“Mother gave child animals to kill”

Securing womens’ rights is essential to protecting the rights of children, declared Deputy Minister of Health and Family Mariya Ali at a human rights function last night, moving the audience with her experience of handling a particularly insidious case of maternal child abuse.

“I first saw this case in 2000 when I started working in the childrens’ rights unit,” Maryia said. “At the time, the child was 11 years old. We had first accepted the case when he was six – he had bitten a classmate’s cheek and chewed off a piece of flesh, and his class teacher was despairing about what to do with him. He asked us to send him to the juvenile centre in Maafushi.”

The child had been diagnosed with attention-deficit-with-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), she said. “But his mother wasn’t told to avoid feeding him certain foods, or not to give him Coke or sugary things, or any information like that. So she gave him Coke. And then, when he stole a lump of sugar from a neighbour’s house when he was six, she poured scalding hot water on his hand.”

No assessments of the child’s family background had been made, and nobody “realised just how bad his life was,” Mariya said.

“Because he had ADHD he was difficult to control – so he was put in chains. When I went to the house, his foot was chained to a pole in the middle a dark room with nothing in it except a bed.

“He hadn’t been fed because he had misbehaved, so I asked him what he had done. He got scared and hid under the bed and started to cry, saying, ‘sister, please save me from this place.’ I touched his head and saw it was swollen all over – he said he was beaten by his brother.”

In later appointments, Mariya discovered that each of the other siblings in the family had some kind of psychiatric problem. It later emerged that the child had also been sexually abused.

“When I was evaluating the child, his mother told me ‘he only stays still when you show him horror films’ – she would show him five a day. She told me he couldn’t sleep without killing some kind of animal or living thing, and when the animals were buried, the next day he would dig them up and cut off pieces.”

Horrified, Mariya turned to child psychology experts in the UK for advice. She was told the damage could not be reversed even if the boy was given 11 years of therapy.

“A lot happened to this child,” she said. “It began with ADHD; that was something we could have managed. But [the situation] went beyond of our reach because we because we failed to assure his rights for him. When we consider the human rights conventions [that the Maldives has signed], here is a case where so many of those rights have been violated.”

The Ministry was now working to strengthen the mechanisms for child protection and fulfil its obligations under the convention, she said.

“Securing women’s rights is essential to protecting children rights: mothers have to be psychologically fit to take care of a child.”


Police trace online stalker

Police have traced the internet connection of a man who allegedly threatened a 14-year-old girl online in an attempt to coerce her into “sexually indecent” behaviour.

“The perpetrator tried to demand the girl go to somewhere, and that he had photos and videos of her he would leak if she did not,” said Police Sergeant Shiyam.

Police said officers were initially approached by concerned friends of the girl during a school session on child abuse run by the family and child protection unit.

An investigation involving the police’s digital evidence unit tracked the man’s internet connection to his room, where police discovered three hard disks, two multimedia cards and two pen drives containing chat logs and emails threatening the girl.

“We are investigating how long it had been going on; we were lucky we found out about it so early,” Shiyam said.

The drives also contained nude photos and video clips of other young Maldivian girls, whom police said they were now trying to trace. Police said forensic evidence indicated that some of these photos had been uploaded to the internet.

The case has been forwarded to the Office of the Prosecutor General while police have released the perpetrator on a court order.

Investigating cases of online sexual abuse was “something new” for police, Shiyam said, “and something to be really concerned about.”

“Girls and boys are good at using the web and it’s not that easy to control and monitor them.”

Jeehan Mahmoud, spokesperson for Human Rights Commission Maldives (HRCM), said the Commission hoped that if found guilty the perpetrator would be charged under parliament’s new child abuse legislation that extends sentencing periods to a maximum of 25 years.

“Secondly, we want the concerned authorities to monitor the impact of multimedia on this type of crime more closely,” she said. “The Commission believes internet monitoring needs to be considered – it is something the state is obligated to do.”

Parents also needed to monitor their children’s use of the internet, she added. “Definitely parents need to be aware of what their children have access to. There hasn’t yet been a report into online [child abuse], but as it’s a growing trend perhaps it’s time to look into it further and find a way to curb it before it gets any bigger,” she said.

The Commission has received 10 reports of child abuse this year compared to four in the previous year, Jeehan said, “although it is difficult to say whether this due to an increase in reporting. People have certainly become better educated about human rights during the last four years.”


Serial paedophile sentenced to six years

Convicted paedophile Hussain Fazeel has been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for 39 counts of child sexual abuse, the highest sentence for such a crime in the Maldives and a landmark decision for the country.

Fazeel was initially arrested in February for smuggling alcohol in Male, but when police searched his home they discovered a hard drive containing a large quantity of images and videos of Fazeel having sex with young boys, some as young as 10. In other videos, the boys were made to had sex with each other.

Inspector Ismail Athif of Maldives Police Service said at the time that many of the boys appeared to have aged in the material, suggesting the abuse had been occurring for some time.

He also noted that the material was of a sufficient resolution to be used for commercial purposes, and that it was possible Fazeel was part of a larger ring.
Assistant Public Prosecutor Mahmoud Saleem said that while Fazeel had committed the crimes before the recent Child Sexual Abuse (Special Provisions) Act was ratified this month, which carries penalties of up to 25 years, six years was the highest sentence recorded for the crime.

In particular, “the statements made by the victims carried great weight,” he said.
Police sergeant Ahmed Shiyam said Fazeel’s sentencing was only the beginning “and there will be more of the same”, adding that two other child sex offenders currently being investigated by police had been linked to some of the same boys abused by Fazeel.

“When we investigated Fazeel we found some boys involved in both cases,” Shiyam said.
As for the sentence given today, “I don’t know why it was only six years, it should have been more than that.”

Mohamed Shihab from Child Abuse Watch Maldives said while the sentence was not administered under the harsher laws only recent enacted, as a first step it promised “a very positive future.”

“We have not seen anything like this ever before; I’ve already called the prosecutor general to thank him for this very important first step,” Shihab said. “We can look at it very happily that justice has finally been done for the children.”