Court releases Maldivian accused of kidnapping Bangladeshi migrant workers

The criminal court yesterday released a Maldivian man suspected of kidnapping, beating and robbing two Bangladeshi migrant workers.

Police officers broke into a second floor office apartment in Malé in the early hours of Monday morning after receiving reports of the kidnapping and arrested the 34-year-old suspect.

“Police found the two Bangladeshi men aged 23 and 24 in the apartment with noticeable bruises. Our investigations found the two Bangladeshis were robbed of a large sum of money,” said police.

The suspect was released after he was taken before a judge for extension of remand detention.

Police are searching for a Bangladeshi and a group of Maldivians suspected of involvement in the kidnapping.

Minivan News understands the Criminal Court released the suspect citing the lack of an arrest warrant authorising entry into the apartment. The court also said the suspect was not arrested from the crime scene.

However, police said “the suspect was detained at the crime scene.”

The Maldives Police Service with the help of the prosecutor general’s office has since appealed the Criminal Court’s decision to release the man.

According to legal experts, the constitution allows police to enter a private residence without a warrant under special circumstances.

“The constitution provides circumstances for police to enter a household without a warrant if they have sufficient evident of a life being threatened,” said Mohamed Shafaz Wajeeh, a lawyer.

“But establishing the circumstances in court would fall on the institution that wants to extend the period of custody.”

Speaking to Minivan News, the owner of the house in the Galolhu ward where the two Bangladeshis were held captive said the pair were kept at a leased second floor apartment.

“The police came around three in the morning. They called several times to open the door and broke in after the people inside did not respond,” she said.

“I think the Maldivian they arrested was not even sober.”

The leased apartment is the offices of Bisado Maldives, a recruitment and employment agency established in 2014, according to their Facebook page, and Brexco Private Limited, a registered construction company.

Local NGO Transparency Maldives (TM), which provides legal aid to locals and expatriates, expressed concern over the “lack of priority for foreign worker rights”.

“Expatriates are in a vulnerable situation in Maldives. It is very important that society sees and seeks the rights of foreigners at the same level as the locals,” said Ahid Rasheed, a senior project coordinator at TM.

The police also face challenges in successfully closing criminal cases involving foreign workers, the NGO noted.

“In many cases we have seen the sponsors send them back to their countries if any problem arises. So we have difficulties in judicial process, mainly in getting witness statement in courts,” a police media official said.

The former Bangladeshi High Commissioner for Maldives, Selina Mohsin, described the situation of Bangladeshi workers in the country as “bizarre and horrifying” after a spike in violence against migrant workers last month.

A Bangladeshi waiter in a local café was murdered in March and four others stabbed the following week. In 2014, police rescued a Bangladeshi held captive in a migrant workers accommodation block while a chained man was discovered by locals in 2009.

The vice president of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives Ahmed Tholal has described the recent spate of attacks against Bangladeshi workers as “hate crimes”.


Hope for Women launch workshops for woman councilors and Island Women’s Development Committees.

Women’s rights advocacy group Hope for Women (HFW) has launched a new initiative focusing on woman councillors and members of Island Women’s Development Committees, (IWDC) aiming to “increase their involvement in decision and policy making processes.”

In a press statement on Sunday, (August 14) HFW stated it will “facilitate a three day training workshop in 11 targeted islands for representatives from the IWDCs and training in Malé for the 59 newly elected women councilors.”

“These workshops will focus on identifying challenges and solutions to improve the performance of IWDCs in assisting island councilors to develop and implement an effective strategic action plan.”

IWDCs are a subcommittee of the island council and are responsible for fund raising and activities to empower women. Only women are eligible to vote for IWDC members.

The majority of local councilors are men, with women having relatively few decision making powers at island level. The People’s Majlis in 2010 rejected a provision to include a quota for women in local councils.

Earlier this year, the government proposed abolishing the committees as part of a streamlining of local governance.

A recent publication by European Union Election Observation Mission for the Majlis elections in March noted that “women have traditionally been relegated to the private rather than the public sphere of life.”

HFW, one of the few NGOs working solely on the rights of women, conducts various programmes aimed at empowering women and supporting victims of gender discrimination. It recently launched an initiative to provide legal counseling on family law and prevention of domestic violence law.


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.


Maldives customs workers suspend strike, give management one week to meet demands

Maldives’ Customs Service workers initiated strike actions on Thursday morning and have threatened a full work stoppage if senior management does not meet their demands by the end of next week.

At 8:30am approximately 90 customs officers began protesting in the main customs building in Male’. They met with Deputy Commissioner General of Customs Mohamed Kamal and other senior management at 10:30am to discuss customs workers’ grievances, communicate their demands, and provide a petition signed by over 250 workers.

As of 11:00am the strikers agreed to give management one week to fulfill their demands and “give a solid answer”, otherwise the strike will restart Thursday.

“From the olden days there has been favoritism and the same thing is still practiced now. We will protest, we won’t stop. These problems should be solved if senior management wants us to be calm,” one of the strike organisers told Minivan News today.

“We decided [to strike] for our children’s future, for their sake we thought we should come out and express ourselves,” the source said. “This is the first time ever customs workers have participated in any strike.”

“We are not fighting for our own individual rights, but for the [customs] staffs’ rights,” the source noted.

Customs workers are aggrieved about senior staff engaging in discriminatory, nepotistic practices, that have led to inequitable promotions, retirement packages, and training opportunities, multiple customs workers told Minivan News today.

“Inequality is very high within customs, people won’t tolerate this,” a source lamented. The source also noted that gender discrimination is a factor impacting women within the government agency.

While “favoritism has been a problem from the beginning”, customs officials noted that these problems have been exacerbated since individuals with education and experience have been overlooked and mistreated by senior staff. “Promotions have not been based on qualifications, these things shouldn’t be happening,” said a customs official.

“On August 15, 2013 senior management met at 12:00am and developed a promotions list in secret. That’s not legal,” the source alleged. The source noted that the promotions criteria was altered to include the subjective “competency” category, however staff were not shown their employment appraisals.

The sources alleged that the promotion grading system has not been adhered to, and instead senior staff have unfairly advanced employees.

“There have been discrepancies in promotions, for example some have received double promotions, while others have not been promoted at all due to their political affiliations,” a customs officer said.

“Promotions have not been lawfully done. The management board includes staff with relatives working under them. They can’t make decisions [regarding promotions] in that state,” said another customs official.

“Some of the senior staff have not attended [the office regularly] and amended their attendance [record], but their status in the human resources [section] says they have attended,” the source noted. “Since there are problems with their performance, how can they objectively evaluate ours?”

In addition to grievances about inequitable promotions, nepotism has led to unfair working conditions as well, a customs official explained.

“Wives and relatives of senior staff are allocated tasks and assigned to sections [within customs] where they only have to work in the morning. There are many sections that require shift duty, but they don’t get assigned shifts,” the source noted.

“Senior staff follow separate rules, they come and go as they please, don’t swipe their finger, and no one is supervising them,” the source continued.

“Recently a case happened regarding a high level shipment, but senior staff instructed us not to fine the shipment and to let it go,” the source added.

Also, employees are being transferred to different departments repeatedly and frequently without reason, according to one source who reported being shifted between three different sections over the last six months.

Another customs official highlighted inadequate working conditions, such as the lack of desks and chairs for some employees, are also problematic for some employees.

The strikers noted that after the promotions were announced in August, they communicated their grievances to the Commissioner General (CG) of Customs, the Home Minister, President Mohamed Waheed, and filed a petition with the Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC).

“The CG said he did what he wanted and no one can do anything about it, the Home Minister said he’d look into it and the President said he’d establish a separate committee to look into the matter,” according to a customs officer. “But still there has been no decision or action taken.”

Customs officers presented a list of demands that include correcting discriminatory practices as well as holding the Human Resource Board of Directors accountable for their corrupt practices.

The board consists of the CG, eight section directors, as well as the human resource section head, customs officials explained.

“The Human Resources Board thinks that this is their company, but this is a government agency,” declared a customs official.

“We are demanding a separate entity be established to deal with promotions and the previous promotions awarded [since August] be cancelled,” the source added.

Some of the customs officers who participated in this morning’s strike claim that senior management told them their protest action was illegal and threatened to fire participants.

“They can fire us, we are ready for that, but they have to fire the board first,” said a customs officer. “We don’t trust [the management] anymore.”

Senior management’s response

Meanwhile, senior customs officials are considering the workers demands but have denied threatening to fire strike participants.

“A group of staff voiced discontent with some aspects of evaluating performance and promotion criteria used, which they claim are unfair,” Deputy Commissioner General of Customs Mohamed Kamal told Minivan News today.

“Management met them and noted the issues. Possible remedial actions are being analysed,” he continued.

“Firing employees are not being considered, that’s speculation,” he added.


President’s Office media secretary defends barring Raajje TV from press events

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad on Wednesday (April 10) defended the exclusion of private broadcaster Raajje TV from President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s press conferences and events.

Masood was summoned to parliament’s Government Oversight Committee after Raajje TV filed a complaint alleging discriminatory treatment by the President’s Office.

Responding to questions from MPs, Masood said Raajje TV was not invited to press conferences and functions because the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)-leaning TV station did not fit criteria or standards for reporting set by the President’s Office.

The policy of the President’s Office was to invite “responsible and experienced” media outlets, he said. Asked for a copy of the criteria by MDP MP Mohamed Shifaz, Masood offered to send it to the committee on Thursday (March 11).

According to Masood Imad, the news outlets that meets the President’s Office standards are newspapers Haveeru, Miadhu, Sun Online, state broadcaster TVM, private broadcasters DhiTV and VTV, and Minivan News.

“DhiTV is somewhat better than VTV,” he added.

Imad also said that private media were not invited on official trips by the President to minimise costs.

The Maldives Media Council (MMC) has meanwhile asked the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) to press charges against the President’s Office over the alleged discriminatory treatment of Raajje TV. In November 2012, the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) condemned the eviction of a Raajje TV crew from a press conference on orders from the President’s Office.


Maldives Media Council submitting case against President’s Office “to create a free media”

The Maldives Media Council (MMC) has voted to submit a case against the President’s Office to “create a free media” in light of the discriminatory treatment of Raajje TV.

The President’s Office is violating equal rights by not inviting the opposition-aligned TV station Raajje TV to events and has not been adhering to the MMC’s requests that it give equal opportunities to all media, the MMC Secretariat told Minivan News (April 9).

The case will be submitted to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office April 10.

“MMC members have voted to submit the case. Members have a strong feeling that it is a necessary step to take in order to create a free media in the Maldives,” said the MMC Secretariat.

The MMC has been very active the past two months trying to solve these problems and is now sending the case to the PG, Raajje TV Deputy Chief Executive Officer Abdulla Yamin told Minivan News.

The President’s Office has not been inviting Raajje TV to press conferences, has denied reporters entry press events in the President’s Office, and has not sent the channel any government press statements, Yamin claimed.

The President’s Office also asked government ministries and state-owned companies not to give information to Raajje TV and for these companies to stop providing private sponsorship to the media outlet.

Yamin said that they had observed this treatment was particular only to their channel.

“The President’s Office said they have not invited us because it is their privilege to decide whether to invite Raajje TV or not,” said Yamin.

“We are talking about rights granted in the constitution, not a privilege. There must be a situation [in the Maldives] where independent media can run.

“Article 28 of the constitution guarantees the right to freedom of the press and article 29 assures the right to freedom of information,” Yamin declared.

Yamin explained that the MCC had acted as a mediator to try and resolve the lack of cooperation shown by the President’s Office to Raajje TV.

“The President’s Office said if we do certain things they will cooperate. However, then the President’s Office is forcing their influence on our editorial policy,” said Yamin.

“We are not going to negotiate our constitutionally guaranteed right to information,” he added.

Ongoing government discrimination

Raajje TV filed a case against the President’s Office in the Civil Court in September 2012, complaining that the station had been boycotted from official events. Yamin expects the civil court to issue their verdict later this week.

Raajje TV also submitted a case to the parliamentary committee on government accountability regarding the president’s office discriminating against the media outlet. Parliament invited the president’s office to attend the committee twice, but never received a response, according to Yamin.

Additionally, Raajje TV lodged a complaint against the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) with the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), alleging it was “using its power to give benefits” to other TV channels by providing them funding.

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) was contacted by the ACC regarding the matter, but did not respond, according to Yamin.

“The MBC have not done anything regarding our right to information. They should be working on these issues to make sure rights are assured,” said Yamin.

Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Jameel Ahmed previously named Raajje TV as an “enemy of state” in a press conference held in July, the same day on which the Maldives Police Services publicly stated its refusal to provide cooperation or protection to the channel.

Raajje TV also filed a case against the Maldives Police Services in September 2012 over their decision to deny cooperation or protection to the channel. In February 2013, the Civil Court ruled that the decision by the Maldives Police Service to cease cooperating with Raajje TV was unconstitutional.

Dismissing the police argument that it had the sole discretion to decide who to invite to press conferences and functions, the court stated that the action more resembled a deliberate attempt to limit the constitutional rights of freedom of expression, freedom of media and the right to information.

Raajje TV believes this verdict will apply to the President’s Office as well.

“If the court is fair and balanced a similar verdict will come. I believe the court won’t be that corrupt because the constitution and laws are clear. It’s written in black and white,” Yamin said.

Raajje TV is one of the five private broadcasters in the country and is the only television station aligned with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The TV station has come under substantial pressure and criticism from groups including the government and political parties aligned with it.

RaajjeTV has been the subject of continuous verbal attacks by the state following the transfer of power in February.

In early August 2012, Raajje TV’s control room was sabotaged by intruders.

Press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders at the time condemned this attack, stating “This targeted and well-prepared operation was the foreseeable culmination of the new government’s escalating verbal attacks on Raajje TV. How the authorities respond will be seen as a test of their commitment to media pluralism.”

The President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission were not responding to calls at time of press.


Tourism Ministry to use commercials and street performances to attract Chinese tourists

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture has revealed new plans to promote the Maldives to Chinese tourists through commercials showcasing the country’s culture.

The announcement follows a succession of international campaigns that threaten to damage the reputation of the Maldives’ tourism industry, both in China and traditional European markets.

Earlier in March, calls for a tourism boycott of the Maldives exploded across Chinese social media networks after allegations of discrimination against Chinese guests became widely circulated.

The tourism industry suffered another potential blow last week, when the online petition website received over one million signatures in protest of the sentencing of a 15 year-old rape victim to 100 lashes for the offence of fornication.

In response to the negative press, Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamaal told local media on Tuesday (March 26), that the ministry is currently preparing a number of activities to promote the country to the Chinese market.

According to the Maleeh, the ministry is preparing two commercial segments to be aired on Chinese national broadcaster, CCTV.

“The programs will show Maldives tourism, culture, traditional talents such as boat construction, and other themes that display the beauty of Maldivian culture and so on, Maldives resorts and their natural beauty, underwater footage, it’ll be excellent for the channel,” Maleeh was quoted as saying in SunOnline.

In addition to the commercials, the deputy tourism minister revealed that plans are currently underway to stage street performances in four different cities in China.

Maleeh claimed that the programs will work to the country’s advantage and will significantly promote Maldives tourism in China.

“Street performances are to be played in four different cities, and we will be meeting with at least 2000 agents, and even if we can attract about 20 news reporters from each city, it is large number, it will have a large effect on tourism,” Maleeh was quoted as saying.

According to Maleeh, the ministry has initiated a number of new efforts in order counter the widespread negative publicity circulating against tourism in the Maldives.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb and Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamaal were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

Campaigns will damage both tourism and economy: Maleeh

On Sunday (March 24), Maleeh told local media that recent campaigns calling for tourists to boycott the Maldives would damage both tourism and the country as a whole.

Maleeh claimed the petition launched by Avaaz calling for the Maldives government to end the practice of flogging was really an attempt by the opposition to damage the country’s economy for political gain.

The petition, which has been signed by more than 1.2 million people, was launched after the Juvenile Court sentenced a 15 year-old rape victim to 100 lashes for a separate crime of fornication.

“When they started the campaign, they were clearly aware of the president’s stand, as well the attorney general’s stand on the matter,” Maleeh said, according to SunOnline.

“Looking back, a 14 year-old was given the same sentence during former President Nasheed’s presidency and nobody seemed to have talked about that. This whole deed is an attempt to defame the country’s tourism industry and [damage the] economy,” he said.

Cup noodle discrimination

Earlier this month, dismissed Chinese employees of the Beach House Iruveli resort – formerly Waldorf Astoria – posted allegations on the Chinese forum Tianya that guests from the country were receiving inferior treatment to Europeans, despite paying the same prices.

The staff alleged that this discrimination extended to removing kettles from the rooms of Chinese guests, to prevent them from making instant noodles in their rooms and thereby forcing them into the resort’s restaurants.

The resort has since denied the claims, stating that it had “removed damaged kettles from rooms as part of routine maintenance due to the fact that these kettles were damaged by guests by cooking food.”


UN Committee grills Maldives delegation on human rights commitment

A delegation from the Maldives headed by Attorney General Abdulla Muiz has reported to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which will release its findings in early September.

According to a UN report summarising the meeting, the delegation was questioned on “restrictions on the practice of religion, the rights of migrant workers, human trafficking, the lack of anti-discrimination laws in the country, the role of the Human Rights Commission and the requirement that all members be Muslim, citizenship laws and the stipulation that non-Muslims could not become citizens nor could they openly practice their religion, the discrepancy in secondary school enrolment rates between boys and girls, and the interaction between English common law and Islam in the legal system of the Maldives.”

The committee noted that the government’s historical position had “been to deny the existence of racial discrimination in the country as the Maldives has a small homogeneous population, of the same origin, pursuing the same religion, and speaking the same language.”

However it had acknowledged that a substantial increase in migrant workers “requires legislative attention”, the UN committee noted.

“In the absence of prejudices leading to racial discrimination in the Maldives, the government did not take specific steps in terms of education and teaching, and culture and information, to address racial discrimination. However, the report says in the Maldives the teaching of Islam promotes understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations and all groups,” the committee noted.

The report was presented to the committee by Muiz, who emphasised the “enormous progress” the country had made in recent years towards guaranteeing “fundamental freedoms and individual liberties”.

He did, however, acknowledge the “enormous challenges” the Maldives faced in ensuring that those rights now protected by law were actually enjoyed in practice. In particular, the Maldives delegation identified these as including “fragile democratic fabric, infant democratic institutions, religious fundamentalism, heavy drug abuse, the vulnerability of the country to environmental threats and most recently, human trafficking.”

Furthermore, the delegation claimed, the country’s Human Rights Commission “was one of the most active national institutions in Asia” and “fully compliant with the Paris Principles”, apart from the requirement that all members of the Commission be Muslim.

“Maldivian law did not provide for freedom of religion, although in practice foreigners were allowed to practice religions other than Islam in private,” the delegation informed the committee.

Nonetheless, the Maldives was “a culturally diverse society” that protected its vulnerable migrant labour population by imposing duties on employers, “including responsibility for the employee during their stay and other requirements”, despite the absence of health and safety laws.

“The right to association and the right to strike were now guaranteed under the Maldives’ Constitution,” the delegation informed the committee.

It noted that while the Maldives did not have any laws prohibiting trafficking in persons “and no official studies or reports had been conducted”, the government had a “strong policy to prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for traffickers.”

“Muiz asked the Committee to bear in mind that the democratic and legal framework of the Maldives was a work-in-progress,” the committee noted.

Delegation confronted

In contrast to the Maldives’ position that racial discrimination did not exist, the committee observed that cases of hostility and ill-treatment of the country’s increasingly large number of migrant workers – half the country’s total workforce – had been reported.

“The Maldives should consider acceding to conventions concerned with the rights of non-citizens and amend relevant regulations to allow non-Muslims to acquire Maldivian citizenship,” the committee suggested, and noted that there was “still no anti-discrimination legislation” active in the Maldives.

“It is necessary for the State party to enact legislation on prohibition of incitement to national, racial or religious hatred,” the committee stated.

The committee observed that there was a lack of demographic information on the Maldives, given the extensive size of its foreign labour force, and that “it would be useful to investigate whether there are tensions between Maldivian citizens and foreign workers.”

“Restrictions on the rights of migrants and other foreigners to prohibit the practice of religions other than Islam, except in private, were of concern as well. Was any one Maldivian citizen married to an individual practicing a different religion?” one committee member asked.

Delegation defends

In response to the committee’s questioning, the Maldives delegation contended that the Maldives had “capacity constraints” and “relied on the support of international organisations”, in which case the committee noted “a report longer than three pages would have been appreciated.”

Regarding the committee’s questioning on freedom of religion, the delegation noted that the Maldives maintained a reservation to article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of religion “and there were currently no plans to withdraw that reservation.

“This was a reflection of the deep societal belief that the Maldives always had been and wished to remain a 100 percent Muslim nation,” the delegation informed the committee, adding that “Muslims and non-Muslims lived harmoniously in the Maldives.”

“It was not true that under the new Constitution existing citizens could be arbitrarily deprived of their nationality if they were to stop practicing Islam. The Constitution was very clear on this point: no citizen could be deprived of his or her nationality under any circumstance. The Muslim-only clause under the citizenship article of the Constitution only applied to non-Maldivians wishing to become naturalised,” the committee reported.

The delegation acknowledged “increased reports of mistreatment of migrant workers by their employers”, but noted that the Maldives placed high importance on acceding to the eight core Conventions of the International Labor Organisation (ILO).

It also argued that “some of the rights and privileges enjoyed by foreign workers were even better that those enjoyed by Maldivians themselves”, such as those mandating the provision of food and accommodation for foreign workers.

“Foreign workers were not discriminated against in any way in the Maldives,” the delegation informed the committee.

In his concluding remarks, Muiz observed that the exercise of appearing before the committee “was tougher than even appearing before the parliament of the Maldives.”

Read the full summary


Comment: Discrimination against women in the Maldives

The Ministry of Gender and Family, the Maldives Study on Women’s Health and Life Experiences 2007 suggest that one in every three women undergo some kind of abuse through their life, be it physical, psychological or sexual abuse.

For this reason, as a woman working to empower women, I felt a ray of hope on November 25, 2009, when the parliamentarians endorsed their commitment to the campaign to stop Violence against Women in the Maldives.

Unfortunately, the recent discussions held at the last meeting of the People’s Majlis (Parliament), before they went into recess, were shocking to some of us. Some of the parliamentarian’s crude remarks denote discrimination against women that is unacceptable for the lawmakers of the Maldives.

This is not the first time that such discriminatory, undermining and sexual language has been used toward women on the parliament floor.

The Maldives Constitution ratified in 2008. Chapter 2, article 17 states that everyone is entitled to rights and freedoms without discrimination of any kind including race, national origin, color, sex, age, mental or physical disability, political or other opinion, property, birth or other status, or native island.

In this respect, the United Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Maldives ratified in 1993, specifically stipulates equal rights to women, to stop discrimination against women and places an obligation on the state to provide and protect the rights of women.

It is interesting to note that the parliamentarians did not question the sex of the candidates at the time when the names were sent to the Majlis by President of the Maldives, and when they reviewed and approved the names for the five membership positions of Human Rights Commission (HRCM).

The discussion heated up when it became apparent the President [Mohamed Nasheed] had sent female nominations for the President and Vice-President of HRCM, which are high positions.

Why is it that the thought processes of the parliamentarians then turned upside down? The parliamentarians did not debate over why women were not nominated for bench of Supreme Court, nor why there is only one woman elected for both the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and no woman sitting in Elections Commission.

The majority of the public and private sector do not provide equal opportunities for women when it comes to decision-making positions. These high positions and are not barred by Islam, and neither by the Maldivian Constitution.

The media lacks awareness about women’s rights and the importance of promoting gender equality. The misconception spread about gender equality is that women and men are equal. This is incorrect – the correct account is that men and women are biologically different because of their sex but gender is socially constructed.

This means that there are positions or jobs that the society believes that either men or women can do. This is the interpretation that the parliamentarians had when they had the discussions on the last day before recess.

If women’s names had been approved by parliamentarians according to their first deliberations, the approval should be based on their competency. The deliberations on the Majlis floor indicate lack of knowledge about women’s issues and women’s problems.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]