A man in his sixties was arrested in Fares-Maathoda last week on suspicion of sending inappropriate text messages to a 12 year old girl as police figures indicate that the number of sexual abuse cases being reported is on course to exceed last year’s total.
“The man had given a phone to the [12 year old] girl, and was sending inappropriate text messages to her, he was also trying to lure her places to meet up” said police spokesperson Ahmed Shiyam in regards to the Fares-Maathoda allegations.
Shiyam said that it was uncertain as yet if an actual meeting had taken place between the suspect and his alleged victim. “We are currently investigating that,” he added.
Police today also confirmed that on June 30 2011, a 33 year old man in Addu Atoll was arrested over the alleged abuse of a 17 year old girl. Shiyam declined to give any more information on this case saying investigations were continuing.
Increase in reported cases
Alongside providing details of these allegations, official police figures given to Minivan News have indicated that a total of 163 sexual abuse cases were reported last year. The same statistics also revealed that 108 sexual abuse cases had been reported up to the end of May 2011. According to these figures, 30 of these cases allegedly involved victims aged between 2 to 12 years.
The number of abuse cases being reported has caused concern among groups such as NGOs. Back in April, the Advocating Rights of Children (ARC) group issued a press release expressing concern at the rising number of child abuse cases in the country, calling on the relevant authorities to strengthen laws to protect children.
However, public and political opinion appears divided on whether there is an increase in the incidence of abuse cases or the number of allegations being reported.
“I believe abuse cases happen a lot in the Maldives, it is just that in the past it was not reported,” said Mariyam Leesha, a 35 year old mother of two, who has reported being a victim of abuse herself.
Leesha said that she believed society was now more open in talking about abuse meaning more people are reporting allegations to the police.
“When a victim is not believed, they will not talk about it anymore,” she said.
Leesha has said that she was abused by her uncle as a child, allegations that her family refused to believe at the time.
According to Leesha, the culture of shame and fear that previously hindered people from reporting sexual and child abuse has been broken to an extent, although more work was needed as a society.
“Even recently when a Maldivian film on child abuse was shown, there were people who said that it should not have been enacted,” she said. Leesha says that issues like sexual abuse need to be discussed more to encourage people to report abuse.
The Gender Ministry declined to comment when asked by Minivan News on the possible causes of the increased rate of sexual abuse cases being reported, saying there was an absence of study or research to make any conclusions.
The names of any victims mentioned in this article have been changed to protect their identity.