Man and woman arrested in Seenu Atoll over buried foetus

A 26-year old male and 20 year-old-female have reportedly been arrested by police in connection with the discovery of a five month-old foetus found buried on a beach on the island of Maradhoo Feydhoo in Seenu Atoll yesterday.

Local media has announced that the two suspects, reported to be a married couple, were presently being held in custody.

Police discovered the foetus buried on a beach on Maradhoo Feydhoo after local witnesses reported a motorist acting suspiciously in the area on Friday evening, according to local newspaper Haveeru.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls at the time of press.

Dr Aishath Rameela, State Minister for Gender, Family, and Human Rights, told Minivan News that her department had not received any official report from the police or the local council on the matter.

Dr Rameela added that the Gender Ministry was awaiting an official report by the Maldives Police Service before it could begin providing assistance in the case.

“Right now as the situation stands, we are not actively involved [with the case]. All we know is that there is a deceased child,” she said, adding that she had, at the time of press, only received information on the case through local media.

“In terms of this case, we don’t know who the mother is or is she is under-age. We also do not know who the culprits may be.”

Dr Rameela added that in cases of under-age pregnancy or suspected child abuse her department worked to support police in their investigations, with law enforcement officials unable to question children without a case worker assigned from the Gender Ministry.

She stressed that the ministry, through 19 island centres across the country, sought to provide protection to child victims of sexual abuse and ensure they remained safe following an incident.

Desperate measures

While police are yet to reveal details of the case, there have been a number of recent incidents reported in media where pregnant women have been forced to take desperate measures, such as self-induced abortions, infanticide or abandoning infants.

In June, police recovered the body of a newborn infant buried in the outdoor shower of a house on Shaviyani Feydhoo island. The baby’s mother was identified as a 15 year-old school student.

In the last two years, three newborns have been found dead in the country, with a further two newborn children discovered abandoned but alive.

Two foetuses were discovered in 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 after having apparently been strangled with underwear tied around its neck.  The two babies found abandoned and alive have since been placed under state care.

The Centre for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) has 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, who leads the reproductive health unit of the CCHDC, told Minivan News in an interview earlier this 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.

To curb these perceived problems, Najeeb stressed the need for implementing a comprehensive sex education curriculum in and outside educational institutions to create greater awareness on sexual and reproductive health subjects.

Though the concept of sex education is widely supported by health authorities, including former Health Minister Dr Ahmed Jamsheed, efforts to implement such practices nationally have been limited.