Local child protection NGO Advocating the rights of Children (ARC) says that the recent increase in reports of child abuse cases following the death of Rakeedhoo toddler Mohamed Ibthihaal is only the “tip of the iceberg”.
ARC’s advocacy manager Muruthala Moosa explained that existing societal and cultural norms are contributing to an environment that put children at risk of abuse.
The high profile case of Ibthihaal has resulted in a spike in reports of child abuse as the public and media campaign to raise awareness of the issue. Authorities are meanwhile conducting a series of parallel investigations after it was revealed that abuse within the troubled family was known to officials.
“In the absence of such a high profile case, child abuse continues unabated and unreported,” said Muruthala.
Numerous cases of child abuse have been reported to police following the death of the three-year-old last week. Police have since revealed that his mother confessed to the crime while under police custody after the Criminal Court issued a warrant against her.
Haveeru reported that she has been transported to Malé today (February 3) for further investigation.
Muruthala said that ARC had consistently stated that the existing Child Protection Act (Act no. 9/91) was “inadequate and does not contain major provisions and principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which the Maldives acceded to in 1991.”
Additionally, he noted that despite a new act being drafted, “not enough political capital or priority is being afforded to fast track this legislation”.
The implementation of laws and regulation is also a major problem, said Muruthala: “Even if the new and improved Act is to take effect, it needs to be enforced thoroughly.”
“The tragic [Ibthihaal] case has highlighted the need to address serious deficiencies in the child protection system in the Maldives,” he said.
Meanwhile, a police media official told Minivan News today that there has been a marked increase in the number of child abuse cases being reported in the past week.
Police confirmed reports that a 42-year-old man from Lhaviyani Hinnavaru was arrested today for sexually abusing a 14-year-old, while her mother has also been arrested for giving the man consent to carry out the abuse.
Hinnavaru police have also started an investigation into another case in which a man branded a six-year-old on the hand with a red hot screwdriver, confirmed the media official.
Police have also started an investigation into a case where an 11-year-old boy was allegedly held in chains at Haa Dhaalu Kulhudhuhffushi, the official continued.
Sun reported sources as saying that the child is mischievous and often misbehaved, and that the family was keeping him chains for his own safety. The Human Rights Commission of Maldives is investigating reports that authorities were aware of the abuse.
Elsewhere, a court warrant has been issued for the arrest of a divorced couple from Laamu Gan for threatening their four children, while a 23-year-old in Hulhumalé has been arrested for neglecting her six-month-old baby on January 31.
Police media said that the Family and Child Protection Department will be assisting and providing guidance to the island police stations on how proceed with such cases.
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