The Supreme Court has enacted new regulations on the enforcement of flogging sentences, specifying conditions and criteria for meting out the Islamic Sharia punishment.
The regulations (Dhivehi) made public yesterday state that the offender must be of sound mind, must not be pregnant, and must not have an illness that could endanger his or her life due to flogging.
Moreover, a sentence for flogging must be implemented after the convict has either exhausted the appeal process or declined to appeal the verdict in the specified period.
Speaking at a ceremony held last month to mark the anniversary of the Criminal Court, Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed revealed that 37 flogging sentences remained unenforced due to alleged lack of cooperation from the relevant authorities.
If the offender is a deaf mute or does not speak Dhivehi, the regulations state that the court should seek a statement through a translator.
The court must also appoint a competent “special employee” to implement flogging sentences.
If the offender is under age when the verdict is delivered, the regulations state that the sentence must be imposed when the offender turns 18 years of age.
Section 222 of the regulations on conducting trials would be abolished once the new regulations come into force.
According to statistics from the Department of Judicial Administration, almost 90 percent of those convicted of fornication or pre-marital sex in 2011 were female.
Of 129 fornication cases in 2011, 104 people were sentenced, out of which 93 were female. This included 10 underage girls, 79 women aged 18-40, and four women above 40 years.
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.
In November 2011, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the authorities to impose a moratorium on flogging and to foster national dialogue and debate “on this issue of major concern.”
“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,” the UN human rights chief told MPs during a maiden visit to the Maldives.
Her remarks sparked protests by Islamic groups outside the UN building and drew condemnation from the Islamic Ministry, NGOs and political parties.
In August 2013, a flogging sentence of a 15-year-old girl rape victim convicted of fornication was overturned following an international campaign.