The Criminal Court has sentenced a woman and her mother to life in prison for killing an illegitimate new born baby.
Aminath Hussain, 31, and her 64 year old mother Sakeena Ali, both of Omadhu, Thaa Atoll confessed to the crime in court.
According to the court, the baby was delivered in a toilet, after which the grandmother submerged the baby in a pool of water.
They then put the baby into a polythene bag and buried it near the beach.
The Criminal Court has acquitted the 21 year old father of the crime.
Police Sub Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said there were “some clues that [the father] had some involvement,” but added that the court had made its decision and the police respected it.
Shiyam said although these types of cases are “not [reported on] a lot” there is another similar case currently being processed where a new born baby was “thrown into the sea” in Laamu Atoll.
Island Councillor for Omadhu Ahmed Abdulla said the incident occurred last year.
He said an islander knocked on his door early one morning when he was preparing to attend the first school assembly of the year.
“He knocked and told me to come out quick,” Abdulla said, “and when I came out, he told me that a baby had been killed on the beach.”
Abdulla said he immediately went to the beach and saw the baby’s legs protruding from the polythene bag.
He said there was blood around the baby’s neck, which appeared to be broken.
Abdulla then informed the police, who told him to monitor the crime scene until they arrived.
Shiyam confirmed the police had received a call from the island office reporting the crime.
Illegitimate children under Sharia law
Because abortion is illegal in the Maldives (the exception being if an unborn child is diagnosed with Thalassaemia), some women travel overseas to perform the operation..
But many cannot afford to so.
Deputy Minister of Health and Family Mariya Ali said “we don’t know a lot about it but there have been other [similar] cases.”
“It’s something that should be considered under child mortality,” she said, adding that there had been no comprehensive studies on the subject.
“We don’t hear about it a lot,” Ali said, “and we don’t know the exact prevalence of these cases.”
She added that many cases are probably not reported.
Mariya said there could be many reasons behind a family choosing to kill a baby, the main reason probably being that “children born out of wedlock still face discrimination” in society.
She noted that other factors, like the mother’s mental state, should be considered when looking at the reasons why people resort to these crimes.
Because under Sharia law premarital sex is forbidden, young couples can find themselves looking for a solution to get rid of an unwanted, and illegitimate, child.
Mariya said the Ministry of Health and Family would “talk to the Islamic Ministry and see how we can deal with these issues and reduce the number of cases.”
She added that “under Maldivian law, this is considered murder.”
Mohamed Shihaab of Child Abuse Watch Maldives did not hesitate in saying a crime such as this one “is not child abuse, it is murder.”
He said “some people think children born out of wedlock do not have a right to life,” adding that it was a major concern for the country.
“We need to look at how justice is served,” Shihaab said. “In how many cases has it not been served?”
“People need to accept we live in a more complex society. The police, the Prosecutor General and the judiciary also need to be more advanced.”
Sheikh Abdulla Jameel said people were not afraid of committing these kind of crimes because the courts did not punish according to Sharia law.
He explained that the Qur’an says a person must be killed if the court finds them guilty of a murder.
“The judge decides how [the person] will be killed,” explained Sheikh Abdulla, adding that “people would be afraid to commit such crimes if the courts start punishing according to Islamic Sharia.”