Gayoom concerned over “false information” on women’s rights

Former President of the Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has expressed concern at an increasing amount of  “false information” being spread by Islamic scholars in the country concerning women’s rights.

Quoting from the Qur’an to prove his point during a DRP special event yesterday held on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Gayoom said there was “no religious justification” for the inequality of women and that Islam “does not limit a woman’s equal rights in society.”

He further called on all women to join the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), saying “You will get equal rights and equal opportunity when you are in DRP. You can reach your destination and achieve your goals when you are in DRP.”

Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef, spokesman for the former president and DRP member, said Gayoom was “quite emotional” when speaking of women’s rights at the meeting.

Women’s rights in politics

Gayoom explained that everyone had worked very hard in his government to bring the country to its current position and to find a place for women in society, especially in politics.

Aneesa Ahmed, DRP member and co-founder of women’s rights NGO Hope for Women, said she agreed with Gayoom and added that under his rulership, the number of women in politics “was better than the current numbers in the political arena.”

Ahmed said she so far “haven’t seen improvements” for women’s rights in the country under the new presidency.

“I have heard of the gender policy but nothing is being done for it to be effective,” she said, noting that “it is still too early to talk about it.”

Ahmed said under Gayoom’s government four out of twenty-one cabinet members were women, while currently there was only one woman in the cabinet.

“I have heard a lot of rhetoric on gender equality but no action,” she said.

On 24 February, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the government’s intention to withdraw the Maldives’ reservation to the UN Woman’s Rights Treaty on Article 7(a) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Article 7(a) states that there must be political equality and equal rights for women, and includes running for public office.

Under the 1998 Constitution of the Maldives, women were banned from running for president, as it explicitly stated that the candidate must be a man.

Article 109 of the new Constitution of 2008 does not include any restrictions based on gender under “qualifications for election as President”.

The reservation was withdrawn because it was deemed contradictory to the new Constitution.

Change and improvement

The Judiciary’s website cites an alarming figure: not one rape case has been taken to criminal court in the last four years.

However numerous cases have been reported to the police and several arrests made during this period of time.

Minivan News alone has reported at least nine abuse cases against women and girls since January 2009, most of them involving multiple perpetrators and/or victims. Most of the victims are under the age of 18.

The fact that none of these cases have made it to court could potentially make many women afraid to report such cases to the authorities.

The Ministry of Health and Family held a panel today including members of the Ministry of Health and the Department of Gender, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and the Prosecutor General’s office, among others.

Deputy Minister of Health and Family Mariya Ali said it was a “varied” panel offering an “alternative dialogue” to find solutions to issues on women’s rights, such as the prosecution of rape cases.

Ali said the ministry, working with the Prosecutor General, is “following up a lot of abuse cases that were put on hold.”

When asked about Gayoom’s statement on the misuse of Islam to spread inequality for women in society, she said “some of the things [the Islamic scholars] are saying can be misinterpreted by the public” but confirmed that the Ministry of Health is “working closely with the Islamic Ministry” to deal with these issues.

International Women’s Day celebrations and events

International Women’s Day was celebrated around the world on 8 March. This year marks the 99th anniversary of the first Women’s Day celebrated in 1911.

The celebrations, which mark the economic, political and social achievements of women, took many different forms around the world.

There were rallies to stop violence against women in the Middle East; a silent protest in Taipei; a protest of thousands in Iran; a breakfast in Iraq; a rally of hundreds in Bangladesh; a discussion panel in China; and education bus tour in South Africa; a march for equality in Brazil and thousands of other events around the world, all commemorating the rights of women.

The Ministry of Health and Family will be celebrating this year’s Woman’s Day this week, with the theme of “Equal rights, equal opportunities: progress for all.”

Most of the public events being organised by the ministry and Department of Gender will be held over the weekend, including a children’s evening and stage show at Villingili stage area on 12 March.

There will also be a Friday sermon based on the theme of the celebrations.


16 thoughts on “Gayoom concerned over “false information” on women’s rights”

  1. "It’s the International Women’s Day, but Maldivian women have nothing to celebrate. A year into Mohamed Nasheed’s presidency and the murder, rape and horrific torture of women is commonplace, with his government showing impunity, if not sanctioning, the spread of misogyny by the religious right."

  2. Certainly the Maldives has moved backwards and “Islamic extremists” have hijacked the Maldives political arena.

    It is important that people not to bow to these fear mongers who advocate extreme measures without respecting others rights.

    The World and the Maldives will be better place without these mindless religious fanatics (it doesn’t matter which religion they belong).

    Islamic Ministry should be dismantled and people like Seyku Shaheem and Mullah Ilyas knows nothing other than creating a “demonous” image of god and Islam. For them everything has to be done out of fear of God. They don’t understand Love and rationale, tolerance and respect. For them it is either their way or “you are not a Muslim”.

    Only now I realise what a big mistake I have by removing the old dictator. Anni (the activist) is using Adhalath just to get an easy ride on his presidency. Anni should learn some lesions from the master Gayoom on how keeping these Wahhabi’s at bay. If not all our mums and sisters will be locked in their homes and banned from earning a living (working). Filthy Wahhabi’s see women only as a sex object. If there are Sithan’s among human’s most probably they are these Wahabbis or Salafis.

    Ps: I wonder why Mullah Ilyas is wearing glasses as it will be against his “Islam” as it was not used in Rasool Zaman.

  3. It is true that former president Gayoom as well as other members of his family contributed a lot towards development in gender and reproductive health aspects in Maldives from many different angles; professional, religious as well as through community based work. Their direct involvement was beneficial in getting some crucial messages across and getting things moving on this front.

    Gayoom could continue to serve the country well by addressing these issues from a religious perspective, particularly in view of the harsh stance being taken by some other religious scholars. However, politicising issues by making it a DRP tool is likely to create a negative perception of the past contributions on this front and make people more sceptical of any future interactions.

  4. “some of the things [the Islamic scholars] are saying can be misinterpreted by the public”??? reallly???

    is there even a single chance for misinterpretation here? the 'islamic scholars' are portraying women as degrading objects created solely for the satisfaction of men, painting pictures of mass orgies in heaven with firm bosomed virgins, of women committing 'ziney' by simply walking on the streets without a veil or smelling too nice, and this is all the deputy gender minister had to say? how can we head towards a solution if the government cannot even admit that there is a problem, a problem that is already too large to handle?

  5. After all the despicable nepotism and careless mismanagement of 30 years, its amazing that Gayoom still has the nerve to speak like a true democrat.

    May Allah grant some remorse and humility to this person at least in his old age.

  6. "[Aneesa] Ahmed said under Gayoom’s government four out of twenty-one cabinet members were women, while currently there was only one woman in the cabinet."

    How does 4 out of 21 translate into equal rights?

    Out of the 30 years of Gayyom's regime, for how many years and how many women were included in the cabinet?

  7. Currently i don't care if a woman can be a president or not, i am more concerned about the increasing violence against women in Maldives. There are many cases in the past that were not reported but we are hearing of killings, rapes & abuse more often now...

    it is difficult to walk down a road because some Maldivian male or a few of the Bangladeshis would rub against or accost females as we pass by. Think of the increase in child abuse cases alone after the alarming increase of Bangladeshi labourers in Maldives.

    It also doesn't help when Islamic Ministry gives sermons regarding women in a way that could be interpreted as women being inferior.

    Women still get harassed at workplace...& many times by the police too. The police are supposed to protect the citizens but who will protect us from them? In the current scenario, most women would find it humiliating & unnerving to report a case to the police.

    why can't the police or the government take a more pro-active approach to the situation? It is high time some action was taken to improve the situation. Holding functions & giving lip service about empowering women doesn't improve anything except build an image which is not true.

  8. Its high time President Nasheed started delivering on his promise on being the Gender focal point of this country. Is it because Nasheed is not a religious scholar that he leaves decisions on religion to Adhaalth Party? But adhaalath party is failing dismally to protect the rights of many women and girl children as any responsible government party should do. Once you come into government you should protect the rights of all the citizens and not only the ones that cater to your vote bank. You might want to consider the fact that you may be alienating many a voter because of the way a party to your government portray womens place in Islam.

    As Adhaalath is a political party and not a religious NGO, they seem to take great interest in religious issues that will give them political mileage; the recent alcohol regulation being a case in point.

    President Nasheed please take positive action to address the issue of islamic public sermons being biased against women and girls. If not you are helping to change this country to one where many women fear to live a decent life. In Maumoons era people feared to say anything politically that disgareed with him, now people fear saying anything about tolerance in Islam.

  9. this really great that we have religious scholar of Gayooms standard to challenge the fanatic mullaz who are trying to sideline women and depict women as sex objects sitting at home at there service. Maumoon can bring theses Mullaz to there breath if he come out and challenge them. and by this gayoom can win the support of the young people who supported Anni who thought was liberal but at the end Anni betrayed all the liberals and youth of the country by sharing the presidency with a bunch of Mullaz..he cut of celebrating new years, having Djs and Maldives is now turning into a small Afghanistan style country bit by bit. Maumoon pls. help this ocuntry by talking about and spreading moderate islam

  10. Gayyoom would go any far even to the end of the road to hell if he can give a blow to the ruling party!
    His downfall was something he never predicted and can stomach it!
    He would twist anything to backup his end!
    I am no religious fanatic or an extremist myself, but I can never ever believe Gayyoom who in his 30 years of power had spun so many tricks and played them on us to meet his ends!
    True and maybe the current government is not poking its fingers into the religious, judiciary and parliament affairs as Gayyoom did in his time!
    But I am sure that this government is not bullying women for political or personal gains as Gayyoom did in his time!

  11. In this forum, all debates ( tourism, economy, gender, law, family) end up as a religious issue.

    All debates take a sides of moderate Islam or radical Islam. Either way, the Islamists win as their 'favorite tool' is put to use.

    Islam is not on trial here, as the Islamist like to portray. Islam is perfect to regulate spiritual life and hereafter but does not NOT provide solutions on this earth. To quote Mustapha Kemal:

    This religion did not help the Arabs, Iranians, Egyptians and others to unite with Turks to form a nation. Conversely, it weakened the Turks’ national relations; it numbed Turkish national feelings and enthusiasm. This was natural, because Mohammedanism was based on Arab nationalism above all nationalities.

  12. Nasheed gave freedom of press to attend these issues. This freedom will benifit in the long run. Its not the role of president to put his finger into these individual issues and bring a temporary solution. During his 16 months presidency lots and lots of such cases had surfaced simply because of press freedom. What Hudha can see in next stage is that the drop of number of cases because of fear of getting caught. This is the benifit of long term plan.

  13. I wonder why the most capable Kutti Nasheed and Umar Naseer have not shown any concern on such social issues.

  14. Gayyoom ruled this country for 30 years but this government is just year n half years old. True Gayyoom gave opportunity to women for development that is because international community pressured the govt.Few chosen women around him had any opportunity to prove their potential the rest he ignored.He cornered women who criticised his policies. Maldives gives equal opportunity to women. This in records only. Women work hard in the non government sector but govt. avoids appointing women to key positions.Only the women in favor is considered. The religion comes "in" only re women's issues. Why? India is the largest democracy in the world and now they have passed a bill facilitating more seats for women in parliament.Why talk about these things and point finger at people. When in power u forget everything other than what u really want to remember. Maumoon and Nasheed both are the same. I see no difference. Maumoon is out of now so he talks big.

  15. comment Y: you got a point there. it funny how everything turn religious on minivannews. Why? coz most of the salafi, adhaalath and dot people keeps an hourly eye on minivannews after they read a letter on homosexuality. Like wise those who oppose there views keep and eye on to make sure they are challenged. Its a never ending topic. If u look the most comments are about extremes

  16. I'm so glad someone is speaking up on this issue. Is Maumon the only politician with the guts to stand up?


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