The defence lawyer for a 15 year-old rape victim who was sentenced to flogging after the Juvenile Court found her guilty of fornication, has appealed the case at the High Court today.
Attorney General Aishath Aziam Shukoor told local media today (April 1) that the case had to be appealed because the Juvenile Court had taken statements from the witnesses in violation of procedure.
The Attorney General said the Juvenile Court ruling was in violation of Islamic Sharia as it had not considered psychological reports produced to the court.
The 15 year-old child was now under the charge of the ‘Kudakudhinge Hiya’ orphanage on Villingili, she revealed.
President Mohamed Waheed’s government has previously criticised the verdict, pledging in January to review the use of flogging as a punishment for sexual offences – a practice it alleged in some cases actually serves to punish victims of rape and abuse.
Sources from the girl’s island of Feydhoo in Shaviyani Atoll told Minivan News previously that concerns had been raised by islanders since 2009 that the minor was allegedly the victim of sexual abuse not just by her stepfather, but an unidentified number of other men on the island.
The case has brought international attention to the country’s legal system, including the launch of an online Avaaz.org petition signed by 1.7 million people that threatens to boycott Maldivian tourism, as well as public criticism from British multi-billionaire Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group of companies.
In June 2012, the girl gave birth to a baby which was later discovered buried in the outdoor shower area of her home. Her stepfather was later charged with child sexual abuse, possession of pornographic materials and committing premeditated murder. Her mother was meanwhile charged with concealing a crime and failing to report child sexual abuse to the authorities.
On February 26, 2013, the 15-year-old was convicted of premarital sex at the Juvenile Court and sentenced to 100 lashes and eight months of house arrest, after confessing to fornication with another man during the investigation.
President Waheed’s stated on his official Twitter account at the time: “I am saddened by the sentence of flogging handed to a minor. Govt will push for review of this position.”
However, the religious Adhaalath Party (AP) – which largely makes up the ranks of the Islamic Ministry and with which President Waheed’s Gaumee Ithiaad Party (GIP) last week entered into a coalition – has endorsed the sentence.
“The purpose of penalties like these in Islamic Sharia is to maintain order in society and to save it from sinful acts. It is not at all an act of violence. We must turn a deaf ear to the international organisations which are calling to abolish these penalties, labeling them degrading and inhumane acts or torture,” read a statement from the party.
“If such sinful activities are to become this common, the society will break down and we may become deserving of divine wrath,” the Adhaalath Party stated.