DNA testing has revealed that a 37 year-old man impregnated a 11 year-old girl in the Feydhoo ward of Addu City, police have said, after concluding investigation of a case that prompted shock and public outrage last month.
The 11 year-old victim in Seenu Feydhoo gave birth two months prematurely on November 1 after being taken to hospital complaining of stomach pains.
The infant died in the early hours of the following morning (November 2).
On November 4, police confirmed that a 37 year-old male suspect had been taken into custody in connection to the case.
In a press briefing on Thursday, Inspector Hassan Shifau, acting head of the Family and Child Protection Department, explained that DNA samples from the infant matched the 37 year-old suspect, Mohamed Javid of Maradhoo-Feydhoo Gulfamge.
Shifau said police obtained DNA samples from all males in the household of the 11 year-old victim.
Javid was a friend of the girl’s parents and visited the house every night, Shifau explained.
Police discovered during the investigation that Javid had been sexually abusing the victim since early 2012, he added.
The second suspect, Adam Saeed, 45, had been living in the girl’s house. Both suspects had previously been arrested on drug-related charges.
The victim meanwhile told police that she did not tell anyone about the abuse she suffered.
Family members and school mates questioned during the investigation said they were unaware that the girl was pregnant as it did not show on her body.
The girl was said to be of a “quiet” and reserved nature.
An official from the Feydhoo health centre told local media last month that “the girl admitted that she got pregnant after someone had sexually molested her.”
In the press briefing, Inspector Shifau appealed to parents to have a closer relationship with their children to ensure that they would be able to share accounts of abuse.
Upon conclusion of the investigation by a team of the Family and Child Protection Department working with the Seenu Gan police station, Shifau said police were in the process of forwarding the case for prosecution.
Child abuse in the Maldives
The case of the 11 year-old giving birth prompted a wider public debate on child sexual abuse in the Maldives, while politicians and NGOs called for a swift investigation.
Speaking to Minivan News at the time, Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed labelled it “a very big crime,” adding that the young girl should not herself take any blame or punishment.
“Personally I can’t say any word to punish a small girl in grade six. This may be a rape or sexual abuse case,” he said.
Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam said the case was “unacceptable” and “shocking”, demanding on social media that police make the case a high priority.
“An 11 year-old doesn’t get pregnant by herself! This is child abuse we are talking about here n authorities need to find out who is responsible,” she wrote on Twitter.
However, Ali Rameez, a famous singer who gave up music and now heads the Islamic NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf, tweeted: “All you people who claim to be Muslims! In Allah’s Shariah [law], a child grows up when he or she reaches puberty. Not when they turn 16, 18, 25.”
Rameez, who also hosts a religious program on private radio station SunFM, tweeted earlier that he was “not aware that children could get pregnant.”
The comments were criticised by some social media users including former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam, who tweeted: “Where are the children’s right groups… Where is HRCM.. Horrified with the preaching of people like Ali Rameez.”
Local NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) meanwhile issued a statement calling on the government, civil society organisations and the general public to step up efforts to combat child abuse in society.
“It is an obligation for us as responsible citizens to protect our children, and it is the Maldivian government’s obligation as a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) that all international commitments to protect the rights of all children are adhered to fully,” ARC noted.
Almost one in seven children of secondary school age in the Maldives have been sexually abused at some time in their lives, according to an unpublished 2009 study on violence against minors.
Rates of sexual abuse for girls are almost twice as high than for boys at 20 percent – one in five girls have been sexually abused – while the figure for boys was 11 percent. Girls are particularly at risk in the capital Male’, the report found.
In recent years, local authorities and NGOs have released a number of findings trying to detail the extent of child abuse and wider sexual assaults within society.
The state-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital’s (IGMH’s) Family Protection Unit reported in 2010 that the centre was notified of 42 cases of rape between 2005-2010. Most of these cases were found to involve minors.
According to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, 13 rape cases were reported last year alone, the majority of which most were gang rapes or assaults involving minors.