New child abuse prevention campaign launched

The ministry of gender and law in association with UNICEF has launched a new child abuse prevention programme, Ahan, to increase awareness of child rights and reporting of child abuse.

The campaign was launched on the occasion of international children’s day, which is marked across the world today.

State minister for gender Dr Haala Hameed said the reporting of child abuse cases has increased four-fold within the past four years. The ministry has set up a hotline 1412 for child abuse reporting.

Minivan News was unable to obtain the exact number of cases reported in the past four years at the time of going to press. According to previous figures by NGO, Advocating for the Rights of Children (ARC), 388 cases of child abuse were reported between January and November 2014.

Majority of reported cases relate to sexual and physical abuse, Haala said.

“In one sense, the increase in reporting is positive. It indicates an increase in awareness among the public,” she said.

Haala said the ministry has received complaints people are unable to contact them through the hotline, but said the ministry is “looking for ways to fix it.”

Police figures show 577 cases of sexual abuse in 2012, 573 in 2013 and 475 in 2014. Majority of the cases relate to sexual abuse of children. Meanwhile, domestic violence cases amounted to 179 in 2012, 207 in 2013 and 186 in 2014.

The human rights watchdog has previously said only a small proportion of reported child abuse cases gain justice and said many victims remain re-victimized due to systemic failures.

“Most prevalent challenges include delays in obtaining evidence and overly strict evidentiary requirements,” the HRCM said in a report to the UN human rights council in September.

The HRCM also noted that societal attitudes that treat child abuse as a private matter or that force child abuse victims to deny testimony in court in order to protect family honor prevent victims from gaining justice.

The state is yet to establish a registry of child sexual offenders, the commission noted, and said the child protection system is weak in the Maldives as it is under resourced, with inconsistencies in capacity and coordination.

In a statement today, the HRCM called for justice for child abuse victims and a system to monitor perpetrators once they are released.

Attorney general Mohamed Anil today said a “holistic approach” is needed to tackle child abuse.

“Awareness is also one very important component, we also need to improve the state authorities, give them better equipment, better training, strengthen relations between all related institutions, and improve monitoring mechanisms,” he said.

He also noted the importance of strengthening laws related to child rights and said his office has drafted a new child protection bill. A new juvenile justice system bill will also be ready by August, he said.

“But not having the necessary laws is not a reason to let these issues slide,” he said.


ARC children’s storybook shortlisted in Gourmand World Cookbook Awards

A storybook for children by a Maldivian child rights advocacy group has been shortlisted in the 2015 European Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

The Sneaky Snare of the Syrupy Slurp Slops was shortlisted in the category for Best in the World for Children’s Books.

The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards celebrates and awards books about food and/or drinks and features a number of books by world-renowned chefs, publishers and authors every year.

The Sneaky Snare of the Syrupy Slurp Slops, released in 2014, is an educational children’s book based on the message of “Re-think Your Drink,” encouraging children to drink water and plain milk, whilst making them aware of the dangers of consuming energy drinks, soda and other sugary drinks.

It is the second book in ARC’s Health Eating and Active Lifestyles (HEAL) campaign.

President of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards Edouard Cointreau said: “It is quite an achievement to be on the shortlist. It is extremely difficult. The quantity and quality of entries from the 205 participating countries have reached a new high this year. All the books shortlisted are truly excellent, in very different ways”.

The 6 shortlisted books include books from USA, Spain, Canada, Sweden and the UAE. The awards are to be announced on June 9.

ARC’s first storybook, The Colourful Companionship of Casey Cabbage, won two awards in Gourmand Awards in 2013, namely Best Children’s Book in Maldives and Best Charity and Fundraising Book in Asia. It was also nominated for the Best in the World category.


Rise in child abuse reports “tip of the iceberg”, says ARC

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.

Related to this story

ARC condemns “systematic laws” after death of Rakeedhoo toddler

Body of abused child found in Vaavu Rakeedhoo

State negligence investigated in death of Rakeedhoo child


ARC invites submissions for photography competition

NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) has invited submissions from the public for ‘The Rights of Children Photography Competition 2014’.

According to ARC, the objective of the competition is to raise awareness on the rights of children as per the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

“Twelve photographs, one for each topic, will be selected and used in the design of ARC’s official calendar for the year 2015,” the NGO explained.

“Winners will be announced on Universal Children’s Day, the 20th of November, 2014, following an exhibition of selected photographs. The calendar will be launched on International Human Rights Day, the 10th of December, 2014. All proceeds from the calendar sales will be used to fund ARC’s H.O.P.E. Campaign against Child Abuse.”

The 12 topics or themes for the competition as well as guidelines for submission can be found on the ARC website.


Indian High Commission donates MVR 125,000 to ARC

The Indian High Commission donates MVR 125,000 (US$8,149) to children’s rights NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC).

At a meeting held at the Indian High Commission, the donation was handed to ARC’s managing director Haula Ahmed Didi by the Indian High Commissioner, Rajeev Shahare.

Speaking at the ceremony, Shahare said that along with the donation there was also an agreement to train 26 special educational needs teachers at India.

“This is an area where we are very keen to help out in. India is likely to help out in this field in the future,” said the high commissioner.

Speaking from ARC, Haula said that the donation had come at a very important time for the organisation.


ARC celebrates World Health Day by promoting healthy eating & active lifestyles

To commemorate this year’s World Health Day (April 7 2014), local NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) has organised a number of activities to promote healthy eating and active lifestyles for children.

According to an ARC press release, today is the official release of animated Sing-Along song ‘Eat a Rainbow’.  The song illustrates the benefits of eating different coloured fruits and vegetables.

This Friday (April 11) will also be the official book launch for the 2nd storybook in the HEAL series. The event will be held at the Raalhugandu Helipad Area, from 16:30 until 18:00.

In addition, ARC will be running healthy eating awareness sessions for school children in the local area. ARC’s senior consultant on nutrition will conduct interactive sessions for children at Billabong International High School and Kalaafaanu School.

At the HEAL campaign information sessions children are encouraged to eat different coloured fruits and vegetables everyday, to choose water first to quench their thirst, to avoid junk food, to eat healthy snacks and to stay active.

The sessions will be continued for other schools in Malé and in other islands throughout the year.


New network launched to support the rights of disabled children

Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) has launched the Child Advocacy Network of Disability Organisations (CAN DO) aimed at protecting and promoting the rights and well-being of children with disabilities.

“A recent study commissioned by ARC on the child protection system revealed a broad range of gaps and challenges, among which include the need for a special focus on protecting and promoting the rights and well-being of children with disabilities,” said ARC’s Executive Director Zenshya Shaheed Zaki.

The new network aims to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Maldives Disability Act, in order that “every child with disabilities in the country can live with full rights and dignity and are provided with opportunities to realize his or her full potential,” an ARC press release explained.

CAN DO will take steps to bridge the identified gaps in a number of ways, including improving access to information, raising awareness, conducting training, and enhancing early detection and intervention.

Founding members of CAN DO also include the Association for Disability and Development, Beautiful Eyes Down Syndrome Association of Maldives, Blind and Visually Impaired Association of Maldives, the Care Society, the Maldives Autism Association, Maldives Deaf Association, and the Maldives Association of Physical Disables.

Zenysha explained that CAN DO plans to strengthen the network of children’s disability charities, noting that lots of NGOs work with different types of disabilities and that CAN DO will be a good way to strengthen these collaborations and encourage a “greater focus in society into the issue of disabilities”.

“There are very few opportunities for disabled children to get education,” Zenysha stated. “It’s a huge issue that needs allot of work put in from the government.”

She went on to point out that the Maldives is lacking in specialist disability schools, citing the example of having only one school in the Maldives that specialises in blind or partially sighted education. Furthermore, in this school there is only one class – which cannot cater to the demand, she added.

As well as raising awareness of SEN schools and disabled education access, CAN DO will provide disability related training courses.

“This will create a more coordinated approach,” stated Zenysha,  and create “long term opportunities” for those who take part.

According to the Human Rights Commission (HRCM), in 2009 there were 2,250 children with disabilities registered in the Maldives and of these children only 230 had access to education.

The HRCM has this week begun hearings into its National Inquiry in to Access to Education for Children with Disabilities, in Kaafu atoll. The inquiry will examine the practices, policies, and laws related to education for children with disabilities.

ARC and CAN DO are currently planning events to celebrate Children’s Day, which takes place on the 10th May.


ARC launches ‘Respect’ campaign against bullying

Childrens’ rights NGO Advocating for the Rights of Children (ARC) on Saturday launched a campaign against bullying and discrimination titled ‘Respect’.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of these issues among children in order to equip them to respect both themselves and others’ boundaries and surroundings.

The ‘Respect’ campaign was initiated as a result of a survey conducted by the NGO in 2012, which “showed alarming statistics of bullying in schools”.

Under the campaign, a number of sessions will focus on anti-bullying and anti-discrimination with the primary aim of supporting students, teachers, and parents to promote positive and respectful behaviour and to create safe and healthy environments for children.

Launching the campaign this weekend, ARC held events at the Children’s Shelter and Muhyidheen School in the island of Villingili. The campaign includes a week-long programme consisting of material to teach the children how to acknowledge and accept differences between themselves and others.

The programme will help participants understand the term ‘bullying’, to identify bullying behaviour, and to recognise the emotional and psychological impacts of such behaviour. Children taking part will also learn the difference between assertive, aggressive, and passive communication and will learn to use assertive communication to stop or prevent bullying.

The programme involves both indoor and outdoor activities over the span of a week. Participants in the first of the series of programmes include 58 students from Grade 1 at Muhyidheen School and children ages 6 and over from the Children’s Shelter.

‘Respect’ will be conducted by foreign consultant Karen Boswell and ARC’s Senior Consultant on Education Fathimath Nahidh Shakir.


A 2012 survey conducted across grades 6 and 7 in all primary schools in capital city Malé, Hulhumalé, and Villingili found that 80 percent of students claimed to have seen another student being bullied or discriminated against, while 61 percent of the participants revealed that they had been bullied themselves.

Of those interviewed, 17 percent admitted to having bullied other students.

Regarding types of bullying, 15 percent noted being physically hurt, 28 percent had rumours and lies spread about them, and 32 percent reported having been teased.

Participants reported that 10 percent of bullying incidents took place near the toilets in school, 14 percent in school playgrounds, 16 percent in corridors, and 37 per cent in classrooms.

Almost half of the bullying victims – 45 percent – did not report bullying incidents to anyone. Of those who did, 49 percent of complaints were made to teachers and 45 percent to parents.

Those surveyed suggested that physical appearance was the primary reason for bullying – 36 percent giving this explanation – while personality, academic performance, and differences of opinion were cited as the next most prominent causes.

The report revealed that children felt bullying could be prevented by anti-bullying policies (19 percent), increased adult supervision (17 percent), and raising awareness of the issue (16 percent).

The ‘Respect’ campaign will stretch through out 2014 and will be held in various preschools, primary, and secondary schools.


Week in review: October 5 – 12

After nearly two weeks of deliberations, the Maldives Supreme Court this week chose to annul the first round of the presidential election. The 4 to 3 decision hinged on a police report – seen only by the judges – that suggested 5,600 ineligible votes had been cast.

In the dissenting opinion, three of the seven member bench questioned the credibility of the evidence presented as well as questioning the court’s authority to rule on the case.

After consulting with government representatives on the repeated first round – scheduled for October 19 – in compliance with the court’s ruling, the EC was quickly told that it’s re-registration process had not followed the verdict.

The commission was ordered to re-start the  entire process, putting the new polling date in doubt.

The latest court ruling came after the UK’s Foreign Secretary William Hague had stated as “imperative” that there were no further election delays. The week had begun with the UN Security Council being warned that democratic gains were “under threat” in the Maldives.

The Security Council was briefed on the growing instability in the country, an impression that will not have been altered by further signs of tension within the MNDF this week. More suspensions followed the circulation of a ‘letter of concern’ by senior officers last week.

Online speculation forced prominent lawyer Shaaheen Hameed and Defence Minister Retired Colonel Mohamed Nazim to deny rumours of an impending military takeover.

The Maldives Democracy Network, alongside the International Federation of Human Rights, were the first NGO’s to condemn the Supreme Court’s verdict – calling the decision “materially baseless”.

The decision was quickly followed by attempts from certain political and civil society representatives to bar presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed from subsequent polls – a move condemned by incumbent President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

Waheed himself received a stern rebuke from Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird’s office after complaining about the treatment of his own foreign minister at the recent CMAG meeting.

Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chose to interpret the first round’s annulment and the setting of a new date as a “huge victory”, bringing to an end its eleven consecutive nights of protest – during which 65 people were arrested.

Meanwhile, his political opponents began their campaigns with talk of fielding a single candidate in the (new) first round.

Campaigning on Jumhooree Party candidate Gasim Ibrahim’s Sun Island resort seems to have been continuous, with employees revealing details of multiple dismissals based on political affiliation.

The Prosecutor General’s Office assured the EC that it would receive full protection after it received a complaint regarding the behaviour of security services last month.

The failure of the police to stop an arson attack that destroyed MDP aligned Raajje TV this week – despite having been forewarned – brought stinging criticism from Reporters Without Borders.

The station was able to return to air with donated equipment just hours after the attack, whilst military officers were stationed outside all other media outlets.

The intimidation of civil society groups in recent weeks prompted concern from both the Maldives Human Rights Commission as well as Transparency International, whose Maldivian chapter has received threats as well as promises of investigation from the government.

Local NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) told Minivan News this week of its concern that child protection commitments undertaken by successive Maldivian governments remain “inadequate”.

Finally, the Maldives Monetary Authority’s quarterly bulletin showed that a shortfall in expected revenue, coupled with increased recurrent expenditure had caused the government’s finances to further deteriorate.

One potential source of additional revenue appeared to have been found this week as the government announced it would be sell shares in the state-owned Maldives Airports Company Limited – the current operator of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.