Police have traced the internet connection of a man who allegedly threatened a 14-year-old girl online in an attempt to coerce her into “sexually indecent” behaviour.
“The perpetrator tried to demand the girl go to somewhere, and that he had photos and videos of her he would leak if she did not,” said Police Sergeant Shiyam.
Police said officers were initially approached by concerned friends of the girl during a school session on child abuse run by the family and child protection unit.
An investigation involving the police’s digital evidence unit tracked the man’s internet connection to his room, where police discovered three hard disks, two multimedia cards and two pen drives containing chat logs and emails threatening the girl.
“We are investigating how long it had been going on; we were lucky we found out about it so early,” Shiyam said.
The drives also contained nude photos and video clips of other young Maldivian girls, whom police said they were now trying to trace. Police said forensic evidence indicated that some of these photos had been uploaded to the internet.
The case has been forwarded to the Office of the Prosecutor General while police have released the perpetrator on a court order.
Investigating cases of online sexual abuse was “something new” for police, Shiyam said, “and something to be really concerned about.”
“Girls and boys are good at using the web and it’s not that easy to control and monitor them.”
Jeehan Mahmoud, spokesperson for Human Rights Commission Maldives (HRCM), said the Commission hoped that if found guilty the perpetrator would be charged under parliament’s new child abuse legislation that extends sentencing periods to a maximum of 25 years.
“Secondly, we want the concerned authorities to monitor the impact of multimedia on this type of crime more closely,” she said. “The Commission believes internet monitoring needs to be considered – it is something the state is obligated to do.”
Parents also needed to monitor their children’s use of the internet, she added. “Definitely parents need to be aware of what their children have access to. There hasn’t yet been a report into online [child abuse], but as it’s a growing trend perhaps it’s time to look into it further and find a way to curb it before it gets any bigger,” she said.
The Commission has received 10 reports of child abuse this year compared to four in the previous year, Jeehan said, “although it is difficult to say whether this due to an increase in reporting. People have certainly become better educated about human rights during the last four years.”