Police investigating reports of illegal under-age marriage

Police raided a house on Laamu atoll Fonadhoo today following reports of an illegal marriage involving a girl around nine years of age.

Sergeant Ahmed Shiyam confirmed the police raid but said he was unable to provide further details at this stage of the investigation.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Fathimath Yumna, director of the department of gender, said the ministry of health and family had also been unable to confirm reports about the illegal marriage.

While the national age of marriage is 18 in the Maldives, as a Muslim country, girls under this age can marry with the permission of their parents and state consent.

Yumna said if a minor wished to marry, the ministry would undertake an assessment to ensure the physical and mental well-being of the child. But, she added most applications were from girls aged 16 to 18.

“It’s a minority of religious groups but they are coming up presently,” she said. “We do have such issues and we are trying to raise awareness.”

She said the alleged marriage had not been registered with the courts and if reports were true, the girl may have married in a private ceremony.

Fonadhoo Island Chief Ahmed Yousuf said the office had not received an official report about the marriage, but he had heard rumours about a man on the island with “extremist” views wedded to a young girl.

“The man was a former magistrate who quit the government saying its revenue was haram because of alcohol and pork. He was also involved in the Himandhoo incident,” he said.

Himandhoo became notorious as a hotbed of extremism after video footage shot in an illegal mosque on the island was found on an al-Qaeda internet forum in 2007.

The  same year, the island was in the media spotlight after locals armed with home-made weapons clashed with over 200 riot police searching for two suspects in the Sultan Park bombing.

Yousuf added the man did not send his children to school or allow them to pray at any of the island’s mosques.

Last week, President Mohamed Nasheed called for an investigation into reports about under-age concubines being kept by religious extremists in the Maldives.

While police, the Human Rights Commission Maldives and the ministry of health had all received several reports of under-age girls being used for sex, none have been able to confirm the identities of those involved.

According to the reports received by these institutions, a young girl taken to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital by an older woman in July was discovered to have been sexually abused. When questioned, the woman said her husband had sex with the girl when she was menstruating.

Yumna said if the reports are confirmed, the ministry would strive to counter the religious beliefs behind concubinage in collaboration with the ministry of Islamic affairs.

Speaking to Minivan News last week, Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said Islam prohibited the abuse of women. He added keeping concubines was part of Arab culture which was eradicated with the advent of Islam.


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Maryam Omidi

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