US State Department critical of women’s rights in the Maldives

Human rights in the Maldives have “continued to improve from the previous year, although some issues remain” according to the 2009 Country Report on Human Rights Practices published by the United States’ Department of State.

The report, published on 11 March, describes a case reported last September by detainees at Maafushi jail to the Human Rights Commission Maldives (HRCM) where “members of the Emergency Support Group (ESG)… indiscriminately attacked detainees.”

President of HRCM Ahmed Saleem said they have “received less complaints than in the past” regarding abuse of detainees.

Under the heading of “Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” the report reads “the law prohibits such practices, although there were reports of mistreatment of persons by security forces.”

Saleem said the Maldives had endured “a culture of torture” for many years, “but things have changed and are still changing.”

On the unequal treatment of women, the report cites that “In 2008 the Ministry of Gender and Family released data showing an increase in the reported cases of violence against women, although NGOs believed that most cases remained unreported.”

Saleem said “in this country women enjoy more rights than in other countries,” noting that “women have been voting here for as long as I can remember.”

Saleem added that the United States still hasn’t ratified the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

“Ninety-nine countries have signed it,” Saleem said, “but not the United States.”

The report also states that “Under [Maldivian] law, spousal rape is not a crime” and “There are no laws in force regarding domestic violence against women or workplace harassment, nor were there firm data on the extent of violence against women.”

Saleem responded to this by saying that “domestic violence is a crime anywhere” and reiterated that the “population of Maldives is unique” and women enjoy many rights that women in other countries do not have.

Another point of concern shown in the report was that of the judicial system releasing known pedophiles back into the communities of their victims.

The report reads “The [Judicial Service Commission] JSC did not publicise deliberations or make recommendations on the hiring, dismissal, or discipline of judges during the year.”

The report says that according to the Maldives Police Service (MPS) “from January to March, 34 cases of child sexual abuse were reported, and 23 pedophiles were arrested.”

It also stated that there was an increase in the reporting of child abuse cases, which the MPS attributed to growing public awareness.

Saleem said the HRCM “is not in favour of the government releasing any criminal unless they are fit to live in society” and have been through a rehabilitation programme.

He added that the HRCM is “sending reports” to change these practices and “things are happening. But it’s not as quick as we want it to be.”

The Department of State’s report further reads “The law does not provide for freedom of religion and significantly restricts it” but only cited one case suggesting that a lack of freedom of religion could be seen as a human rights issue in the Maldives.

The report said that as the Ministry of Islamic Affairs has sole authority to grant preaching licenses, they requested the police investigate an independent prayer group led by unlicensed preachers. This could be seen as an infringement on the group’s rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association (section 2b of the report).

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs said the reason for the investigation was the threat of religious extremism.

The last major concern in the report was the rights of workers, mainly foreign labour workers.

According to the report, the HRCM had reported “some domestic workers, especially migrant female domestic workers, were in some cases trapped in circumstances bordering on forced labor in which employers used threats and intimidation to prevent them from leaving.”

The report adds that “In December 2008 the government established a Labour Relations Authority and a Labour Tribunal to implement the new Employment Law.”

The Tribunal did not begin functioning until April 2009 due to budgetary constraints and lack of office space.

When asked what he thought of the changes in human rights practices in the country, Saleem said “as far as civil rights go, we are a changed country.”


12 thoughts on “US State Department critical of women’s rights in the Maldives”

  1. Violence Against Women in the United States: Statistics

    In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner.1 That's an average of three women every day. Of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third were killed by an intimate partner.2
    DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (Intimate Partner Violence or Battering)

    Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.3 According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year.4 Less than 20 percent of battered women sought medical treatment following an injury.5

    Edited: Comments that copy-paste extensively from other websites both disrupt the flow of the forum and breach international copyright law, and will be edited or removed. Please consider quoting, referencing, linking or paraphrasing to make your point. For more information see our Commenting Guidelines.

  2. rilwan:

    What is your point? Where has it been stated that the US does not have crimes against women?

    The point of the article is that in the Maldives there are no laws or mechanisms that protect the abused women. Serious crimes (against women) in the US - are not considered a crime at all in the Maldives. This is an institutional failing.

    From what I see on the streets of Male', the boxing of women into narrow areas of thought and movement keeps getting worse and worse everyday. It really is a riot to see the likes of Mutalib in the parliament.

  3. Last November, the Majlis signed a declaration ending violence against women. We committed ourselves to the protection of our women’s rights, their safety, and their security. However, since then, we have seen women electrocuted, raped, and murdered. There is a climate of intolerance towards women. Toward’s women’s rights. Towards women’s agency. And towards women’s independence.

    This is not okay. For a man to abuse his wife is not okay. For a pedophile to be released is not okay. We have to do more to protect women and children in the country, and I am glad the State Department's report has taken account of the situation in our country.

  4. One cannot compare US and Maldives. We have lived in Maldives and now back in the US. Male has become extremely dangerous to live. Gangs counterfiet dollars drugs and violence against women is so common now. I think we have to slow down our democracy march and bring law and order to the country. German police training or Iceland fishing technics are not the solutions.

  5. So the solution to our womens issues to point out that our women are much better off than 'most countries'? Shame on you Nanreethi Saleem.

  6. to rilwan.
    no need to compare crime in USA and MAldives.think about number of population and % who involves in crime.
    in USA 308,871,000 population and in Maldives only 300.000
    because Maldives population is so small so high level and % of crime much more danger than in America.if every third person in Maldives is drug addict or will be in gang structure that is the hell that appear in Maldives in near future.America have many problems .
    but America is very big,powerful and have heavy industry and recovering possibility. and it is not so danger like for small Amerika thousand rehab center for drugs addict.but in Maldives only one or two very small centers for 10 peoples hehe.and one of the heavy corrupted officials structure in the if you compare two different country think before ok?

  7. agree with aysha. comparing to the lowest is the stupidest thing one cud do to avoid responsibility. wen i read the response by saleem, i wonder if he truly believes in women's rites, if he actually has plans to make the situation in maldives better.

  8. Hey US, you are not the people to release reports on Human rights and rising crime levels. Guess who is toturing detainees ni Guantanmo bay and not to forget the amount of women abuse and rape that occurs in your country. So shut up.

  9. America should be ashamed to talk about any types of Rights, they are the one's who is suppressing the Rights of many people in the world. They are the one's who is not allowing the people to practice THE RIGHT TO LIVE, they are the one's who is creating corruptions and killing the innocent people in Iraq, Afghanistan,..... etc.

  10. What is the point in comparing with US or any other countries? This is a domestic situation. True women have been given voting rights ages ago - but is that the only important right? or the only right?
    Domestic violence and workplace harrasment has existed in the maldives longer than the voting rights - when is THAT going to be prioritised?

  11. Who care what USA reports on other countries, they cannot see things in their backyard, when they point out others. Of course unilaterally they can bomb cities like Kabul and Bagdhaadh without respect for any international laws. Thats what they did in the past and thats what they always will do even in future.


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