Rape victims punished, failed by Maldives justice system

The Maldives court on Tuesday sentenced a 15 year-old girl to 100 lashes and eight months’ house arrest, for having pre-marital sex with a man.

At any given time in the Maldives, thousands of female tourists are on the country’s beaches in bikinis, with their male counterparts. Many of them are straight and gay couples, married or unmarried, enjoying sex on rose petal-covered beds in water bungalows. For them, this chain of islands with white beaches and blue shimmering waters is a short escape to heaven.

While they enjoy a piece of paradise on a luxury resort vacation, just a few miles away 300,000 locals face the grim reality of a struggling democracy and increasingly radicalised interpretation of Islam.

Women and girls are bearing the brunt of this. Calling it sheer hypocrisy would be a gross understatement.

The 15 year-old girl  is from Feydhoo island in Shaviyani Atoll, one of the 200 remote islands in the country with less than a thousand inhabitants. She was arrested last year on the island, when police discovered a dead newborn buried in an outdoor shower area in the yard of the house. The investigation uncovered a disturbing yet common reality in the capital and isolated islands of Maldives: sexual abuse.

The girl’s stepfather had been raping her for years. Her mother assisted this gruesome abuse by turning a blind eye and deaf ear to her pain and cries. When the girl became pregnant as a result of rape, they pulled her out of school afraid that the community would find out the family’s dark secret. They waited patiently for nine months, and killed and buried the newborn after delivery.

Soon after the baby’s body was dug up, the parents were arrested and charged with murder and abuse of a minor.

While any authority with professionalism and common sense would be expected to protect a child who has suffered such horrifying abuse and provide help of a psychologist, the Maldives police and prosecutors had a different plan.

On the contrary, the girl was arrested, interrogated and charged with fornication within a few months by the authorities. They claimed that she had confessed to having consensual sex with another man – not the stepfather. The identity of this man, who has not stood up, been found, arrested or charged to this date, remains a mystery.

And yesterday, despite the ongoing debates challenging the legitimacy in pursuing fornication charges against victims of child sexual abuse, the court issued its ruling to flog the girl 100 times. A conviction against her abusive step father, and neglectful mother is still pending.

This case is just the latest in a series of unashamed attempts by the Maldivian Sharia-Common Law based judicial system to punish sexual abuse victims, instead of providing protection and justice.

While, several in and outside the country are taking to the social media to condemn this ruling as morally wrong, cruel, degrading, and a violation of human rights and protection guaranteed to children and victims of sexual abuse under national and international laws, the police who arrested her, the PG office that charged her and the court which sentenced her have not even flinched.

In fact, shortly after reversing its decision to withdraw the fornication charges, the Prosecutor General stated that they have found “no substantial reason to withdraw the charges” and allowed the trial to continue. They repeatedly emphasised the case is “unrelated to the rape”. Furthermore, both the PG and courts repeatedly defended the decision in media, claiming that there is nothing illegal or wrong in this case.

Under Sharia Law, both men and women – adult and children alike – can be punished with 100 lashes and house arrest if they are found guilty of having pre marital sex or adultery. Of course, the tourists are exempted – they are free to have sex, eat pork or drink alcohol as much as they wish, on islands designated as “uninhabited”.

Flogging is the one remaining Islamic Sharia penalties that continues to be practiced in Maldives, despite the century old moratorium on other Shaira penalties such as stoning, capital punishment and cutting off hands. UN Human Right’s Commissioner Navi Pillay and other international organisation’s calls for the moratorium of flogging have been rejected by current and past governments, amid mass protests from conservative factions of society.

As with any other Sharia offence, fornication is only proved with a confession or four witnesses. Notably, ninety percent of those flogged are women, accordig to the 2011 Judicial statistics report. It revealed that out of the 129 sentenced to 100 lashes, 11 were minors – 10 girls and one boy.

However, in 2010, the parliament passed a legislation to prevent corporal punishment  of children in sexual related offences and provide stringent punishments for child abusers, as a response to curb the widespread cases of incest and child molestation in the Maldives: one in seven children is reported to be a victim of sexual abuse. The legislation for the first time paved an easy road for the prosecution of child sexual abuse cases by reducing the Sharia-based burden of proof, which otherwise makes it impossible to prove the sexual offences without a confession or four witnesses.

This legislation, as part of the common law practiced alongside Sharia, set the precedent that no child below 13 can consent to sex and that any sexual relations will be deemed as child abuse. The same law also adds in clause 25 that no child between 13 – 17 can consent to sex either ,”unless proven otherwise”.

It must be noted that hundreds of children have been protected under this law, and several child rapists and abusers have been put behind bars for decades since it came into effect. However, in this specific case, the authorities report that the girl confessed to having consensual sexual relations, and that therefore it cannot be treated as a case of abuse.

But what is highly questionable is the failure by the state to provide a motive that can justify pressing charges against an abused victim, especially a child, with utter disregard to the mental trauma she has suffered in an endless cycle of abuse.

In the past, the court had sentenced a man for abusing a 16 year-old girl. However, the same girl was sentenced to 100 lashes and house arrest after being found guilty of confessing to having consensual sex with the same man who was found to have abused her. This conflicting ruling, stands out as clear evidence that fornication charges against minors in sexual abuse cases are being pursued by authorities, simply because its legally possible to do so with a confession, regardless of whether the victim is abused or not.

In the face of growing international pressure over such incidents, the government claimed in media that it would review and “correct” laws that victimise young women and minors who have suffered sexual abuse. However, no information was made public of any such attempts apart from this public condemnation.

Another issue worth noting is also the significantly low rape convictions in cases where the rape victim is an adult. Annual judicial statistics report show that in past three years, zero cases of rape have reached a positive verdict. This year alone, three rape cases have been reported,while 1 in 3 women aged between 15 – 49 are found to be victim of physical or sexual abuse – a statistic that is a reminder of a justice system that is failing women in every way possible.

According to Human Rights Lawyer Mohamed Anil, rape is defined as ‘forced fornication’ in the currently practiced outdated laws. The aforementioned legislation provides special provisions in child abuse cases, however, he explained, rape and sexual assault victims aged 18 or above, are denied justice because of the Sharia’s burden of proof – confession of the rapist or four male witnesses – is required to prove fornication, whether forced or consensual.

A state prosecutor once commented that proving rape is “next to impossible” despite the most prudent investigations, because the only two kinds of admissible evidence is never available. Both lawyers have said that this cannot be changed unless the amended penal code – which includes rape as an offence-  is passed by the parliament, where it had been stuck for more than half a decade.

Alternatively, the parliament could pass the sexual offences bill submitted by MP Mohamed Nasheed. This bill defines actions to be taken against specific types of sexual offences, including rape, spousal rape, prostitution, sexual trafficking, bestiality and incest etc. While submitting the bill, Nasheed echoed the immense need for an updated legislation to deal with the modern day sexual offences to bridge the shortcomings, especially related to proof and evidence and leniency in the current legal structure.

Meanwhile, in recent years reports of infanticide and baby dumping have increased to alarming levels, as women and underage girls – including those who become pregnant as a consequence of rape – are forced to take desperate measures, such as self-induced abortions, infanticide or leaving babies abandoned. Such was the case with the 15 year old girl in question.

With an unforgiving system and laws stating that is a punishable offence to give birth outside of marriage, driven by a thirst to punish the victims rather than protect them, victims find themselves alone, helpless and forced to remain silent.

These are just a small fraction of the many deep-rooted gender issues in the justice system of Maldives, that ripple outward from the branches of justice system into the entire society.

In her recent visit to Maldives, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers issued a statement in which she commented “all members of the justice system should be sensitised to gender equality and women’s rights to make access to justice a reality for women in the Maldives.”

She also also expressed concern over low representation of women in the judiciary. There are currently no women sitting on the Supreme Court and only eight women sitting in the High Court, the Superior Courts and the Magistrate Courts. It is arguable that the gender issues in the system are arising due to lack of a diverse representation in the court benches and decision-making bodies.

When women and girls are stripped off their dignity and rights for having sex or being raped, it is not an issue that can be simply ignored. Meaningful action is needed by the authorities to remove the gender issues through legal and structural reforms, and prevent the culture of impunity currently enjoyed by sadistic perpetrators such as rapists and child molesters.


115 thoughts on “Rape victims punished, failed by Maldives justice system”

  1. "But in this one instance she was convicted for a crime she committed with her boyfriend". I beg Your pardon, Sir? Did I get this right? A crime? Having sex is a crime? Craving for sex is a crime? Many people here defend the girl by saying she couldn't have consented to have sex because of her age. But even if she really had consented,even if she had enjoyed it, even if she had asked for it, so what? For at the buttom of the whole discussion as to whether the girl consented or not lays the assumption, common to all religions, that sexuality is bad, that it must be combated, that especially young people who have sex should be punished etcetera. I am very
    sorry, but sexuality is life. So if you hate sexuality,it is humanity you hate, it is life you hate. And this is the perversity inherent to religion.

  2. unbelievable! beating a girl because she was raped by her father! what a civilization!

  3. Below here is a link to a flogging Maldives style.


    Also understand the motive of the website which is to attack Maldives tourism.

    Judge for yourself if this is cruel or barbaric. I'd call them spanking. Infintely better than being cajed like an animal with notorious felons. It maynot be the same as allowed consensul sex as in western countries. But each country has its own set of values to judge. so in our case fornication is not allowed and we will spank. @ West. Please don't impose your values on us. For the west minarets is an issue. Muslim women doning a veil is an issue. But for christian nuns its not an issue. So the west has their values and we have our values. Please respect our values if you claim to be just or democratic.

  4. This case is the first I've read in a long time that has actually made me weep. Whether or not this girl consented to sex is irrelevant - except apparently to the barbaric Sharia court, hence the hundred lashes. And please Human Being don't say that it's ok because it's "flogging, Maldives style" - don't you think that the victim in this case has been through enough, without public humiliation being thrown in to boot?

    What this insane law doesn't seem to do is to consider things from her point of view. After years of sexual abuse from her stepfather and tacit agreement from her mother, do please tell me how she's supposed to know how to act with another man, who's almost certainly taken advantage of her anyway, and got away with it too it seems.

    For you to defend this kind of "justice", you may as well just come out with it and say that women (and girls) are to blame for everything - keeps it nice and simple doesn't it? And if "Annual judicial statistics report show that in past three years, zero cases of rape have reached a positive verdict.", this just goes to show that that's pretty much what underlies this disgusting system of abuse.

  5. @ human being too
    The style of punishment differs from culture to culture and country to country. Why is keeping innocent muslims in Guantanamo bay and denying them justice somehow not barbaric?
    Why is it ok when done in Singapore and not ok when done in a muslim country? Don't give the impression of being a racist.

  6. @ human being too.
    forgot to attach the link of flogging in Singapore.
    Please try to cry if you can. But this shall not be barbaric because this is done in an advanced non-muslim country. ok?



  7. What is happening to this child is barbaric and inhumane. This should not happen to any child anywhere. Everyone who considers themselves decent human beings should boycott the Maldives as a holiday destination until they change the law to protect women and children.

  8. Being a Singaporean myself, it is true that Singapore does practice caning/flogging or whatever you call it but they do not do that to rape victims! Going through something as scarring as rape and still having to be publically humiliated by gwtting flogged is inhumane, its cruel and unacceptable so pleaee dont try to defend it.

    I know that flogging is part of their culture but culture changes, women are no longer seen as lesser than men. Theres sex equality now so shouldnt they change their traditions to be this way too?

    Just like how slavery was abolished and now african americans are no longer slaves but equals, they should change their ways to treat women as equals too. It shouldnt be hard, these women are not of a different race, culture or religion as them. They are their own people so shouldnt the laws cover them too.

    Just think about it, she's 15 and she was raped, she wouldn't she see herself like how she used to. She would think that shes been used. So if someone lies to her and says they love her just to have sex with her is it considered 'consensual'?

    Its not fair, shes young and she doesnt know what to think. She was used and her being punished for being manipulated is not fair.

    If you truly are a human being then you should feel something for the poor girl. Dont say youre a human when you think punishing a child who was raped is right. Dont think of it as in the eyes of the law but through your own eyes as a living, breathing, feeling human being.

    This world is unfair but just because it is doesnt mean we human think its fair. If we want it to be fair it starts with us.

    I just want to know if you truly think that this 15 year old is wrong, @human being. Nothing else.

  9. Now to have sexual desires fulfilled by one's own choice is basic human right. The reason for working hard so hard is to achieve happiness. We are trying hard to acquire wealth, fame, recognition, good looks and rest of the works is for the sole purpose of impressing upon the opposite sex. What ever route you take, that is the ultimate aim. One should never be penalized in his/her pursuit of happiness in this regard, provided that it does not infringe on someone else's basic human right.

  10. The humanity have a long way to percourse, a lot of work to accomplish before reaching justice and comprehension to the other!!!!
    Doubt is a good way to analyse is own convictions; gooing deep inside is heart and spirit.

  11. My language is french: so my english can be difficult to be understand?
    I want to write "his" heart instead of is heart. OK?

  12. I may have read this wrong, but both men and women can be punished with 100 lashes for having pre-marital sex!! Surely nobody would punish a girl if she has been raped!! Not only would that be INHUMANE, CRUEL,EVIL AND BARBARIC, IT IS TOTALLY STUPID!!! YOU CANNOT TREAT GIRLS OR WOMEN LIKE THAT!! THAT CANNOT BE PART OF ANY RELIGION - THAT IS JUST SICK AND PERVERTED!!

  13. I've been to the Maldives several times for the scuba-diving with my husband. We're meant to be going this July for 2 weeks, but I'm backing out because of what has happened to this girl, and is presumably happening to many other Maldivian women. Although I love the marine life in the Maldives I've always felt a little uncomfortable about the male staff on the island. They don't understand a woman might want a drink on her own in the bar, or why she would want to go to the gym or go running. And of course most of the staff are men, because guess what, women don't really have a right to inhabit this planet do they, and should be shut away. So I'm not going to the Maldives this year to enjoy paradise while girls are raped around me. I'm starting to find men more and more ridiculous in the way that their gender gives them a totally inappropriate sense of entitlement which makes them arrogant and delusional. They're like spoilt children brought up with a silver spoon in their mouths who cry when someone would dare suggest they shouldn't rape and torture a woman or child. However, behaving as they do, they can't possibly create a healthy and functioning society. A lot of them aren't fit for purpose. I would like to bomb them off the face of the earth and create my own society which doesn't involve being completely delusional about what you are entitled to, raping children, raping your partner, physical torture, lying, thinking you're better than you are and believing in weird entities that don't exist. Bring it on.

  14. Please i am weeping even though i don't believe d article but pls let somebody tell me this is not true.God forbid! Are there brains like that in human skulls on planet earth? Pls i am jst sick right now!


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