill each other. All sexes, all ages, all species- human and non-human alike. Progress will be made in half-steps forward and two steps backwards.

    Happy Woman Day.

  2. "Male attitudes have become “more conservative” regarding women’s rights issues, whereas female views have become more supportive of rights in some areas, was one of the conclusions raised in the The ‘Rights’ Side of Life” [report]."

    I wonder if this has anything to do with the recent calls for Shariah Law that's been gaining momentum and some men reinforcing their inner sexist nature formed by the recent women's movement?

  3. @Alex


    On Haveeru news, if you go the comments section where these two pieces were reported, you will see how Maldivians generally think. The neanderthals think females are subhumans, and another inbred neanderthal who went by the name Saudullah wrote an article for Haveeru which explicitly mentions how women are inferior to men. The article was extremely misogynistic and sexist in nature, while islam was used as a basis to support his arguments.

    Will women ever get there rights in the Maldives? Not unless it goes secular that's for sure.

  4. This country is being raped by a cunning, fraud JUDICIARY!
    And all what matters to both genders and the Presidents, past, present and the future, is a GENDER PROBLEM!
    I would be damned!

  5. @Wives and Conk

    The great and powerful 'Wives and Concubines'! The super-computer in Defense Ministry (2nd hand of course) must be working overtime to find you. Not to 'scare you with this gestapo crap' though. Run and hide boy, maybe for all our sake?

    Sometimes we must read and we must write long comments as well. Else our arguments will be too small, I believe. We cannot hope to overcome or become the magnificent West if we cannot engage in such simple dreary discourses or chit-chats to start with eh. Your point noted though, could have structured it better.

    I think we can agree it's still a big-ass world and different groups carry different ideas. Though I do concede we may have to confront these supposed 'subhuman' claims against women and demand better clarifications. It may be better to let women chart their own course for themselves, and leave men out of their discussions. Let women decide how to interpret their concerned doctrines themselves for a change. Nature also does have to take some blame for this, but it is a sink to a whole nother level to derogate women in the way or manner you accuse these 'neanderthals' of. Maybe the hate rhetoric on both sides need to decrease to hear what the other side is trying to say.

    I believe women empowerment cannot mean only westernizing them, maybe I'm wrong. "We live in a world in which women are being paid to be naked, and other women are being fined for being covered'. This cannot be the whole context of empowering women okies.

    The little fight for Mordis women may continue here. The fanatics are however armed now (the Godfather Council has simple rules to follow through to the future- to resolve the 'internet', a 'dress-code' and the 'gangs'. Short-term goals I believe).

    President Saeyku-Anni is a strong proponent of a Secular Maldives. Even Golhaabo has many liberal views on women. Even Adalat may, it is the other minority groups which seem to think they can enforce this 'neanderthal view' more strictly on Mordis women. I stand against this.



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