Parliament accepts amendments for regulating division of assets after divorce

Parliament today accepted for consideration amendments to the Family Act submitted on behalf of the government by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdul Latheef Mohamed for regulating division of assets after divorce.

The bill was accepted with 41 votes in favour, four against, and sent to the Social Affairs Committee for further review.

Preliminary debate and voting on the bill took place amidst protests by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs, who have been protesting at every sitting of the People’s Majlis since the arrest and prosecution of former President Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges.

Continuing the protests into the seventh consecutive sitting today, MDP MPs blew on whistles and used a megaphone to call for President Abdulla Yameen’s resignation.

Parliament has ceased providing live feed to television stations since the protests began.

Equitable distribution

The amendments (Dhivehi) meanwhile state that a court would decide upon the equitable distribution of marital property in divorce cases.

The court should consider the extent of both the work done as well as expenses made individually by the husband and wife for earning the couple’s money or assets.

Moreover, the court should take into account any debts incurred during the marriage as well as the needs of any children under 18 years of age.

The revisions also state that the court could order the ex-husband to pay child support and provide financial support to his ex-wife.

In his presidential address at the opening of parliament earlier this month, President Yameen said the legislation would protect women’s rights in divorce cases as pledged during the presidential campaign.

The PPM pledged in its manifesto to ensure that women get their fair share of common property after divorce.

Meanwhile, during Monday’s sitting, parliament accepted for consideration government-sponsored legislation on establishing the ‘Maldives Islamic University.’

The bill was accepted unanimously with 55 votes in favour following a preliminary debate, during which nine MPs spoke.

The draft legislation was forwarded to the National Development Committee for further review. The committee’s chairman, Ibrahim Shujau, told the press after the sitting that the legislation would be reviewed and sent back to the floor for a vote within a week.

The PPM MP for Baarah said the bill would be passed into law by the end of the month, noting that establishing an Islamic University was an important pledge of President Abdulla Yameen.

Once ratified, the existing Islamic College or Kulliyah would be renamed the Islamic University of Maldives.

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CEDAW committee welcomes progress on women’s rights, expresses concern with child marriages, flogging and gender stereotypes

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has welcomed the Maldives’ progress on protecting women’s rights whilst expressing concern with child marriages, flogging and gender stereotypes in society.

In its concluding observations released last Friday (March 6) on the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of the Maldives – reviewed at meetings on February 27 with a high-level delegation led by Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon – the committee welcomed progress achieved since the last review in 2007, including the adoption of a new penal code that includes a definition of rape.

The committee noted other legislative reforms such as the Sexual Harassment and Abuse Prevention Act of 2014, the Sexual Offences Act of 2014, the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act of 2013, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act of 2012, the Employment Act of 2008, and the new Constitution in 2008, “which removes provisions barring women from being elected as President and Vice-President.”

The committee also noted the establishment of the Family Protection Authority in 2012 and welcomed “forthcoming amendments to the Family Act to regulate the distribution of matrimonial assets upon divorce.”

The Maldives acceded to the UN Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in July 1993 with reservations to article 16, which deals with equality in marriage and family relations.

“We strongly believe that equality of women in all walks of life, within the family, and in public life, is indeed a prerequisite for social justice and inclusive development that benefits all segments of society,” said Foreign Minister Dunya in her opening remarks at the treaty reporting session.

She reiterated the government’s commitment to addressing emerging challenges such as stereotypical practices that hinders equal representation of women in society.

Issues of concern

Whilst welcoming legislative initiatives on improving access to justice, the committee expressed concern with “persistent barriers faced by women in accessing justice”.

Of particular concern was the “insufficient independence of the judiciary, bias and gender stereotypes among judges and law enforcement officials, the absence of gender sensitive procedures and the limited capacity of the police to deal with complaints from women about violations of their rights in a gender-sensitive manner.”

Noting “the high number of unregistered marriages in rural and remote areas, including child marriages,” the committee recommended setting an age limit of 16 for exceptional cases of underage marriages.

The committee also recommended the abolition of flogging for fornication “as a matter of urgency,” noting that flogging “disproportionately affect women and girls and deter them from reporting sexual offences.”

Moreover, the committee noted the “existing discriminatory provisions regarding the participation of women as witnesses and delays in amending the stringent evidentiary provisions required for sexual violence offences.”

The committee noted that marital rape was not criminalised in law, the lack of enforcement of the anti-domestic violence law, and the lack of resources for the Family and Child Service Centres and safe houses.

The committee suggested that social stigma attached to women who report abuse as well as the perception that domestic violence cases were private family matters deters reporting.

Traditional stereotypes regarding the role and responsibilities of women in society meanwhile remain deeply entrenched, the committee observed, “which overemphasise the role of women as wives, mothers and caregivers, as well as prevent them from asserting their rights and actively participating in decision-making and other aspects of political and public life.”

The committee also expressed concern at “the growing trend in conservative interpretations of religion which encourage stereotypical patterns which negatively impact women and girls, as acknowledged by the State party during the dialogue. The Committee is further concerned about the emergence of cases of female genital mutilation in the State party, despite legislative prohibitions.”

Stereotypes as well as geographic constraints also limit girls’ access to higher education, the committee observed, noting “de facto restrictions on the re-entry of pregnant adolescent girls and married girls under the age of 18 in the formal educational system.”

Whilst noting the high representation of women in political parties, the committee noted that “social and cultural barriers continue to stigmatise women wishing to participate in political and public life which prevent them from running for public office.”

The committee noted the underrepresentation of women in parliament, the executive, the judiciary and decision-making level posts in the civil service.

“Further, it regrets the limited participation of women in local governance at community level, in particular in atolls, islands and city councils,” it stated.

On anti-trafficking, the committee expressed concern over “delays in establishing shelters for victims of trafficking and the absence of procedures for early victim identification, case management, and victim protection” and noted the “risk of internal trafficking for women and girls from remote islands placed in households in Male to access higher education opportunities.”

On health issues, the committee noted “limited access to obstetric health services, including pre- and post-natal services, for women living in remote areas,” “restricted access, in practice, to sexual and reproductive health services, for unmarried women and girls,” and “the absence of a study and data on the prevalence of unsafe and illegal abortion which is reportedly increasing.”


The committee urged the Maldives to honour its commitment to withdraw its reservation to paragraph two of article 16, which states: “The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.”

The committee also recommended a review of the reservation to paragraph one of article 16, “with a view to fully withdrawing it, taking into consideration practices of countries with similar religious backgrounds and legal systems which have successfully harmonised their domestic legislation with international human rights obligations”.

Despite its ratification in 1993, the committee noted that the convention “has yet to be incorporated into its domestic legal system and can therefore not be applied by the courts” and expressed concern with the delay in conducting a gender impact analysis of existing laws.

The committee called on the state to pass gender equality legislation with a definition of discrimination in line with the convention.

Referring to the restructured Ministry of Law and Gender headed by the Attorney General, the committee said the move “weakened [the national machinery’s] institutional capacity to develop coherent and sustainable plans and policies and to ensure effective gender mainstreaming across relevant sectors” and expressed concern about the “the insufficient financial, human and technical resources” available to the ministry.

On the Supreme Court’s suo moto proceedings against members of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) concerning its submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Period Review last year, the committee said “such actions seriously undermine the independence of the commission.”

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Majlis accepts bill to amend disparities in divorce settlements

The people’s Majlis has accepted a bill seeking to amend the distribution of wealth following divorce, local media has reported.

The bill – introduces by Progressive Party of Maldives MP Ahmed Mahlouf – seeks to provide stricter guidelines to judges when deciding on divorce settlements.

Sun Online reported Mahlouf as saying that the bill would improve the terms for women by distributing wealth more evenly, in line with his party’s election manifesto’s promises to improve women’s rights.

On the subject of women’s rights, the manifesto proposes subsidized childcare system, allowing women to work from home through the internet, and connecting them to employers.

Gender quotas in the political arena and leadership skills courses for girls are also included, with the intention of equalising the workplace gender balance.

The bill was admitted after securing a narrow majority of MPs present at today’s session.

In 2012, 4660 people got married, while the same year nearly half that many people got divorced. Its estimated that every second marriage in the Maldives ends in divorce.


Child support payments increased to MVR 1000

Child support payments are to increase to MVR 1,000 (US$64) after the Parliament Regulation Committee decided the previous amount of MVR 450 (US$29) was too small, local media reported.

The amendment to article 65 of the Family Regulation now states that a father who has more than one child is required to pay MVR 1,000 per child, per month until the child reaches 18 years of age, local media stated.

A father who has one child is required to pay MVR 2,000 (US$129) per month until that child reaches 18.

The amendment further states that MVR 2,000 must be provided to a woman during iddah – the period of waiting after a divorce, local media reported.

The amendment to the Family Regulation was proposed by Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam.