Maldivian women seldom seen by tourists: BBC Women’s Hour

Maldivian women are seldom seen by visitors to the Maldives, High Commissioner of the Maldives to the UK Dr Farahanaz Faizal has told BBC Radio 4, for the station’s ‘Women’s Hour’ program.

Dr Faizal and Olympic rower Guin Batten – who recently set a record for the ‘zero degree’ crossing in the Maldives and is trying to reintroduce rowing to the country – were interviewed yesterday by journalist Jane Garvey.

Dr Faizal explained that since the introduction of tourism to the Maldives, women tended to stay on their home islands to look after their families while the men went away to work on the resorts: “There is also little in the way of commuting on the islands so it’s not easy to travel to resorts to work on a daily basis. This has meant that women no longer have the economic empowerment they used to have,” she said.

Reiterating her comment last week in the UK House of Parliament that religious extremism was “among the greatest threats to democracy in the Maldives”, Dr Faizal suggested that the rise of extremism in the Maldives was attributable to people being allowed to vocalise their views more in the new liberal democracy, “whereas in the previous autocratic regime – who were by no means radical, they were quite liberal actually – they were simply locked up.”

Garvey raised the issue of the flogging of a young girl for adultery in the Maldives in 2009 and asked whether this was still occurring in the Maldives.

“No not really,” Dr Faisal said. “The penal code hasnt changed for decades, and a new penal code is in the process of being revised. The judges applied the old penal code that does include some sharia punishments.”

“What was more horrifying was that although the girl got flogged, the man got away ‘scott free’. If there are penalties against people for this sort of thing then they must be treated equally and there is no excuse when we now have DNA testing. After I raised this issue in the Maldives they (the radicals) called for my head.”

The Maldives, Dr Faizal said, had historically been “a very forward-looking Muslim country: we’ve had queens and female football commentators, I don’t think even Premier League can beat that.”

Dr Faizal noted that former Attorney General Husnu Suood had expressed concern that radicals had been calling for female genital mutilation in the Maldives, and telling people to avoid vaccinations as they contained alcohol. “Although this a small minority it is growing and we have to tackle this now.”

Garvey also interviewed Batten, former schoolfriend of President Mohamed Nasheed and Sports Coordinator for UK-based NGO Friends of Maldives, who explained that she had been inspired to bring rowing back to the Maldives after seeing a picture of a Maldivian boy rowing a home-made raft.

“Rowing is a very popular sport for girls around the world especially in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Rowing was [historically] used in the Maldives as a method of transport,” she explained.

Dr Faizal noted that rowing competitions used to be held in the Maldives, and that the challenge was being taken up by the local community and not imposed upon them.

The Rowing Association of Maldives, based in Addu Atoll, this week became the 131st member of the International Rowing Federation (FISA).

Batten and Dr Faizal spoke to BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour program November 9 2010. Listen to the podcast.

Correction: An earlier version of this report quoted Dr Faizal as saying the Maldives had a new penal code. She actually stated that the new code was being revised.

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41 thoughts on “Maldivian women seldom seen by tourists: BBC Women’s Hour”

  1. Farah, please get your fact rights before you speak.

    The new penal code is still at committee stage in the Parliament. We are using the Penal Code passed in 1968.

    The aspects of penalty is now scattered over more than 44 laws in the country.

    Women are getting flogged. The Evidence Law is not still passed and it means that DNA tests do not hold water in the courts.

    There is an increase of flogging in relation to Muslims' auspicious times such as Ramadan. Women themselves pressure the authorities to have them flogged as they believe they have committed a sin. And due to existing law the authorities carry out the penalty even though they feel it is discriminatory!

    Our transcription error RE the revised penal code, this has been amended and a correction issued. -Minivan News team

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  2. our economy is in dire straits - dollar shortage, black market price closing in on MRf 15 to the dollar, credit from banks dried up, loans going into default, stagnant growth in tourism, bleak outlook even in 2011 etc etc.

    What are these ambassadors doing! is it just helping out with visa's and showing ur face to shake hand with foreign dignatories.

    why not bring some commercial activities to the maldives from the countries they are stationed in. but no no. even our ambassador in uk could do after more than a year is set up rowing club in the maldives. who seriously cares! its pathetic, real pathetic.

    the only ambassador who has done somthing is Latheef in china. Even though it is purely for personal gain, he has done something for himself and the country by setting up mega maldives to bring chinese tourists to the maldives. this is a positive thing for us during these hard times.

    This govt has alot of policies set around a manifesto that no longer addresses the real problems and i am continuously being convinced that this govt dont know anything but whats on this manifesto. talk about feeling the pulse of the nation.

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  3. Dr. Barahanaaz Faisa, Shut up!
    Those kind of fear mongering serves maldives no good, its because of people like you who dont know what comes out of their mouth that lead to black listing of all cargo flights from Maldives. So please Shut up!

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  4. the reporting is incorrect. Dr Farahanaz didn't say that visitors rarely see Maldivian women, it was the interviewer who said it and asked her why.
    Guess the headline needs changing.

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  5. “Increasingly we are finding that the radicals have been speaking to midwives and calling for female genital mutilation in the Maldives and telling people to avoid vaccination as it contains alcohol,”

    What does this INCREASINGLY mean? who knows of this genital mutilation thing in Maldives? Have been a good muslimboy all my life (now 50: a little bit old for a 'boy' but still...) but never heard of this mutilation thing in Maldives. Yes head this was practised in some African countries. Where is our good ambassador getting all these information...?

    confused..

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  6. when women is apointed to responsible posts .. see what is hapening to the economy ..what these red-heads are doing .. .. why are they always behind the islamic laws ... your paid by our money you should rspect our socitys islamic value ...
    some idiot has comented about floging its not a man made law its from Allah ... no human or gin has right to urgue. how do you know its a discrimination ?

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  7. Female genital mutilation has been going on in the Addu atoll! These wahabi terrorists are going to eventually ruin this country! Ticking time bomb people!

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  8. oh she is not a Maldivian.. she thinks she is a UK girl and is above all Maldivians.. and one more thing this Minivan news realy knows how to make good headlines... we will never display our girls to raw flesh skinned people so better contain these sun loving friends to resorts only.. i don't think they will be interested to see black skinned girls kekeke like YOU

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  9. PhD: abbreviated Doctor of Philosophy. But sometimes it is also abbreviate: Permanent head damage. I guess this is what our ambassador in UK has actually attained.

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  10. Don't misunderstand it is not the law that is discriminatory it is people who enforce it (women get flogged most of the time while men is not)and as we all know two people are involved in this act. I think the story has been turned around or maybe discoursed. It is not the question of flogging here it is the question why 50% or more of the people involve in the prohibited act is free without any punishment. If anyone wants to question the punishment then they should look in to Quran and no other book or take other persons word.

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  11. Well said Fara. Change is good. And we need people like you who are brave enough to say it like it is. Keep going - we are with you all the way - until we have a tolerant, open minded knowledge based society. You are amongst the few who truly understands the importance of our movement.

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  12. I quite agree with Huseein Ali, the primary concern for Maldives now is to find ways to augment more foreign income streams, increase the quality of education and open more pathways to higher education from good universities. Instead, what we've seen is that there has been lack of emphasis on this area and blabbering about the culture and tradition which we followed.

    The country is in a deadlock either economically, politically or even socially due to the feeble implementation of democracy. We need a better and a congruent model of democracy to the Maldives that could give a boost to the development of Maldives. I quite disparaged Dr. Faizal for sarcastically criticizing during the UK's parliament meeting the liberal model of democracy proposed by Maumoon. This shows the immaturity of Dr. Faizal and she has by herself implied in this interview that previous model was more effective and compatible to the Maldivian culture.

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  13. I'm with you Dr. Farahanaz. Keep up the good work. And I applaud your courage to stand up to these extremists while many powerful men in our country is afraid to do so.

    Dr. Farahnaz is absolutely right. And it is very alarming to see that these extremists are preaching for female genital mutilation and stopping children from getting vaccines. When will the people of Maldives wake up and learn to draw a line between extremism and religion. It's common sense anyway.

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  14. flogging is actually more common in the western world..a supposed pleasurable preoccupation

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  15. @bamb keyo : just saying female genital mutilation is happening in Addu does not help. Just tell me where, who and when. It has to be a documented fact! Possibly something the newspapers knew about as fact. Do you know any girl/women who had been mutilated as such in Maldives? Or you also read rumours? I am from Addu and haven't heard about this happening in Addu any time.

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  16. didn't you know? racism is still alive and kicking in the Maldives. Just ask the Bangladeshi.

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  17. Minivan news needs to review their editorial policy. Their recent articles seem to be more inaccurate and portrays Maldives negatively. However, I do agree with the Embassador that radical Islam is becoming more influential and it is harmful to Maldives.

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  18. Recently the construction of a building at Faraha's house in Male' destroyed several nearby buildings including schools, but she got away scott free I hear. So getting away scott free in the Maldives does not have any connection with the person's gender.

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  19. Unfortunately the draft legal code still includes flogging!

    Where are the Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights related NGOs working on this issue?

    BTW Very brave of Farah to take a stand on it. I wish Anni would.

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  20. Well well..... Dr. Farhanaz Faisal.
    The thing is there are Maldivians who actually rows professionally, even i have been rowing now for more than ten years but since Maldives does not have an association before we had to do it abroad and even now not much information is given abt it.
    The other thing is, Maldivians women not working in the tourism sector. Its not only women who does not work in the resorts, as you can see, almost all resorts have more non maldivians working because they work much harder than an average maldivian.However, alot more women are working in the industry now and more of educated women are coming out. But some of us does not have a big brother in the government so that we get landed with cushy jobs in the europe.
    Thank you!

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  21. Yes v hav some issues. But lets not blow them out of proportion. Female genital mutation and refusal to give vaccine occures when people lack religious knowledge (which happened when scholars were restricted).
    Also, why don't minivan talk about the increasing proportion of girls (much higher than boys) achieving good results throught the Maldivian schools? Why don't minivan say that the same Penal code requires men who commit illegal sexual intercourse to be flogged and then banished while women are not banished? Why dont minivan realise that islamic education has lead people to show respect to their mothers and sisters. Now because of islamic awareness youths put their moms first above all worldly things. Does minivan see it not?
    -tic-tac-

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  22. there are many maldivaisn who cant agree more to farahanaz recent statements. we support you and we are behind you. way to go woman!!!

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  23. I am astounded. faraha is talking about maldivian ladies and way of living and other stuff. The person who is interviewing will know more than farahanaz. why... because , may be farahanaz is a maldivian but most of her life (90%) is spent in abroad. she doesnt know about maldivians... why.. because she is a queen who lives a queens life..

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  24. I kind of understand Farah's point. And she is brave for taking it out to debate. However, it is counterproductive when facts are not right.
    Flogging is still practised. The new draft penal code has been sitting in the Majlis, God knows for how long.
    Women dont work in the tourist industry for multitude of reasons and that include security as well as the burden to take care of other family members.
    It is also a recent phenomenon to limit the mobility of women on the basis of regligion.

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  25. Please Faraha, shut your mouth, you are talking rubbish. You are crazy if you think that tourism dis-empowered women. Even a 5th grader will know that it was money from tourism that helped us educated hundreds of thousands of women (I hate to say like you as you talk rubbish)in the Maldives. Isn't that empowerment of women?

    Also just because you can afford to live overseas does not mean that you should try and discredit our tiny Maldives by making mountains out of mole hills. I've been living all my life in Maldives and have hardly every heard of genetial mutilation. If it was a big issue here I would have at least heard about it.

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  26. dear kamila:
    You dont need be physically in place to talk about issues neither you have to spend your 100 % to research about an issue. There is enough research and publication to substantiate what faraha has stated in her case.So dont act like the stoneage mullas and talk stupid be a more academic and argue with facts what she has said is wrong or right?

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  27. Farahanaz has been living in the UK ll her life, she doesn't know the Maldivian people, I am sure she doesn't give a rats arse about us to be honest.

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  28. dear ali:
    so what is THE fact? how many female gential mutilations has happened in Maldives? Are you aware of any such case in Maldives?
    Please by all means do research and do anything to come up with figures. Just repeating a lie many times over does not make it any more truthful.

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  29. Erm..misinformation and disinformation! Genital mutiliation? Where? O Where, m'lady?
    Ali: Would you enlighten me with "academic" "facts" on female genital mutiliation in Maldives?

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  30. By having a woman football commentator, how does it strengthen womens place in society?

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  31. Dr.Faraha..Ameen! Mind you we don't want Maldives to be like Thailand. Where most Maldivian Businessmen and Western world go for "enjoying" the Thai women! If Farah's family members have a (including Ameen Faisal) have a long passion of abusing women (both sexually and verbally) We Maldivians arent interested in that! You may go and settle in your liked minded perverted lands! ALSO DR.FARAHA..PLEASE MAKE SOME SENSE OF BEEN IN UK AS A MALDIVIAN GOVT RESPRESENTATION..INSTEAD OF PROMOTING PROSITUTION AND DRINKING RED AND WHITE WINE AS WATER IN THE EXPENSE OF MALDIVIAN TAX PAYER MONEY!!

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  32. Visitors don't see Maldivian women? What about the thousands of women who are ferried into these resorts early morning to clean the beaches? What about all the women who weave thatches for the roofs of these resorts? And in which island of Maldives does female genital mutilation take place?

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  33. What about the thousands of women who are ferried into those exclusive resorts to clean up the beaches every morning?

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  34. sad that some people are so ignorant that they dont know what happens in maldives while they are people who reside here 100%. to get facts ask sheihk fareed if he gave vaccine to his last born child, the cases are well documented in department of gender!! cheers. and to know abt. call to addu child protection service theer about genital mutilation and ask for no. of reported case and incase they refuse pls. call after a while pretending your a reporter from haveeru and u ll get it. ok

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  35. what about the ladies/young barely 18 year old girls and boys taken to resort for "pleasure" of local businessmen and foreign elite tourist? Is Farahanaz blind? oh..yes she wants local girls to act like Thai girls and boys! Boy..she needs some "special massage"!

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  36. @Saleem.

    Female genital mutilation has been happening in this country, the Human Rights Commission should have the details yu require on the matter.

    And tourism , the way it has operated in the Maldives has disempowered women, not just economically but socially as well. The negative impact of our macro economic policies on women with its huge dependence on tourism for revenue is something that was discussed in every national development plan that was prepared in Gayooms government but it was never addressed.

    I find the tone and content of your reaction to Dr Farhanaz quite frankly nauseating. Why do we have to get so personal when we don't agree with what people say or when we cannot digest information we find hard to be with.

    Dr Farhanaz in my opinion is speaking out about matters many of us dare not speak. Good for her. This is what Maldivian women were, are, and will continue to be. Courageous, out there, women of spirit and character. Don't fight us, work with us when we raise issues that concern us. Don't forget,we are half if not more of our population.

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  37. Aha! Now I know what tourists really look for in Maldives under their dark sun-glasses!

    I wonder if BBC News Hour man asked Barahanaz how many wanna-be-whities in Maldives!?

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  38. dear shafeea
    do u happened to be mutilated? i called the hr commission and they do not have any info on female genital mutilation..
    now what?

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