Young women’s sexual health is being compromised by “social stigma, religious and social culture,” argues Fathmath Nazeefa, Advocacy Officer at local NGO Hope for Women.
According to Nazeefa, many young Maldivians refrain from accessing the limited sexual health services due to these societal pressures.
“It is apparent in many cases we are lacking information in the family-planning area, early sexual engagements, and in gender stereotyping, which actually makes women to go ahead with child bearing practices even though that is not in their best practice,” Nazeefa told Minivan News.
Her comments came after the body of a new-born baby was discovered in a house in Maafanu yesterday. After local media reported that an 18-year-old committed infanticide after having hidden her pregnancy, police have today confirmed the girl in question was arrested this afternoon.
After being taken into custody at around 2:20pm, the girl’s will be detained for up to fifteen days pending a court appearance.
Nazeefa expressed particular concern over a lack of sexual health education for young women which prevents them from making informed choices.
“To prevent this, we need to educate the young minds starting from adolescents on human anatomy, reproductive health, and build their capacity to protect themselves from being sexually exploited.”
A lack of sexual education, argues Nazeefa, is “depriving [women] of their sexual rights and human rights as well.”
“The ultimate objective has to be the empowerment of girls and women so that they make the right choices,” she concluded.
Rise in Infanticide – DNP reports
Yesterday’s news of the abandoned baby girl – discovered after the mother was forced to seek medical treatment by her family – has brought attention to the issues surrounding sexual health services available to young women.
Local media reported yesterday that the 18 year-old gave birth on her own in the family bathroom, with family members unaware of her pregnancy.
According to one family member, the girl didn’t admit to giving birth – even during a doctors appointment arranged by her family.
“However, doctors kept questioning her about her marital status,” a young female member of the family told local newspaper Haveeru.
According to Maldivian law, the repercussions for fornication out of wedlock is flogging for both the man and the woman involved.
The Maldives is a 100 percent Muslim country, and it’s justice system is based on a hybrid of common law and Islamic Sharia.
Some critics of the justice system have also highlighted the lack of accountability for men in cases of extra marital fornication.
“These women are tainted for life and forever looked down upon. There were a couple of men too, but the islanders did not react in the same way against the men. They seem to be more easily accepted back into society, their sins are generally forgiven or forgotten in time,” a former court official, who wished to remain anonymous, had previously told Minivan News.
Issues regarding a lack of support services for women with unwanted pregnancies in the Maldives have been well-documented in the past.
A report entitled ‘Maldives Operational Review for the ICPD Beyond 2014‘, carried out by the Department of National Planning (DNP), claimed that incidents of infanticide and unsafe abortions are symptoms of a lack of sexual education in young Maldivians.
The report identified, “clear indicators of the imperative need to provide access to information on sexual reproductive health and reproductive health services to the sexually active adolescents and youth population.”
Infanticide also appears to be increasing, as demonstrated by media reports cited in the study, which included several new born babies and few premature babies abandoned in parks, buried in secluded places, or thrown into the sea.
“These are clear indications for the need of life skills programmes and reproductive health education,” the study suggested. “Access and utilisation of contraceptives to avoid unwanted pregnancies must also be advocated to minimise these issues.”