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


52 year-old man sentenced to 10 years for child sex abuse

Bileidhoo Magistrate Court on the island of Bileidhoo in Faafu Atoll has sentenced a 52 year-old man to 10 years for sexually abusing a minor.

Police identified the 52 year-old man as Hassan Zareer, 52 of Jeymugasdhoshuge in Bileidhoo, Faafu Atoll.

According to the police, on January 9, 2013, the Family and Children Services Centre in Faafu Atoll reported the case to police alleging that Zareer had sexually abuse a minor multiple times on different days.

Police said that during the trial Zareer denied the charges against him, however, the court ruled that the witness statements produced by the state, the report submitted by the Family and Children Services Centre in Faafu Atoll, the Medico Legal Report submitted by the state and the police investigation was enough to rule Zareer was guilty.

The court stated that all the documents produced to the court were official documents that can be considered as evidence according to the Act Number 12/2009 Special Measures Against Perpetrators of Child Sex Abuse.

Bileidhoo Magistrate Court’s ruling stated that the victim told her father and aunt about the incident and according to what the victim has said, Zareer has completed five elements of the crimes stated in the Act 12/2009.

The court also ruled that Zareer was guilty of the crime beyond reasonable doubt as stated in article 51[h] and Zareer was sentenced under article 3[c] of Act Number 12/2009.

Furthermore, the court advised Zareer to refrain from big and small acts of crimes and sins.

The police concluded the investigation in to the case and sent it to the Prosecutor General’s Office on 25 February 2013.


Two men deny forcing 14 year-old girl into child prostitution

Two men have denied charges of forcing a 14 year-old girl into child prostitution, the Criminal Court heard on Monday (March 11).

Ibrahim Manik of Heylhi, South Hulhudhoo and Hussain Manik of Hikiunimaage, S. Hulhudhoo in Addu Atoll, were accused of forcing the girl to “attend” to one Maldivian and four foreign men, local media reported.

The penalty for a person convicted of sexually abusing a child is 20 to 25 years imprisonment.


Four year-old seriously injured after two storey fall

A four-year-old child is being treated for serious injuries after falling from the second storey of a building in Male’, local media has reported.

The incident, which took place on February 28, is being investigated by police to determine the reason behind the fall.


Police commence investigation after 11 year-old child gives birth

An 11 year-old girl who on Thursday prematurely gave birth to a child is said to be in a stable condition, as police today confirmed investigations were now under way into the case.

The girl, who cannot be identified due to her age, gave birth to the child two months prematurely. The child died early morning on Friday (November 2), after being taken to Feydhoo regional hospital in Seenu Atoll for further treatment, local media has reported.

The Maldives Police Service confirmed investigations into the matter were taking place, but said further details could not be disclosed due to the age of the child and the risk she could be identified and face possible recrimination.

A police spokesperson was unable to confirm the nature of the investigation at present.

However, local newspaper Haveeru, citing what it called reliable sources, reported that the girl had allegedly been a frequent victim of sexual assault before becoming pregnant.

“She came here with her mother complaining of constipation and stomach pain. Doctors had examined her and given an injection. But when she started to complain of severe pain, upon further examination doctors found that she was pregnant. The girl admitted that she got pregnant after someone had sexually molested her,” Haveeru quoted a local health centre official as saying.

The Health Ministry has meanwhile forwarded further requests for information on the case to the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human Rights, which is mandated to deal with the matter.

Gender Minister Dhiyana Saeed was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

Abuse statistics

Almost one in seven children of secondary school age in the Maldives have been sexually abused at some time in their lives, according to an unpublished 2009 study on violence against minors.

Rates of sexual abuse for girls are almost twice as high than for boys at 20 percent – one in five girls have been sexually abused – while the figure for boys was 11 percent. Girls are particularly at risk in the capital Male’, the report found.

In recent years, local authorities and NGOs have released a number of findings trying to detail the extent of child abuse and wider sexual assaults within society.

The state-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital’s (IGMH’s) Family Protection Unit reported in 2010 that the centre was notified of 42 cases of rape between 2005-2010. Most of these cases were found to involve minors.

According to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, 13 rape cases were reported last year alone, the majority of which most were gang rapes or assaults involving minors.


Two-year-old discovered dead in Raa Atoll lagoon

Health officials on the island of Maakurath in Raa Atoll have confirmed the death of a two-year-old boy whose body was discovered in a lagoon this morning, according to press reports.

Haveeru reported that the boy had no pulse by the time he arrived at the island’s health centre and had an undisclosed foam coming from his mouth and nose.

The young boy was believed to have been discovered by his mother.


Child’s body found in Baa Atoll

The body of a child was discovered in Kamadhoo of Baa Atoll, report the Maldives Police Service.

Police reported that the body was discovered in the sea by islanders and that the boy was dead when he was carried to hospital.

Police are now investigating the case.

Daily newspaper Haveeru reported that the boy was one year and six months old. The newspaper reported that the boy fell into the sea while he was playing near the island’s jetty.


Separated husband snatches daughter and flees on speedboat

A husband who snatched his one year old daughter from his separated wife and fled on a speedboat to Nolhivaram was arrested on Friday.

The man, who separated from his wife and now lives on a different island, took the infant from her mother and fled on a speedboat from Kurinbi to Nolhivaram in Haa Dhaalu Atoll.

An islander told Minivan News that the man arrived at Kurinbi on Friday during prayers, while all the men were at the mosque.

He said that the man came along with a group of people.

”Some of the men stayed as his bodyguards,” the islander said. ”He came with two men and grabbed the baby while the baby was with its sister.”

The islander said the two men who came with father of the baby held the sister’s hand while father grabbed the child.

”The couple lived in Nolhivaram and the woman is a islander of Kurinbi – when they separated she came back to Kurinbi,” he said. ”It’s been five months now she has been trying to get divorced.”

An islander from Nolhivaram familiar with the matter said the man rented the speedboat and went to his wife’s island to try and bring his child back with him.

He claimed the women took the baby when she left without informing her husband.

”The father sometimes went  to Kurinbi to see his daughter, but his wife never showed her,” he said. ”So he went to Kurinbi and brought his daughter back.”

He said that the woman left Nolhivaram last year December.

”Her husband did not like her speaking to other people or going to other houses,” he said. ”She did not like it that way, that is why she left, as far I know.”

He said that the women had worked as a school teacher during her time on Nolhivaram.

”His family and everyone advised him not to take his daughter like that,” the islander said.


JJU to establish Juvenile Act to take action against irresponsible parents

The Juvenile Justice Unit (JJU) will draft a ‘Juvenile Act’ outlining the actions that can be taken against irresponsible parents.

Spokesperson for the Juvenile Court Zaeema Nasheed said the JJU held a meeting with Prosecutor General’s Office, Police, Department of Gender and Family and the Juvenile court to discuss the draft bill, which it believes will help reduce the number of children becoming involved in crime.

”We have noticed that many children are led to crimes due to a lack of care from their parents,” Zaeema said. ”To reduce the number of children involvement the crimes, we should take action against irresponsible parents.”

”In the Maldives there are no laws on irresponsible parents.” Zaeema added. ”That’s why we face difficulties prosecuting such cases.”

”Sometimes when we go to deliver the chit from the court, the kid’s Mum or Dad says that they do not know where he lives or how to contact him,” she said.

”It is irresponsible for them to not know where their children live.”

She said that according to the law parents should protect children from danger, but that the divorces were leading the children to become isolated join gangs.

”When a couple divorces when they have children, then due to lack of care the child becomes isolated and they start going out to the streets,” she said. ”When they go out like that, they meet the gangs and join them and then they become involved in crime.”

She said that children usually became involved in crimes such as assault and battery, fornication and drug related cases.

Head of Child Section in Health Ministry Saudhath Afeef said that the discussion’s main target was to increase awareness among parents and children.

”With children we can make them understand that they also have responsibilities at their level,” Saudhath said. ”We can make aware parents by running advertisements and by holding awareness programs.”

She said that parents should not leave children on the streets saying that they “are grown up now”.

”The discussion are not finished yet,” Zaeema said. ”We will hold more meetings continuously.”

Deputy Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.