Human trafficking an emerging issue for the Maldives

A report on the Maldives in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) review of the Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking of Women and Children for Prostitution has highlighted the Maldives as a destination country for human trafficking, “where the primary form of trafficking is forced labour.”

The SAARC report, funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and produced by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), suggested that human trafficking in the Maldives “is presumably is associated with the country’s socio-economic status as the most developed South Asian country, and its reliance on the migration of foreign workers to support sectors such as tourism and construction.”

“The Maldives is a destination country for migrant workers trafficked from neighbouring Bangladesh and India for forced labour, and to a lesser extent women from Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and China who are trafficked to Male’ for commercial sexual exploitation,” the report said, adding that “there is also some existence of some inter-island trafficking of Maldivian girls to the capital for domestic servitude.”

The country’s main offenders were “registered employment agents who fraudulently recruit low-skilled migrant workers and subject them to conditions of forced labour once they are in the country.”

“The other major offending group are wealthy families who subject domestic servants to forced labour,” the report noted.

The trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation was less marked than in other countries, the report noted, compared alongside the levels of forced labour, however “women of Chinese, Thai, Sri Lankan, and Filipino origin come to Male’ on the weekends from Colombo and some of them engage in commercial sex with the local migrant worker population.”

“In interviews, officials also spoke of occasions where they suspected cases of commercial sexual exploitation particularly when a large number of young women, sometimes of Eastern European origin, travel together with a single man to an exclusive private tourist resort for a short duration. [In this instance] there is little immigration officials can do in the absence of a complaint or some indication of abuse.”

IOM’s National Programme Officer Nishat Chowdhry presented the report at a meeting today in the Nalahiya Hotel, part of a review of the convention which until now has excluded male victims and crimes as forced labour.

“The scope of the convention is limited,” Chowdhry said. “Other aspects of trafficking, including for forced labour, human transplants and servitude have not been covered by convention,” she said. “There is growing consensus that the time is right to review the convention.”

President of the Human Rights Commission for the Maldives (HRCM) Ahmed Saleem described human trafficking as “a modern form of slavery with 800,000 estimated victims, mostly women and children.”

Saleem observed that a recent US State Department report into human trafficking had criticised the Maldives government for failure “to fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking”, but noted that the government had now acknowledged the existence of the crime “even if overall efforts to [confront] it are insignificant.”

“The commission is convinced that this is a major human rights issue and that is why we have begun a comprehensive study we hope to complete as soon as possible,” he said.

Vice President Dr Mohamed Hassan Waheed, speaking at the event, noted that while the convention focused on one the “most serious transnational crimes against dignity and human rights”, there were “serious shortcomings both in coverage and implementation of this convention.”

“Specific limitations include the exclusion of male victims, prostitution excluding other forms of trafficking such as forced labour, sex slavery and other slave-like practices. I am concerned that even though the convention has been in force for fours years, it has not been adequately implemented and enforced in the region.”

The convention carried “inadequate provision for victim protection and rehabilitation,” he said.

“I am especially concerned about the trafficking of children, especially girl children. The effects of sexual exploitation of children are profound, maybe permanent. Sexual, physical and emotional development are stunted, self-esteem and confidence are undermined, and sexually exploited children become especially vulnerable to the effects of physical and verbal violence, drugs, sexually transmitted diseases. We are concerned that human trafficking is becoming a growing problem in our country.”

An industry driven “by greed and brutal disregard for human rights”, human trafficking “has become a worldwide multi-billion dollar industry,” Dr Hassan said.

“The problem is global but some of the worst forms are found in Asia, where more than a million people are exploited each year. Trafficking on this level cannot escape the attention of national and local law enforcement authorities and I would like to call on concerned authorities and counterparts in our neighbouring countries to enforce these laws and accept our obligations under this convention.”


7 thoughts on “Human trafficking an emerging issue for the Maldives”

  1. To my knowledge, the Maldives has still not formally abolished slavery. Until the early 1900s wealthy islanders bought and imported slaves of mainly African and Eastern European origin when they returned from the haj pilgrimage. The last full-blooded, African-born slave died in the 1940s. She was commonly known as Baburu (Nigger) Aminafulu. I have seen the offspring of both African and Eastern European slaves on Male. According to the code of law still enforced by Maldive courts, women have to be “given away” by a male next of kin when they marry; such “kinship” may be either a blood relationship or slave-bondage. The only exception when a female next-of-kin may give away a bride is when the bride is a slave owned by a woman. The last time a marriage took place on Male when a bride was given away by a female slave-owner was in the 1950s (or as late as the 1970s). To my knowledge this can happen even now, if the circumstance arises because slavery is still enforceable in the Maldives and there are still descendants of slaves who were never manumitted. Certain clauses in the current constitution of the islands may imply that slavery is no longer enforceable but there is still a code enforced in the islands' courts that may override statutory law.

    Human trafficking isn't an emerging issue on the islands; it is a well-established one with a long history.

  2. Whate else can we be famous for. I am so sad to see these kind of reports there is lot reality the our neighbours and the rest of the global community need to know. The truth about Maldives.. Ther real Maldives.

  3. "the most developed South Asian country"

    I had a laugh at this, seriously were do people get that idea. And to top it off the crazy royal comes on here to entertain us with a ludicrous comment. I know baburu slaves were brought in Arabia (quite evident if you look and Male' upper class family members), the open trade of those slaves ended long time back.

  4. “the most developed South Asian country”

    LOL!!! I totally agree with Knox we aren't the most developed country in south Asia.Not even close.Human trafficking in the maldives is one a very small scale considering our neighbors..Go and stop it in places like India or Bangladesh where is is worst.You have to stop it from the source.

  5. I agree with editor of Royal Family website... Most of these slaves "worked" for the Royal families of the country. I hear that a lot of the the Royal family members inevitably have Baburu blood in them.

  6. I think we Maldivians are among one of the most racist people in the world... especially to people of our own race...

    Few days back, I saw a guy who went on a motorbike on Boduthakurufaanu Magu, pushing 3 Bangladeshi's in a row (at a few meters distance each) who were going on their bicycles, throwing the garbage that comes out of our homes... .

    Embarrassing... they have no place in this society despite them making a large percentage of the population now...The slave mentality is definitely still ripe among us.

    I was very touched to see that DHIFM airs a morning show specially for the fellow Bangladeshi's/Indians/Sri-Lankan's etc on Friday mornings... thanks.

  7. its true knox n akki......maldives is truly the most developed south asian country...m indian...and i have read a lot about maldives' development but it is also right that every country has its own problems.....:(


Comments are closed.