Comment: Discrimination against women in the Maldives

The Ministry of Gender and Family, the Maldives Study on Women’s Health and Life Experiences 2007 suggest that one in every three women undergo some kind of abuse through their life, be it physical, psychological or sexual abuse.

For this reason, as a woman working to empower women, I felt a ray of hope on November 25, 2009, when the parliamentarians endorsed their commitment to the campaign to stop Violence against Women in the Maldives.

Unfortunately, the recent discussions held at the last meeting of the People’s Majlis (Parliament), before they went into recess, were shocking to some of us. Some of the parliamentarian’s crude remarks denote discrimination against women that is unacceptable for the lawmakers of the Maldives.

This is not the first time that such discriminatory, undermining and sexual language has been used toward women on the parliament floor.

The Maldives Constitution ratified in 2008. Chapter 2, article 17 states that everyone is entitled to rights and freedoms without discrimination of any kind including race, national origin, color, sex, age, mental or physical disability, political or other opinion, property, birth or other status, or native island.

In this respect, the United Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Maldives ratified in 1993, specifically stipulates equal rights to women, to stop discrimination against women and places an obligation on the state to provide and protect the rights of women.

It is interesting to note that the parliamentarians did not question the sex of the candidates at the time when the names were sent to the Majlis by President of the Maldives, and when they reviewed and approved the names for the five membership positions of Human Rights Commission (HRCM).

The discussion heated up when it became apparent the President [Mohamed Nasheed] had sent female nominations for the President and Vice-President of HRCM, which are high positions.

Why is it that the thought processes of the parliamentarians then turned upside down? The parliamentarians did not debate over why women were not nominated for bench of Supreme Court, nor why there is only one woman elected for both the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and no woman sitting in Elections Commission.

The majority of the public and private sector do not provide equal opportunities for women when it comes to decision-making positions. These high positions and are not barred by Islam, and neither by the Maldivian Constitution.

The media lacks awareness about women’s rights and the importance of promoting gender equality. The misconception spread about gender equality is that women and men are equal. This is incorrect – the correct account is that men and women are biologically different because of their sex but gender is socially constructed.

This means that there are positions or jobs that the society believes that either men or women can do. This is the interpretation that the parliamentarians had when they had the discussions on the last day before recess.

If women’s names had been approved by parliamentarians according to their first deliberations, the approval should be based on their competency. The deliberations on the Majlis floor indicate lack of knowledge about women’s issues and women’s problems.

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29 thoughts on “Comment: Discrimination against women in the Maldives”

  1. There is lot of qualified and competent women in this country and they should be appointed to the independent commissions. Why? Because half of our population consists of women and that should be recognized. The first independent commission – hrcm – was constituted according to Paris Principles which provides guidelines for constituting national human rights institutions in countries and that is why there are at least two women members. If any importance was given to the PP in constituting other such institutions as well, there would be more women in all independent institutions. The first CSC was going to have 5 men and it was only because of the intervention of the hrcm, a woman was included in the membership. The ACC has one woman member but the Elections none. And this is deplorable. It is high time women got the recognition they fully deserve in our society. I would like to see a woman succeed me as president of the hrcm.

  2. These bunch of bigots should be voted out from the parliament. They fail to realize that they are in the twenty first century. Sadly, these are the kind of morons created by Gayoom and his clan. People like Ilham and Ali Waheed, actually, immature kids, have got their boot size all muddled up! Just because they could talk face to face with that Gayoom man they think they are in "Sidrathul Munthahaa"! They are the laughing stock of this country. The likes of Hassan Saeed and his collaborator Jameel are already on their way jumping into this bandwagon.

  3. Each showing their true colour...saying one thing, but believing and doing something else! About time common people stand up against this discriminatory behavior! Having said that... sad to say that we Maldivians deserve this parliament...we elected it's the curse we put on us!

  4. The truth is that it is also the belief of more than just those MPs who spoke out, that there should not be two women as the leaders of the commission. Misogyny is rampant in our community and it is a shame there is no public outcry against such blatant sexism.

    This is unacceptable behavior from our MPs, but unfortunately representative of the populous they serve.

  5. In Saudi they know a woman's place. They wont have any nonsense about women in cars, or going to space, let alone women in government. It is their firm belief that women are for the exquisite pleasure of men, to be wrapped up like lolly pops to be unravelled only by the husband when he gets the urge to look up wife number 3. Why am I talking about Saudi. Because Maldivians right from the ruling classes down to the ordinary believe that the Saudi's are our cultural masters, Islam our religion and everyone should aspire to as Arabic as possible, even though out there they treat you like trash.

  6. Hold right there Ayya. The Saudi treatment of women has very little to do with Islam and much to do with their own culture dating to pre-Islamic times.

    Salim Waheed says its a shame that we have no public outcry. When did we EVER have a public outcry over anything? The Maldivian public has been conditioned to subservience of their masters for thousands of years. They will riot and loot only out of pure self interest!

  7. always womens right, always discrimination. wot the foolish they are talking. what if every man and women go out and work..???? womns and man can do everything..

  8. Most of the MP's in the Majlis are there not because they are educated, experienced and capable. They are there because money talks. This is something everyone knows. So with such people prejudice against gender is not least surprising. They have almost basic education and no experience in politics at all. So this is what those Maldivians who voted for them wanted and we are seeing the results.

  9. i think parliamentarians should be accountable, everyone forgets he said she said this in Parliament by the time elections come around, so if i could refresh the minds once more, "DRP Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed said that while he considered the people appointed for HRCM as capable, the role of President and Vice President “should include a male.” (By JJ Robinson 2010 | -minivan news) and Independent MP for Kudahuvadhoo, Ahmed Amir, said it was “against human rights” to have two females in the roles of President and Vice President.-minivan news . i don't know about you but , since 50% of Maldivians are females, i reckon some women must have voted in these 2 people. so my advise to women and men who believe in equality is to withhold your vote for these 2 next elections, even if they represent your party , better yet put pressure on your party to drop these two . this way in the future things like this will be less and less, unless of course you want to give your votes to people who think you are in-equal .

  10. remember these people are there cause YOU/WE elect them, so we are responsible for their stupidity in the long run..... sad but true (:, next time lets be wiser !!

  11. Jefrry Salim Waheed and Afiya,
    The truth is FIRST we Maldives got a Parliment MPs with Street thugs (Ali Waheed, Nihan, Mahloof, MDP Mustafa..etc), Crony big time theif businessmen MPs (Gasim, Thasmeen, Reko Moosa, Riyaz ..etc Shameless bunch!!), family napotic MPs (Hamdhoon, Yameen..etc), so called independent MPs (but political prositutes (goes for highest bidder) such as Mutalib, Dufaafaru Zubair)
    SECOND, we got an Excective with a President who is working extremely hard but with a Vice President (Jef Salim your father) who is extremly indifferent to the public demands and he enjoys his title without any work with his napotic apointiments in various ministries and Embassies. We also have political appointees who are hired as a debt for their serivice during reform process but extremely USELESS and have no clue how a government is to be run! We also have some corrupt businessmen in executive like Adil Saleem, Akram ..etc who the rest!
    THIRD, we have a substandard Judicial system with no where close to anywhere with EXTREMLY Corrupt judges and Lawyers who wants nothing more than MONEY MONEY (ranging from Shah Hussain, Shaheen Hameed, Munwar & Co to Suood & Co!..funny you will see their lawyers represented on both all sides in one case!!..even parties) Then you also have Nut cases such as Dr.Hassan and Dr.Temper Jameel who needs to fullfil their ego and money with presidency and nothing less!
    Last but not least we have "RAW" MODEL LADIES like Aneesa (ex-MP, Ex Minister, Ex Wife..Ex Girl friend), Azima..etc who cannot have a healthy family or marriage! And these bunch advocate for women rights and humanrights while they mostly weakens it! Then we have "sick and selfish" Ex-Humanrights commissioner Saleem who only see Jaariya even in school going girls and enjoys by performing his sick desires with his sick eyes!!
    Now tell me how to rectify this system! Boy oh boy we need something to rock this system!! I hope Anni can do it!
    Opps I almost forgot we do also have some religious scholars who doesnt practice what they preach and make "nessary allowances for the boss"!!
    May Allah Sw help this country!!

  12. Women should be respected with equal rights based on their capabilities. But if there is a policy of favoring women, it is bound to be abused.

    Just look at the many women used as pawns by power hungry men in the name of affirmative action. In the end women gets the blame.

    Of-course our dumb feminists think it helps women.

  13. Jerry,

    Let me address your blatant lies.

    Firstly, the Vice President put none of his family members into government. The party, GIP suggested only ONE of my uncles as a political appointee. No others. The others got their positions against GIP's approval because of their relationship with MDP.

    As for the Vice President's work, he is the most capable person in this government. The problem is that his work is frustrated at every turn. He knows how to run a government because he has built administrations bigger than what we have in Maldives from the ground up. He has worked in hardship duty stations and managed budgets far larger than what this country has to work with.

    You accuse the Vice President of enjoying his position, but in your ignorance you do not realize that he's in a worse position now than he's been in the last decade. He's taken 60% pay cut to be here and work for his people and he loses a little of his savings for every month he's here. All for the love of his people and the hope of being able to do the job that he was elected for.

    Jerry, you are everything that is wrong with this country. Instead of trying for compromise and moving forward, instead of working for the people - you would have us turn on each other and rip out each other's throats. With your attack on Aneesa and Azima because of "marriage and healthy families" - as if this is the only duty of a woman, you show a level of misogyny that makes me ashamed of you. Accusing Saleem of pedophilia, really!? You rant spreading lies and rumor with no base in reality.

    A society can only be judged according to how it treats its weakest members. Without equality, without changing our preconceptions to join the 21st century we will be lost as a people. And though there are those of us who still stand in the darkness of the middle ages, let the rest of us stand in the light of our time.

  14. Jef Salim,

    Its very easy to blame on the tools and system! You ask any typical educated maldivian..they will tell u how napotic Maldivian rulers are including your father! So its not me alone who is saying it! You keeps denying it!
    About NanReethi Saleem..ask any Maldivian how anti Islamic and sick his mind is! Anybody who have had a chat would know this is true! Perhaps like your dad you are out of date and out of country to know whats happening here! So I advice you to stay in country for next 5 years..before you become a preacher of Democracy and rights!

  15. @Afiya/4th Sep 2010
    'Then you also have Nut cases such as Dr.Hassan and Dr.Temper Jameel who needs to fullfil their ego and money with presidency and nothing less!' Wich educated crowd was in favor uf bring'n thee 'nutcases'2 the post uf Maldivian Republic's president at the time? hehe now this so caled Elite group who was in favor uf this idea are opposin' the same idea knowing that there's little chance for this to happen and hence realise there's a good chance to get into the political arena.So wat's the diff in the coconut vendors in the market and this bunch? Therefore don mention abt making masbaiy because it's something more wrong for the future of the nation.

  16. Thank you Afiya. Yes, this country has a long way to go. Most MPs are totally uneducated and lack ethics.

    What Maldives is going through has been lived by Western Societies 100 years back, the unwillingness of men to allow the women to come out and compete with them on an equal basis. Wah! women's decisions are supposed to be fuzzy because of her "weaker" emotions..her judgement are supposed to be biased and her witness is unacceptable...... but gncha...gncha...gncha... look at these MPS reeling around and some of the reactions on the issues about women's right ...if all this has not got to do with emotions, I wonder what

  17. Democracy and Human Rights are universal values. They are universal across cultures and nations and ever present within our religion.

    I will deny lies wherever they appear and i will do whatever i can to make sure falsehoods do not flourish. Just because one or two people believe in our corruption does not make it true. We are the only party who make available our financing details. Who have our internal audits by the International firm Ernest and Young available to the public. We have nothing to hide because we do have the best interests of the people at heart.

    Politics is what is getting in the way. But that does not mean we surrender. That we allow the state of the nation continue as is. We fight against darkness, oppression, and yes even misrepresentation.

  18. guys like jerry are totally unfit to participate in an intellectual discussion of any kind. jerry would be doing himself and others a great favour if he refrains himself from commenting until he understands what constructive critism is and how it can contribute to our society.

  19. Just totally blown away by the blatant sexism being demonstrated by our Honourable DRP Majlis members. I consider these statements unacceptable and a slap in the face of all women in our country. A violation of human rights to have women in leadership positions? Is this the DRP policy on women?

  20. Salim.
    I heard your party gave "unknown" funds to many ex-drug addicts who wanted to become MPs! I also heard out of the 5 members of your party so called Council is your father, your mother and your uncle Ilyas Hussain. So much for transparency and accountability! By the way your from your human rights definition Gay and drinking alcohol is allowed as long as some one wants it and also if a women wants to wear hijab on her own desire its considered Injustice and oppression for women! Your islam is a twisted version of USA! Don't just shout! look deep into your souls dear!

  21. Bari,

    What jerry have said is true! Go and see whats happening in Maldivian ordinary politics! You guys call for cosmetic human rights and democracy! But in real you want nepotism like Salim's fathers party! And if you cannot tolerate one individual's critics then you better refrain from the discussion! Jerry didnt go and bomb your home or send gangs or drugs addicts to harm you like many maldivian politicians do! They pretend to be nice and innocent!

  22. when people don't know how to comment decently on an article..what more could anyone do to this country....does attacking people personally solve the problems..
    @Afiya ..nice article..and salim don't even try explaining..

  23. Telling how people behave in this country is not a sin! We Maldivians have lived in denial and dark for ages! People need to know how some of our top Politician live in Alcohol, Gay, Sex out side marriage and dishonesty!! This is wide spread in Maldivian politics! The very women and Men who calls for defending women rights are seen abusing women for their sexual lust! Small girls are abused..but in public they call for women and human rights! Whats this?? Lets be honest for a second!

  24. There are Maldivian politician having two or more girls as personal sex slaves from Atoll ..but on public eye they are drivers of his/her car and housemaids! And these facts are know to all levels of Politicians and top brass of Maldivian State..but what do they do? laugh and say "thats how society is"!!

  25. Naseem,

    We never gave any funds to drug addicts or dealers. We simply don't have the money to give like that. Moreso, we also refuse to give money on principle. That is the kind of patron-client relationships we're trying to remove from this country.

    As for our council, out of the 12 people, yes both the Vice President and the Second Lady is on it. The second lady, even more so than the Vice President, built that party. She did much of the leg work and during the MDP Itthihaad campaign was sent in opposite directions as the Vice President so that we could cover more territory and appeal to larger audiences.

    We need more strong and independent women alike the First and Second Ladies of this country.

    As for women who wear hijabs, i have many friends who are girls who do. I do not like it, but I do accept it. I will never support anyone's decision to wear a Hijab because I do not believe it is part of our religion. But i accept it because of their God given human rights to free will. Their God given right to make their own decision.

    Judgement is only for God. Not us.

  26. Salim - couldnt resist admiring your stand and determination.

    Dont loose heart over idiotic comments.

    keep going

  27. @Salim

    Quote: "As for women who wear hijabs, i have many friends who are girls who do. I do not like it, but I do accept it. I will never support anyone’s decision to wear a Hijab because I do not believe it is part of our religion. But i accept it because of their God given human rights to free will. Their God given right to make their own decision. "
    WELL SAID SALIM WAHEED!! Its really explain your religion of Secularism! "I do not believe it is part of our religion" Salim waheed its not for you to decide what SHOULD be in Islam and What shouldnt be! Majority of Islamic Scholars accept Women AND men must dress modestly!!! For you is your religion (Secularism) and for us is our religion (Islam)! Allah Sw will judge for sure! It wont be long! I have no enemity with you personaly..its just that you confuse and purposely alter whats in Islam on your writings!

  28. It may be helpful if we could start a constructive dialogue to improve the future of Maldives - rather than finger pointing, ridiculing each other and name calling. I just could not resist myself without commenting. Express with dignity. What you give eventually come back to you. Just like the law of gravity. Good deeds are returned with good deeds. 🙂


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