Judicial authorities have denied that a 15 year-old child abuse victim is facing charges of fornication at the Juvenile Court, despite media reports to the contrary.
Local newspaper Haveeru reported yesterday (January 6) that the Prosecutor General’s (PG’s) Office pressed charges of fornication against a female minor from Shaviyani Atoll Feydhoo at the Juvenile Court following the conclusion of a police investigation.
Director of the Department of Judicial Administration Ahmed Maajid however told Minivan News today that no case against a minor for fornication had been submitted to the court at present.
The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has meanwhile confirmed that it had forwarded a case to the PG’s Office against a 15 year-old female for undisclosed reasons.
Back in June 2012, the same minor – a school student at the time – gave birth to a baby later discovered buried in the outdoor shower area of a home on Feydhoo. The discovery led to the arrest of four people, including the 15 year-old girl’s mother and step father.
Haveeru reported yesterday that the victim’s mother and step father had been charged with the murder of the baby. According to the newspaper, the girl’s step father also faces charges of possession of pornography and sexual abuse of a child.
Under the Child Sex Offenders (Special Provisions) Act of 2009, the penalty for child sex abuse is 10 to 14 years but can be extended to 15 to 18 years if the accused was in a position of trust with the children he or she abused.
The girl’s mother meanwhile faces charges under the 2009 law of deliberately concealing the alleged sexual abuse.
Department of Judicial Administration Director Maajid claimed that while no case had as yet been filed against the 15 year-old at the country’s courts, he understood that she faced criminal charges on a separate matter not related to the death of her child.
“As far as I know, the girl is being charged over a separate case of fornication, unrelated to the issue of the baby found buried,” he said.
Maajid claimed that although minors could not be charged for any crime under Islamic Shariah, Maldivian law did allow suspects under 18 years of age to be tried in the country’s Juvenile Court depending on the individual circumstances of each case.
“A minor is exempted from criminal liability in Islamic Shariah. Under Maldivian law, a minor of 15 to 18 years of age may be tried as a juvenile offender,” he said.
Maajid explained that juvenile offenders could be generally charged for any type of criminal offence.
Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed today that a case had been filed against the 15 year-old girl, but was unrelated to the discovery of her dead child last year. However, Haneef said that further details on the charges could not be given at present due to the child’s status as a minor in the eyes of the law.
The Police spokesperson referred the matter to Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizzu, who was not responding to calls today. Minivan News was awaiting a response from the PG’s Office at the time of the press.
Dr Mariyam Shakeela and Dr Aishath Rameela, the respective Acting Minister and State Minister for the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human rights were also not responding to calls at time of press.
In September last year, a 16 year-old girl was sentenced to house arrest and 100 lashes after being found guilty of fornication with a 29 year-old man.
On December 26, 2012, police announced that a baby had been discovered abandoned on the side of a road in the Maafannu Ward of Male’.
Earlier the same month, a 26-year old male and 20-year old female were reportedly arrested in connection to the discovery of a five month-old foetus buried on a beach on the island of Maradhoo Feydhoo in Seenu Atoll.
Over the last two years, three other newborns have been found dead in the country.
Over the same period there have been two separate incidents where newborn children were discovered abandoned but alive.
Two foetuses were reported discovered during this two year period, one hidden in a milk tin and the other at the bottom of Male’s municipal swimming pool. Another fully-developed baby was thrown into a park having apparently been strangled with underwear tied around its neck.
The Centre for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) has previously described these incidents, as well as the figures detailing an increase in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases, as evidence of a sexual health crisis in the Maldives.
Nazeera Najeeb, head of the reproductive health unit of the CCHDC, told Minivan News in an interview last year that the centre was witnessing an “alarming” increase in cases of underage and unplanned pregnancies, where some girls are getting pregnant “without even knowing it”.
“These unwanted pregnancies are subsequently resulting in more unsafe abortions, baby dumping or infanticide,” she noted.