Rising religious fundamentalism, conservative thinking impacting women: Department of National Planning

Progress toward achieving gender equality has not kept pace with other development achievements in the Maldives, as reflected by the 12 percent of women who have suffered sexual abuse before the age of 15 while one in three have been the victim of violence, a Department of National Planning study has found.

The study examined how much human development progress has been achieved in the Maldives in terms of population and development, reproductive health and rights, gender equity, equality and empowerment of women as well as education during the period 1994 – 2012.

The “Maldives Operational Review for the ICPD Beyond 2014” study was conducted under the supervision of the Department of National Planning (DNP), in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), to determine whether the Maldives has met the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) thematic Programme of Action (PoA) goals.

The study found that “Despite impressive advancements in all development areas, the progress towards achieving gender equality and equity and the empowerment of women have not been the same.”

“Even though, the Maldivian Constitution guarantees equal rights and freedom for all Maldivians without any discrimination, prevailing traditions and socio-cultural norms have limited women’s participation in the workforce and in the community,” the study determined.

“The increasing level of religious fundamentalism and conservative thinking has worsened the situation,” it added.

Although the Domestic Violence Act 3/2012 was “a historical milestone for women in the country,” domestic violence and violence against women remains a “major concern” in the Maldives.

“One out of three females aged between 15-49 years has experienced some form of violence within their lifetime. Further, 12 percent of women reported having experienced sexual abuse before their 15th birthday,” the report stated. “Most of the time, the perpetrators are a close family member or intimate partner and the incidence goes unreported and undocumented.”

Victims to not receive appropriate and timely support, since domestic and sexual violence are perceived as a private matter and often go unreported, the study found.

Additionally, “Women continue to be stereotyped and underrepresented at professional decision making levels,” noted the report.

The low level of women being represented in senior level positions is partly due to the “high domestic burden on females,” with women heading 47 percent of households in the Maldives, one of the highest rates in the world, the study determined.

Although women are represented in the workforce, they are “mostly represented in stereotypical roles” such as education (72 percent), health (68 percent), manufacturing (65 percent) and agriculture (64 percent), said the report.

Meanwhile, 40 percent of young women remain unemployed, with 10.5 of the overall youth population being neither employed nor seeking to further their studies, the report added. Employment opportunities for many have been obstructed primarily due to inadequate employment opportunities as well as the mismatch between skills and job requirements.

The report also found that the number of women continuing their studies beyond secondary education is low compared to men. This disparity is the result of “limited access to educational institutions at the island level, domestic responsibilities and hesitance to allow females to study on another island.”

“Special affirmative actions are needed to create more employment and livelihood opportunities for women and to increase the number of women in public and political life,” stated the report.

Despite the Maldives achieving the Millennium Development Goal target to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, malnutrition and anemia are still limiting women’s equality, equity and empowerment, noted the study.

“Poor nutritional status and anemia are significantly high among pregnant women and women of reproductive age, [which] puts them in high risk for maternal mortality,” the report found. “Malnutrition among women puts them in high risk during pregnancy and hinders their full participation in education, employment and social activities.”

Women – and young women’s – health is also at risk due to the lack of access to quality services, particularly in regard to sexual and reproductive health.

“With regard to reproductive rights, men often control decisions regarding women’s reproductive health, often based on religious and cultural grounds,” the report noted.

“[Furthermore,] the sudden growth of religious fundamentalism and conservative thinking is an emerging challenge, particularly for women and young girls,” the study stated. “There have been increase towards certain trends such as preference for home schooling and refusing vaccination and other medical services for women based on religious beliefs.”

Violence against women

Despite the extensive provisions in the Domestic Violence act, it has done little to curb the abuse of women, minors and other vulnerable people; the police, the judiciary and wider Maldivian society have made minimal progress addressing domestic violence and abuse, former Gender Minister and Chairperson the Hope for Women NGO, Aneesa Ahmed, recently told Minivan News.

Meanwhile, support for women’s equality has experienced a “significant drop” despite overall progress in improving the human rights situation nationally, a Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) second baseline survey recently concluded.

“Despite the freedoms that the constitution has provided for women, attitudes towards women’s empowerment show a negative trend,” stated Andrew Cox, the former UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP representative in the Maldives.

“Alarmingly, the study also suggests that there has been a regression in people’s sensitivity towards domestic violence and gender based violence,” he added.

Male attitudes have become “more conservative” regarding women’s rights issues, whereas female views have become more supportive of rights in some areas, the report stated.

In a reversal from the 2005 human rights study, more women than men now consider it inappropriate for men to hit their wives. However, significant numbers of respondents stated where there was a “substantive justification” – as opposed to something trivial – “violence against wives was justified,” the report determined.

Both genders in the Maldives were also found to believe that in the husband/wife relationship, women should play a “subordinate role”.

In spite of this culturally conservative shift regarding women’s rights, an “overwhelming” 92 percent ofMaldivians believe that laws and systems to protect women from sexual assault should be reformed, according to the results of a survey conducted by Asia Research Partners and social activism website Avaaz.org.

Of those polled, 62 percent supported an outright moratorium on the practice of flogging, while 73 percent declared existing punishments for sexual crimes were unfair to women.

The international community has echoed this sentiment, particularly in regard to the recent
case in which a 15 year-old rape victim was sentenced to 100 lashes and eight months’ house arrest for a separate offence of fornication garnered substantial international attention and condemnation.

In March, an Avaaz petition calling for the repeal of the sentence and a moratorium on flogging in the Maldives collected more than two million signatures – a figure more than double the number of tourists who visit the country annually.

Currently, British couples are being asked to avoid the Maldives as a honeymoon destination to force the country’s government to overturn the conviction of the girl, who was given the draconian sentence after being raped by her stepfather, while UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been asked to intervene in the case, writes Jane Merrick for the UK’s Independent newspaper.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Eva Abdulla explained the current context of women’s rights in the Maldives to the publication.

“Consider the statistics on flogging: that 90 per cent of the cases are women. Consider the statistics on rape charges: 0 per cent success rate of prosecution, with the latest being the release of four men accused of raping a 16-year-old, on the grounds that there wasn’t enough evidence,” said Abdulla.

“The increasing religious fundamentalism followed by the attempts to subjugate women, both politically and otherwise, should be cause for alarm. This is a country of traditionally very strong women.

“However, increasingly, the Adhaalath Party, a self-claimed religious party which is in alliance with the current government, uses the religious card to scare off women. We women MPs are often threatened whenever we speak against the party,” she added.


17 thoughts on “Rising religious fundamentalism, conservative thinking impacting women: Department of National Planning”

  1. May god bless these islands of Maldives a permanent spot in Heaven, where the men can enjoy virgins through out eternity. Oh yes, I want wine too.

    For the homos, please provide young boys.

    For the sadists, please provide a continuous stream is non believers for their enjoyment.

    For the con artists, please provide the resorts and tax free regime as well.

    Lets see what else...

    For the Maumoon family, please give them the presidency and cabinet of the Heaven.

    Where are the women? Oh that's right they don't have any space there, for they will again cause Mordisian men to rape.

  2. Beating, bodybagging and belittling women - Dhivehistani women's rights. Girl marriage is legal and flogging of women is commonplace. When Aneesa Ahmed tried to do a study on domestic violence, Dhivehistani govt officials told her she was brainwashed by Americans. When Farahanaz Faisal called for an end to flogging, Dhivehistanis called her a naked whore. When Aishath Aniya spoke against Islamism, she was questioned by the Guardian Council. When Azima Shukoor talked about child brides, she was dismissed as crazy. When Aishath Velezinee spoke about corrupt judges she was literally stabbed in the back. These are promiment women of Dhivehistan. So what about the average peasant women?

    The past matrifocal society of Dhivehistan has been replaced by Arab patriarchal values. Women are voiceless, faceless and nameless. They go by patronymics like binth Aziz (reminds one of Atwood's Offred). They've internalised the ever-present misogynistic mullah rhetoric that they're worthless creatures - deficient in intelligence and religious worship. At this rate of mullarization, pretty soon we'll see acid attacks, ritual infibulation, and honor killings.

  3. In all fairness and honesty, the so called fundamentalists (with whatever scheme they are suspected of having), pales in comparison to the abuse and the manipulation by the 5% who are plundering the economy and even using the fundamenlits as pawns

    This report is just a cover up

  4. The people responsible for the report inluding UNFP should be ashamed of muddling the issue by putting the blame solely on a scapegoat fringe group, which is well funded and maintained by certain elites.

    Does this national planing agency (devil know what they plan!) think Maldivian are such dumb creatures to believe them

  5. @homesexual & Andreas

    Absolutely true, you nailed it right!

    You just ignored to mention that maldivian women are there just to be f**cked

  6. i think this report is biased. if u check the madivian students studying abroad, round 80% are females. females have more opportunities in education and employment than males in maldives. and its about time we men start to fight for our rights! feminism is killing this century.

  7. “There have been increase towards certain trends such as preference for home schooling and refusing vaccination and other medical services for women based on religious beliefs.”

    The problem is neither the religion nor the belief in it. The problem is the dangerous mix up of certain Middle Eastern customs and social norms being used as if these were part of the religion.

    If home schooling or refusing vaccination and other medical services for women was part of the religion, then the creation of modern medicine by Muslims would never have happened. Neither would we have witnessed any of the other achievements during Islam's Golden Age.

    Following Saudi Arabia and its customs by self appointed guardians of religion is extremely dangerous. From an Islamic point of view there is very little that's good about that country apart from being the birthplace of Islam itself.

    It's rulers are illegitimate clingers of power who grabbed the land of Arabia via a deal with colonial Britain. Where does Islam say that Muslims have to be oppressed and put in a straightjacket and ruled over by a single family? Where does Islam say that women cannot be allowed to drive or do any number of ordinary tasks that a man routinely does?

    All that nonsense has absolutely nothing to do with religion but a desire by that society and its rulers to prolong their vested interests. Unfortunately, a number of Muslims are brainwashed into believing that those are part of religion too, when it serves their own selfish needs.

    When Pandiyaaru Ali Hameed, who incidentally was educated in Saudi Arabia, plays the holy man card in his day job, (sentencing women to flogging), meanwhile escapes to a shady hotel in Sri Lanka for a bit of fornication. Where is religion again, and what religion are they following?

  8. "feminism is killing this century." agreed with aa 100%!!!!

    when you work around male city, you always see 'females wanted for (this this job)', you'll never come across any ad that says men wanted.

    ...and by the way it is not only the women mp's that the public hate or ap for that matter, it's the whole lot of you. the current parliament is of no use to the people. you declared a salary of mrf 65000 for yourself when the basic minimum pay is still not set for the commoners. aren't you ashamed of yourself?

  9. Hello UNFPA, if you want to talk about ICPD+20 for the Maldives, you need to find a way to ensure that children born out of wedlock are also treated as normal and equal members of the community. At the present time, they are branded for life, publicly designated as children born out of wedlock. The authorities are busy flogging their mothers and shaming the children, instead of providing legal rights to support and inheritance from their biological fathers.

    I was shocked to note that not one mention was made of the status of the LGBTI community in the Maldives. Does UNFPA assume that no such community exists in the Maldives? How logical does that sound? The Planning Ministry would of course deny that Maldivians are anything but hetero-normal and dimorphic! But should UNFPA lend credibility to such a claim? Or does UNFPA also think that LGBTI issues are not population related issues as the members of that community are "beasts" as described by mullahs; or should that be addressed by WHO because the government argues that LGBTI represents a disease to be treated at rehabilitation centres as in Saudi Arabia?

    While the UN Secretary-General places great emphasis on the addressing the rights of sexual minorities, UNFPA should not allow fascist national governments to set a different agenda for human progress!

  10. Let's cut the crap and not pretend that Islam has absolutely nothing to do with this issue. Here's what the holy prophet had to say about women:

    Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:
    Once Allah's Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o 'Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)." They asked, "Why is it so, O Allah's Apostle ?" He replied, "You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you." The women asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn't it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?" The women replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her religion."

  11. As one commentator mentioned, women MPs in Majlis are equally corrupt, if not more.

    Behind every corrupt man in Maldives is a woman too

  12. @Wives and Concubines on Mon, 8th Jul 2013 9:55 AM

    "Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:
    Once Allah’s Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o ‘Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, “O women!"

    Oh, I see that you are quoting that infamous hadith to prove that women are inferior in the eyes of Islam. This so-called hadith has two versions and have been used by detractors of Islam to show how Islam treats women.

    Scholars have debated on the true nature of these hadith, and on their authenticity and there are arguments on both sides of this debate. There is no proof or direct evidence that Prophet Mohammed said exactly what is attributed in your version.

    However, the Quran is quite explicit in its verdict: a woman's witness is only worth half a man's. The Quran is for all time and for all peoples, so it's quite a damning verdict.

    The following verse is also worth noting regarding its treatment of women in Islam. Note that the Prophet himself is given exception here over other ordinary believers:

    YUSUFALI: O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Makka) with thee; and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her;- this only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large); We know what We have appointed for them as to their wives and the captives whom their right hands possess;- in order that there should be no difficulty for thee. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

    You can see why our Mullahs behave the way they do!

  13. during this days the women are much to be hired for a vacant work.why? because man wants to ride his cycle all the day.they want a job as family driver only. after fetching their family they will go for coffee with other friends also a family driver.they will chat, gossip, smoke & pray to forgive their sins so that they can do another sins. then after that fetch again their family from work & from school.

  14. @Suvadheep and Wives and Concubines.

    Even with state of the art videos, audios we have yet to construct a story for what they are, as they unfold in modern times. A century ago, wars were fought with vigor, everything presented were points of views as the story teller sees. a single or a group perspective is not necessarily the truth.

    What happened centuries ago, being quoted for what they are, points of views of a person, does not have much relevance to the man who plays no part in the game.

    And a game this is.

    From nothing to perfection, requires hell of a lot of more high class in organizing than to being dependent on stories/things which are he-told-so, i-heard-so.

    The relevance and reference to guidance from above, are definitely not on any of these weak quotes.

    It's what is, that matters. And what is, is far from a perfection and cannot really be from the source. You would think after centuries, some form of alignment to perfection would be seen. And there is nothing in the Arabian-led Eco-system even remotely resembles a vision that has a divine hand. And mind you, we being the recipients, it just would not do to have an convoluted Einstein theory to light the path. All we humans would ever need is a sweeping hand of guidance from source, and we would never even have capacity to do wrong.

  15. There is a religious NGO that is specially for women, they organize programs that include education, childcare, psychology, women's health and religion. There workshops gather more than 200 women while their short lectures gather thousands of women.

    The people who wrote this report would have no idea about them nether will minivan news. I hope they try to find out the truth.

    Conservative religious women are much more empowered in this country than you know. If the scale of women empowerment u seek is number of parliament seats or the number of women who can shout out loud like mad MPs, well then.. you've got a terribly broken scale.

  16. 90% flogging is done on women, yes I can agree to that. But isn't that an issue of our failed judicial system? Trying to call it fundamentalism tells that one doesn't understand the problem, first step in solving a problem is understand the problem.

  17. @ Alifutha is right.
    1. The non-conservative, liberal women have failed to set an example. Instead they mimick or fake those men they hate. In contrast, conservative women are better organized and original too. They do not fake.

    2. And dont blame the problems of judiciary on others.


Comments are closed.