Comment: Maldivian leaders must act now to protect women, girls and the country’s reputation

In the last two weeks, nearly two million people across the world – including many people in the Maldives – have reacted in horror to the tragic story of a 15-year-old rape victim sentenced to be publicly flogged.

Sadly, this terrible case highlights a wider injustice: the yawning gap between the punishments applied to men and women in the Maldives.

A 2007 study by the Maldivian government’s own Ministry of Gender and Family showed that as many as one in three women between the ages of 15 and 49 have suffered either physical or sexual abuse. And fornication requires both a man and a woman, but 90% of those sentenced to flogging in the Maldives in 2011 were women.

How is this situation a reflection of justice, Islamic or any other kind?

It’s a good sign that the president has called on the attorney general to review the case of the 15-year-old girl, and that current laws and child protection mechanisms are being reviewed. But the citizens who signed this petition want to see further action: they want to know that other vulnerable women and girls in this country never have to go through such an ordeal. As we know, this is not the first time an incident like this has occurred: a similar sentence was handed out to a 14-year old during the last government.

This is why the petition calls for a moratorium on flogging and better laws to protect women and girls. It does so not to challenge the principles of Islamic law – in fact many people from across the Muslim world, including Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt have signed it, many of whom are practicing Muslims themselves and do not see flogging as ingrained in sharia law. This petition is not anti-Islamic justice: it’s pro-justice, particularly justice for women.

Contrary to some reports, the petition is also not an attack on the Maldivian people. Far from it. We stand in solidarity with the many Maldivians who are very concerned about this case, and the campaign urges the country’s leaders to act quickly to rescue the Maldives’ image, before this tragic case does any more damage to the vital tourist trade.

Around the world people are interested (and have a right to know) what kind of systems they’re supporting with their tourism dollars, and to make their holiday decisions accordingly. Richard Branson, head of Virgin Holidays groups and Virgin Airways, has warned of “enormous damage” to the country’s reputation unless serious action is taken.

Much of the media coverage has focused on a threatened “tourism boycott” – but we have never called for a full boycott of the important tourist trade and we’re engaging with the government right now to get action. What we do stand ready to do, however, is to inform tourists about what action is and isn’t being taken by the Maldives government to resolve this issue and change the law, and to identify those MPs and resort owners who are using their influence to push for positive change – and those who are not.

Furthermore, this petition is not aligned with any particular political party or faction in the Maldives. Avaaz is a 20 million strong global organisation that has campaigned for justice across the world on issues of the environment, human rights and conflict. One our most successful campaigns last year was to get countries to back Palestine’s bid for UN statehood – in the face of powerful, well-financed opposition from Israel and the United States.

There are countries that have poorer records when it comes to defending women’s rights, but when extreme cases spark the global public conscience it is crucial to call for respect for basic human rights whether it is the US, India or the Maldives. And this is just one of many battles for women’s rights Avaaz members have fought globally. In Afghanistan and Somalia, we’ve helped protect young women who bravely spoke out about horrific rapes by security forces; across the world, from India to the United States, we’ve lobbied for real action to counter the growing ‘rape trade’ in trafficked women and girls. This petition is part of that wider cause; to address flagrant injustices against women worldwide, and to build a better world for our mothers, sisters, daughters and wives.

Nearly a million tourists visit the Maldives every year because this country is known as a peaceful, romantic paradise. Now, double that number have signed this petition and that reputation is in jeopardy. But it’s not too late to rescue it. The Maldives is on a journey of democratic improvement. We want to support that journey.

Right now, it’s in the hands of the President and the People’s Majlis to protect Maldivian women – not only by ensuring this sentence is quickly overturned and this girl freed, but by speaking out against flogging now, and ensuring a bill that ends flogging and upholds girls and women’s right is tabled in parliament.

The fate of Maldivian women and girls, and the country’s progress and reputation, lies in their hands.

Ricken Patel is the executive director of

This letter was first offered to Haveeru, SunOnline and Channel News Maldives, all of which declined the invitation to publish it.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


45 thoughts on “Comment: Maldivian leaders must act now to protect women, girls and the country’s reputation”

  1. Very well written piece. I wonder if deputy tourism minister Maleeh will be able to see the true issue here, rather than looking over it and claiming "it's an MDP plot to destroy tourism". Huge problems with the mentality of the decision makers in this country.

  2. Well, the issue for many Maldivians about the petition was that the wordings of the petition were kinda misleading. Many locals interpreted It as an attempt to destroy the fragile Tourism Industry rather than protecting the girl.

    Here is what it states:

    ==Posted: 20 March 2013
    "It's hard to believe, but a 15-year-old rape survivor has been sentenced to be whipped 100 times in public! Let's put an end to this lunacy by hitting the Maldives government where it hurts: the tourism industry.

    The girl's stepfather is accused of raping her for years and murdering the baby she bore. Now the court says she must be flogged for “sex outside marriage” with a man who has not even been named! President Waheed of the Maldives is already feeling global pressure on this, and we can force him to save this girl and change the law to spare other victims this cruel fate. This is how we can end the War on Women – by standing up every time an outrage like this happens.

    Tourism is the big earner for the Maldives elite, including government ministers. Let's build a million-strong petition to President Waheed this week, then threaten the islands' reputation through hard-hitting ads in travel magazines and online until he steps in to save her and abolish this outrageous law. Sign now and share this with everyone!" ==

    As you can see, the petition was launched on 20 March 2013, nearly ONE MONTH after the Government released a media statement assuring the its International Stakeholders to take all necessary steps to protect the child.

    It is important to note that Maldives is a very young democracy trying to ‘fast-track’ the development of its democratic institutions. Very few countries have undergone such a rapid process.

    The new Constitution only came into place in 2008, and many of the associated bills have not yet been passed in Parliament. Over the past four to five years, the Government has been striving to pass the necessary bills in Parliament.

    The Act of Special perpetrators of Child Sexual Abuse was enacted in 2009, a large number of bills remain pending that are essential to reform the criminal justice sector.This includes the criminal procedure code, the amendments to the child rights act, as well as the revised Penal code and the Juvenile Justice Bill.

    The Government called the Parliament, in its Media Statement on 28 February 2013, to pass these bills urgently.

    Like every other democracy, the three powers Judiciary, the Parliament and the Executive are three separate powers.

    The Government is doing everything possible to ensure that justice is served and the rights of the child are protected. The core issue, is the law. It is for this reason, that the President has established a Committee to discuss how sensitive issues of this nature can be handled by the law. This shows the Government’s resolve for taking on difficult issues by changing laws and regulations on child protection.

    What i don't understand is why everyone always attack the Executive branch of the Country.. y not the Parliament who are supposed to pass these bills?

    I would have signed the petition if its wordings were not misleading. Its aim was to threaten the whole country, while knowing that thousands of locals are dependent on the industry.

    A decrease on tourist arrivals will affect the common people heavily.

    In my opinion, By the time the country changes its laws, it will be too late.. all the damage would already be done.. they can destroy it, but will never ever try to acknowledge what the country does.. as its not their mandate to heal the various other damage caused once their objective has been achieved.

  3. I have a feeling that on this one case she may not get flogged but the law will not change.

    The people of Maldives are regressing to the dark ages for some reason. Compare Maldives in the 90's to now. Women are becoming more and more marginalised by society: Way more people can been seen wearing burqas, the numbers of women obtaining a higher education is not where it should be, the abuse levels are alarmingly high and their lives in terms of who they can marry, where they work, where they travel and who they interact with can be controlled by the man "in charge" of them. This regression is exactly what happened in afghanistan after the 60s. Don't let it happen here.

    For a true change we need a separation of religion and state. Look at the laws objectively and really ask ourselves if our law system is fair and just to everyone and protects marginalised groups such as women, children, the elderly, people of other faiths & no faiths, people with different gender identification and sexual orientation. After all, aren't they people too just as deserving as everyone else in the pursuit of happiness?

    Maldives may think all its citizens are good little muslims but they are wrong and I am proof of that. You can't control who someone is as a person with the threat of imprisonment. You can make someone lie about it as I do to protect myself from prison and death. That threat is why people still think it is a muslim country.

    We may be a minority at the moment but since we are now a democracy we need representation and sponsorship at the government level. Please don't subject us to your way of life just because we were born into a time where you think your way of life is the correct one.

    Regardless of what party you belong to and which will come to power, I plead that you bring a real change for the betterment of this country and all of its citizens. Not just yours and people who think like you.

  4. This is the power of internet media. Avaaz is a success story. People pay money to this private organisation in the name of donations to run this type of compaigns. It is always about the money, stupid.

  5. @Jambey

    Please use a bit of sense when shooting your mouth off.

    First of all this petition is completely in alignment of Avaaz's mission. Secondly, it is a petition. Which means it was real people who called for a change. And finally this is a real issue. People should not be getting flogged at all especially for victimless non-crimes. End of story.

    So whether someone paid or not, no one cares. I highly doubt it too as when I first read about it, it really angered me as well and drove me to campaign against it too.

  6. The countries leaders are cohone-less. The country has a lot of educated people, who has got the knowledge to live in a globalized world. But it also has the 'useless' educated like the religion scholars.

    In a globalized, interconnected world, the religion scholars are damn useless. If the scenario is evolving to make the religion scholars practically irrelevant, they will fight back. And our leaders just dont have the guts to face these radicals and suicide nut bags.

  7. Well, the barbarians will have to bend their ways if they need the mighty dollars.

  8. @ Andre Andreas on Sat, 6th Apr 2013 5:54 PM

    "And our leaders just dont have the guts to face these radicals and suicide nut bags."

    The "nut bags" are backed by the likes of Saudi Arabia that has vested interests in keeping this state of affairs. Of course, Saudi Arabia itself is one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, with double standards and gross inequality that we cannot even fathom.

    Up till recently, I was under the misguided impression that only Muslims were allowed in the holy lands of Makkah and Medina. How wrong was I! If you have enough money, then you can practically do whatever you want in ANY land. As an example, Paris Hilton is sporting her new hairdo right in the middle of the holy land:

    So, what's my point? Good question. Well, the point is that whilst the Saudis are quite happy to indulge with their left hand in all the worldly luxuries (including Paris Hilton), with their right hand, they seem to be hell bent on keeping and spreading Wahhabism wherever they can.

    It's not that they need the tourists in Makkah, not whilst the oil flows out of the ground anyway. Like all nuts who use religion as a tool, Islam helps the Al-Saud family to keep their iron grip on the Arabian peninsula. Imitators such as Gayyoom, Gasim, Waheed etc follow their footsteps.

  9. The best way to save the reputation of the country is to vote the yellow force out of politics for good. but the problem is the others don't have a clear leader to unite them. The problem with MDPians that they are just too reckless. They will want to put their man in top job at the cost of their lives or the whole country. Its a very dangerous mindset.

  10. It beomes more interesting when our UNDEMOCRATICALLY UNELECTED President wishes to team up with the Adaalath to take on the MDP? Again, he wants to save the day but since the coup, he has upped Police and Military force to gag protest and opinion. Can he seriuosly expect thiese double standards will go un noticed. The reputation of our good tourism name is at stake now without democracy and especially without an open and fair election.

  11. Had no idea the Maldives was so backwards compared to the rest of the world. Horrible to think you do this to fellow human beings. We are not coming to your country on holiday now on principle. We thought you still had the worlds first democratically elected President in the Islamic world, clearly things have changed.

  12. Dear Avaaz,

    you are just 20 million,islam is 1 billion plus which means more than 1 in every 6 people alive in this world are people who follow the rules that Mohammed brought 1400 years ago.Ask yourself why and keep asking, cox islam is spreading and by 2030 don't be surprised if one in every 2 people is a muslim(muslim men seem to be very fertile :P)in addition to the millions of converts.What would you do than about democracy?The more islam is attacked the more it spreads.
    Now the point here is did anyone ask the girl what she wants?She is supposed to be a muslim and according to islam flogging gives her REDEMPTION.if she has psychological problems what more would be better for her than knwoing that God has forgiven her and she is free to start life all over????She has a life to live and can't live it full of guilt.Instead of using her to spread your agenda (which clealry contradicts the faith and choice of millions of people) ask the girl what she wants(she isn't a minor according to HER faith)!! The christians go to some ordinary man and tell him all their stories and cry like babies to get redemption.In all logical senses floggoing is a far better means to gain redemption from the Supreme and Mighty.

  13. @human being on Sat, 6th Apr 2013 8:14 PM

    "The best way to save the reputation of the country is to vote the yellow force out of politics for good."

    How do you propose to do that? The "yellow force" that you speak of consists of thousands of ordinary Maldivians. Their opinion may differ from yours, but that's not sufficient grounds to "force them out" as you say.

    Hitler tried that sort of tactic 60 odd years ago. Look where that led to.

  14. @How on Sat, 6th Apr 2013 11:09 PM

    "How about putting your native country in order first Patel bai"

    Is Canada really that out of order?

  15. Yes, the people from Qubec have been fighting independence. Also the Red Indians.

    When did Patels become native born Candians?

  16. @Ahmed
    Hitler didn't do any of the things you imagine he did. Had he won the war Chruchhill would have been the Hitler we know of. He just lost the war and after that the victors wrote history.

  17. @ Ahmed Bin Addu Bin Suvadheeb
    "Hitler tried that sort of tactic 60 odd years ago."

    Exactly this is the main issue. Just like Hitler, Nasheed came through a democratic process and then become a dictator.

  18. AbdulMumeet on Sun, 7th Apr 2013 12:19 AM

    There are not as many muslims in the world as you would beleive. The Maldives claims to be 100% muslim, but let me tell you some facts. I know dozens of you that don't follow Islam, yet the claim is all 300,000 of the population is muslim, the figures are a complete lie.

    The actual truth is more people are leaving Islam than convert each year and even more that haven't followed the teachings for generations.

    Second fact the majority of Islamic countries dont give their females equal rights so their voice cannot be added to your 1.2 billion, yet the 20 million voices are raised in free speech which will have more impact against force fed religious brain washing.

  19. human being on Sun, 7th Apr 2013 11:00 AM

    What history books have you been reading? Oh i forget you get taught the twisted version from the small minded zealots who qualified in a cave in Afghanistan.

    My grandfather fought in world war 2 and the most disgusting thing he came across was a 2 SS Divisions manned fully by Muslims, so the truth is your faith sided with Adolf Hitker, yet choose to call yourself the religion of tolerance.

    Google Skanderbeg Division & Handschar Division to see the blood on muslim hands and the reasons why you deny the holocaust.

  20. @DMF

    Don't be so naive.So you think the 20 million who signed it are saints who have never mistreated a woman??that is your argument r8! check the world population figures properly,in muslim minority countries the like india and china the figures are projected much lower than the actual number and also there are many muslims living in the west who hide their faith.When you talk about liberalism learn to respect other's faith and beliefs.They may see what you may not be able to for even you don't properly know the truths of don't claim to!!

  21. @DMF

    Just because your grandfather fought somewhere give you any weight as to the facts of the of the war.

    Upgrade your knowledge.

    Start with Codoh. Here is a link to a good place to start with.

  22. Is this only the country that is having any issues with the women ?

    There number of prostitutes working in so called developed countries ? Do you think they are doing it just because they were obsessed with sex.

    No they not and they were forced to engage in the sex trade and i suggest to have a similar petition to stop those forced sex labour immediately.

    All this propaganda is run by Nasheed and he want this country to ruin and he never want anything good to happened for the country.

    Why people are not talking about or concerned about the forced child labour and forced child sex , forced sex labour which are happening in India ?

    Are those people are not human being ? See how many children were engaged in Indian Factories and see how many children are engaged in forced sex labour ?

    Why international community had given a blind eye on this ?

    Was that a small issue compared with what happened in Maldives for juts handful people.

  23. AbdulMumeet on Sun, 7th Apr 2013 2:48 PM

    I respect all faiths, its Muslims who can't respect others. You follow the words of old men and believe it is gods word.

    Put it this way do you believe God can make a mistake? Your scholars will state the all mighty Allah makes no mistake, yet he gave men a foreskin, but you all cut it off. Isnt that going against Gods creation?

    Yet some old men state the girl must be flogged in the name of religion. I doubt Allah would agree, but now i would be held as a sinner for doubting the word of Allah written by MEN.

  24. About 3000 years before Iranian philosopher Zoroaster simplified the human behavior that springs out form evil and good, the reward for good by heaven and evil to be punished in hell and major religions, Judasim, Christianity and Islam was influenced by Zoroastrianism, today with advance of psychology and science we all know how the evil and good manifests in human nature. We know evil and good is social construct that mainly created from genes and cultural influences. As we evolve our perception for good and bad change. we know today that most important thing in life is individual freedom and liberty, we have to leave the individual to deiced what is good and bad for him, and let him exercise his free will if it does not effects with the freedom and liberty of others. Islam also confirms that evil and good is genealogical and a social construct. Islam believes no individual has his own power that influences his behaviors and all is will of Allah. Therefore we can’t punish people with torture and killing. If Allah says people behave with the will of Allah, how could he have ordered to punish people for doing things that some believe immoral. It is time for Maldives to get out of ignorance and start using their own brains instead of listening Mullahs.

  25. We should stand up for Human rights. But the present global human rights agenda is a neo-colonial tool.

    If big countries really care about human lives, why not intervene in Somalia, Ethiopia.

    Why is human rights agenda is used to cherry pick and choose? Using Asian born and non-whites is practical for PR purposes, but the absolute cynicism of this thing stinks.

  26. This begins here with Gayoom regime the Girls were forced with sex by the Gayooms Brother in law Ilyas Ibrahim and danging children in to Prostitution became fashion in Maldives

  27. Espero que escuchen las voces de las personas que les pedimos tomen medidas ante los abusos sufridos por las mujeres en su pais. Lo contrario puede suponer que nos planteemos el hacer turismo en su precioso pais.Sin mas un afectuoso saludo.

  28. @Kuribee

    You called a rape victim a prostitute. People like you deserve to die. Violently. At the hands of rape victims.

  29. Bis-mil-laa-hir Rah-maa-nir Ra-heem.
    Al-ham-du lil-laa-hi Rab-bil aa-la-meen.
    Ar-Rah-maa-nir Ra-heem
    Maa-li-ki yaw-mid-deen.
    Ee-yaa-ka na -bu-du wa ee-yaa-ka nas-ta- een.
    Ih-di nas si-raa-tal mus-ta-qeem
    Si-raa-tal la-zee-na an- am-ta a-lay-him.
    Ghay-ril magh-doo-bi a-lay-him wa-lad-daal-leen.

    This is the most important phase in Koran and the first thing we learn in being a Muslim.

    If you can't figure that are not fit to call yourself a Muslim.

    End Flogging! Period!

  30. I'm a Muslim who respects all faiths - but this isn't the issue here. This is a good thing that's happened and I pray for all the women across the Muslim world who are subjugated by cultural practices that have been twisted into religious ones in order to further empower men over women. It is an issue that needs to be addressed but what these Muslims do should not be confused with Islam itself, my family and myself see it as a tolerant religion that calls for peace and equality between the sexes. I think anyone of any belief can and should unite to make sure justice is achieved and to give hope to those suffering.

  31. it is not Islam that is in the wrong. It is the practise of the religion itself. Islam gave women full rights while the practise of Islam, which came after the prophet, twisted it around and somehow women ended up being subjugated and subordinate to the men who were supposedly destined to rule.

    Maldives was a country practising a version of Islam, that was compatible with our culture and our history when radical elements came into our society, and introduced a version that is incompatible with what we have been used to. This sentence and countless others is an example of this manifestation!

    Shariah is not black and white. There is grey in it. It is open to interpretation. As it was, after the Prophet (SAW) passed away. But judges today in the Maldives seems to have forgotten this.

  32. je partage totalement l'esprit de ce site et c'est important que le plus grand nombre soit sensibilité à toutes ces injustices. Salutations !

  33. If the Maldivian Government will not conform to humanitarian behaviour, perhaps we should stop doing business with them. We need to boycott the airlines and tourism companies that do business there. Money is the only voice they hear. We must stop giving them ours.

  34. It is hard to believe that anyone would punish a child for having been raped, meaning having been forced to have sex against her will. Such a girl is not only innocent, but a victim, deserving of loving care. The man who raped her should be punished, not the girl!

    Anyone who believes the Merciful One wants one of His beloved innocent abused creatures to be punished on top of the crime already committed on her does not have the slightest idea Who and how the Merciful One is, and what he requires of us.

  35. Congratulations to Ricken: his article is cogently-written, balanced, fair and effective. The important thing in extreme situations is not to jump to extremes oneself. Ricken has shown the example by avoiding this danger.

    With kind regards,

    Adam Warren.

  36. PS:
    Some here name wrongs done in other countries committed by other people, and ask why there is no criticism on those abuses.

    But there is, and plenty. Read the newspapers of Western countries, watch Western TV. See how many wrongs are being addressed by them, including the wrongs done in the West itself, besides the wrongs abroad.

    Avaaz addresses all kinds of different issues from all over the world, so this particular one is but one of many.

  37. I rarely write comments as there are other people who can put my opinion more elequently. However, having read the comments I could not let some of them to pass by without my input. I'm sorry, have I missed something here? I do not care as to anyones religion, it's your personal choice which faith you choose but for anyone to think it is acceptable to flog a young women (or anyone for that matter), who has been raped, for having sex outside of marriage is totally barbaric. For it also to be said it will offer redmption to this young women and she will be able to live a guilt free life is ridiculous in the extreme and beyond my realms of comprehension.

    Injustice should always be critised regardless of where it is happening. As a human being who is part of the global community, I am duty bound to speak for those who are unable to speak for themselves. This young woman needed our help and she got it. People from around the world spoke and someone listened. Isn't that what makes us human.

  38. Thank you for this report - I am very impressed with the action that was taken and feel very proud that I helped (in such a small way)to change the fate of this young girl. Let us hope that our collective humanity will stimulate a huge change in the justice system of, not only the Maldives, but throughout the global communities where such terrible injustices are the norm rather than the exception!


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