A 15-year-old rape victim from the island of Feydhoo in Shaviyani Atoll was convicted of premarital sex at the Juvenile Court today and sentenced to 100 lashes and eight months of house arrest.
In June 2012, the girl gave birth to a baby that was discovered buried in the outdoor shower area of her home. Her stepfather was later charged with child sexual abuse, possession of pornographic materials and committing premeditated murder.
Her mother was meanwhile charged with concealing a crime and failing to report child sexual abuse to the authorities.
An official from the Prosecutor General (PG)’s office told Minivan News in January this year that the fornication charges against the minor were related to a separate offence of premarital sex that emerged during the police investigation. The charges were filed on November 25, 2012.
In its verdict delivered today, the Juvenile Court ordered the state to transfer the girl to the Children’s Home in Villigili to enforce the sentence of eight months house arrest, according to local media reports.
The girl reportedly confessed at the trial to having consensual premarital sex.
The Islamic Shariah punishment of flogging would be administered when the girl turns 18. However, the sentence could be implemented earlier should the minor request expedition, a court official explained to local media.
In late January, the PG’s Office told Minivan News that it was reviewing the decision to press charges against the minor. Two hearings at the Juvenile Court were subsequently cancelled upon request by the PG.
However, the trial resumed after the PG decided earlier this month not to withdraw the charges.
Officials from the PG were unavailable today to clarify whether the male offender faced the same charge of premarital sex.
The case of the 15 year-old had prompted concern from the executive following international media coverage. The government announced last month that it would review and “correct” laws that victimise young women and minors who have suffered sexual abuse.
President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad told Minivan News that from government’s perspective, the 15 year-old girl was a victim who needed to be protected, not punished by authorities.
“We will be talking with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs over this manner and will review and correct the problem,” he said.
Masood said that the Maldives had experienced a number of similar cases of late where young women had been victimised and punished by authorities – a situation he said the government was looking to prevent.
“We are reviewing this right now and if we have to go to the extent of changing existing laws then we would look to do this,” he said.
The criminal charges against the minor was slammed by Amnesty International last month, which called the prosecution “an absolute outrage.”
“This is an absolute outrage, regardless of the reason for her charges. Victims of rape or other forms of sexual abuse should be given counselling and support – not charged with a crime,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives Researcher.
“We urge the Maldivian authorities to immediately drop all charges against the girl, ensure her safety and provide her with all necessary support.
“Flogging is a violation of the absolute prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. The Maldivian authorities should immediately end its use regardless of circumstances. The fact that this time a 15-year old girl who has suffered terribly is at risk makes it all the more reprehensible,” said Faiz.
“Flogging is not only wrong and humiliating, but can lead to long-term psychological as well as physical scars.”
In response to a Minivan News report in 2009 of an 18 year-old woman fainting after a 100 lashes, Amnesty International called for a moratorium on the “inhumane and degrading punishment.”
Of the 184 people sentenced to public flogging in 2006, 146 were female, making it nine times more likely for women to be punished.
In November 2011, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the authorities to impose a moratorium on flogging and to foster national dialogue and debate “on this issue of major concern.”
“This practice constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women, and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country,” the UN human rights chief told MPs during a maiden visit to the Maldives.
Her remarks sparked protests by Islamic groups outside the UN building and drew condemnation from the Islamic Ministry, NGOs and political parties.
According to statistics from the Department of Judicial Administration, almost 90 percent of those convicted of fornication in 2011 was female.
Of 129 fornication cases in 2011, 104 people were sentenced, out of which 93 were female. This included 10 underage girls, 79 women aged 18-40 and and four women above 40 years.