Criminal court slammed over MVR200 fine for man who assaulted wife

The criminal court today fined a man MVR200 (US$13) for physically assaulting his wife and shoving her onto the deck of a fishing boat in January.

Luthfee Umar from Laamu Isdhoo was found guilty of assault based on his confession and the medico-legal record of his wife, which stated that her lips were torn.

Local media reported at the time that Luthfee was thrown into the sea near the fish market in Malé by angry bystanders and was not allowed to climb out until the police arrived at the scene.

The current penal code enacted in 1966 carries a penalty of either six months in prison, six months of house arrest, or a fine of MVR200 for assault.

However, the new penal code – due to come into force in July – has a penalty of a maximum of four years for assault depending on the severity of the case.

The new penal code was due to come into force in April, but the pro-government majority in parliament delayed its enforcement to July citing lack of public awareness and concerns of religious scholars.

Today’s sentence has sparked outrage on social media, with one user observing that the fine is smaller than that of a parking ticket.

The sentence was passed by criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed, who has previously been accused of misogyny. In 2005, then-attorney general Hassan Saeed sent a letter to then-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom outlining several allegations against the judge.

After completing the sentencing of a defendant in June 2005, Abdulla Mohamed allegedly said: “Very few men ever meet women who love them. You may meet a woman who loves and cares for you. You should not run after a woman who does not love you. It is also stated in Holy Quran that women are very deceptive.”

Speaking to Minivan News today, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Rozaina Adam said such sentences “encourage similar abuses instead of acting as a deterrent.”

“We get a hefty MVR750 (US$ 49) just as a parking violation fine. With this sentence, beating a woman means less than a parking ticket,” said Rozaina.

Rozaina said that under the Domestic Violence Act, the police have the responsibility to explain the rights of the victim, such as getting a protection order, which has to be issued immediately.

She also criticised the ruling party for its decision to delay the penal code: “Delaying the penal code was a huge obstruction to justice.”

“The current penal code is severely outdated. 200 rufiyaa was a big figure then. But now it is very little,” said Rozaina.

Photo from social media.


Police officer arrested in domestic violence case

A police officer was arrested in Hulhumalé around 12:45pm today for assaulting his wife.

Police said the 35-year-old man was arrested at the “crime scene” and the victim has sought treatment at the Hulhumalé hospital.

The Hulhumalé police station and the police family and child protection department are jointly investigating the domestic violence case.

According to online news outlet Vaguthu, the police officer beat his wife in the presence of his mother-in-law.

In April 2012, parliament passed long-awaited legislation on criminalising domestic violence.

Ministry of Gender and Family study – the first comprehensive nationwide survey of domestic violence in the Maldives – showed that one in every three women between the ages of 15-49 has been a victim of domestic violence.


Court extends detention of man accused of beating wife unconscious

Police have arrested a 33 year-old man charged with physically abusing his wife on Vilingili in Gaaf Alif Atoll, reports Haveeru, after the wife’s family reported the abuse.

The Vilingili magistrate court extended the detention of Ahmed Mueed by 15 days, while the woman has been hospitalised in Male.

Haveeru reported the victim’s brother as alleging that the woman was severely bruised and unable to speak properly, after Mueed beat her unconscious in front of their four year-old step daughter.


Rising religious fundamentalism, conservative thinking impacting women: Department of National Planning

Progress toward achieving gender equality has not kept pace with other development achievements in the Maldives, as reflected by the 12 percent of women who have suffered sexual abuse before the age of 15 while one in three have been the victim of violence, a Department of National Planning study has found.

The study examined how much human development progress has been achieved in the Maldives in terms of population and development, reproductive health and rights, gender equity, equality and empowerment of women as well as education during the period 1994 – 2012.

The “Maldives Operational Review for the ICPD Beyond 2014” study was conducted under the supervision of the Department of National Planning (DNP), in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), to determine whether the Maldives has met the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) thematic Programme of Action (PoA) goals.

The study found that “Despite impressive advancements in all development areas, the progress towards achieving gender equality and equity and the empowerment of women have not been the same.”

“Even though, the Maldivian Constitution guarantees equal rights and freedom for all Maldivians without any discrimination, prevailing traditions and socio-cultural norms have limited women’s participation in the workforce and in the community,” the study determined.

“The increasing level of religious fundamentalism and conservative thinking has worsened the situation,” it added.

Although the Domestic Violence Act 3/2012 was “a historical milestone for women in the country,” domestic violence and violence against women remains a “major concern” in the Maldives.

“One out of three females aged between 15-49 years has experienced some form of violence within their lifetime. Further, 12 percent of women reported having experienced sexual abuse before their 15th birthday,” the report stated. “Most of the time, the perpetrators are a close family member or intimate partner and the incidence goes unreported and undocumented.”

Victims to not receive appropriate and timely support, since domestic and sexual violence are perceived as a private matter and often go unreported, the study found.

Additionally, “Women continue to be stereotyped and underrepresented at professional decision making levels,” noted the report.

The low level of women being represented in senior level positions is partly due to the “high domestic burden on females,” with women heading 47 percent of households in the Maldives, one of the highest rates in the world, the study determined.

Although women are represented in the workforce, they are “mostly represented in stereotypical roles” such as education (72 percent), health (68 percent), manufacturing (65 percent) and agriculture (64 percent), said the report.

Meanwhile, 40 percent of young women remain unemployed, with 10.5 of the overall youth population being neither employed nor seeking to further their studies, the report added. Employment opportunities for many have been obstructed primarily due to inadequate employment opportunities as well as the mismatch between skills and job requirements.

The report also found that the number of women continuing their studies beyond secondary education is low compared to men. This disparity is the result of “limited access to educational institutions at the island level, domestic responsibilities and hesitance to allow females to study on another island.”

“Special affirmative actions are needed to create more employment and livelihood opportunities for women and to increase the number of women in public and political life,” stated the report.

Despite the Maldives achieving the Millennium Development Goal target to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, malnutrition and anemia are still limiting women’s equality, equity and empowerment, noted the study.

“Poor nutritional status and anemia are significantly high among pregnant women and women of reproductive age, [which] puts them in high risk for maternal mortality,” the report found. “Malnutrition among women puts them in high risk during pregnancy and hinders their full participation in education, employment and social activities.”

Women – and young women’s – health is also at risk due to the lack of access to quality services, particularly in regard to sexual and reproductive health.

“With regard to reproductive rights, men often control decisions regarding women’s reproductive health, often based on religious and cultural grounds,” the report noted.

“[Furthermore,] the sudden growth of religious fundamentalism and conservative thinking is an emerging challenge, particularly for women and young girls,” the study stated. “There have been increase towards certain trends such as preference for home schooling and refusing vaccination and other medical services for women based on religious beliefs.”

Violence against women

Despite the extensive provisions in the Domestic Violence act, it has done little to curb the abuse of women, minors and other vulnerable people; the police, the judiciary and wider Maldivian society have made minimal progress addressing domestic violence and abuse, former Gender Minister and Chairperson the Hope for Women NGO, Aneesa Ahmed, recently told Minivan News.

Meanwhile, support for women’s equality has experienced a “significant drop” despite overall progress in improving the human rights situation nationally, a Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) second baseline survey recently concluded.

“Despite the freedoms that the constitution has provided for women, attitudes towards women’s empowerment show a negative trend,” stated Andrew Cox, the former UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP representative in the Maldives.

“Alarmingly, the study also suggests that there has been a regression in people’s sensitivity towards domestic violence and gender based violence,” he added.

Male attitudes have become “more conservative” regarding women’s rights issues, whereas female views have become more supportive of rights in some areas, the report stated.

In a reversal from the 2005 human rights study, more women than men now consider it inappropriate for men to hit their wives. However, significant numbers of respondents stated where there was a “substantive justification” – as opposed to something trivial – “violence against wives was justified,” the report determined.

Both genders in the Maldives were also found to believe that in the husband/wife relationship, women should play a “subordinate role”.

In spite of this culturally conservative shift regarding women’s rights, an “overwhelming” 92 percent ofMaldivians believe that laws and systems to protect women from sexual assault should be reformed, according to the results of a survey conducted by Asia Research Partners and social activism website

Of those polled, 62 percent supported an outright moratorium on the practice of flogging, while 73 percent declared existing punishments for sexual crimes were unfair to women.

The international community has echoed this sentiment, particularly in regard to the recent
case in which a 15 year-old rape victim was sentenced to 100 lashes and eight months’ house arrest for a separate offence of fornication garnered substantial international attention and condemnation.

In March, an Avaaz petition calling for the repeal of the sentence and a moratorium on flogging in the Maldives collected more than two million signatures – a figure more than double the number of tourists who visit the country annually.

Currently, British couples are being asked to avoid the Maldives as a honeymoon destination to force the country’s government to overturn the conviction of the girl, who was given the draconian sentence after being raped by her stepfather, while UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been asked to intervene in the case, writes Jane Merrick for the UK’s Independent newspaper.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Eva Abdulla explained the current context of women’s rights in the Maldives to the publication.

“Consider the statistics on flogging: that 90 per cent of the cases are women. Consider the statistics on rape charges: 0 per cent success rate of prosecution, with the latest being the release of four men accused of raping a 16-year-old, on the grounds that there wasn’t enough evidence,” said Abdulla.

“The increasing religious fundamentalism followed by the attempts to subjugate women, both politically and otherwise, should be cause for alarm. This is a country of traditionally very strong women.

“However, increasingly, the Adhaalath Party, a self-claimed religious party which is in alliance with the current government, uses the religious card to scare off women. We women MPs are often threatened whenever we speak against the party,” she added.


Domestic Violence Act has done little to curb abuse due to lack of implementation: Hope for Women

The Maldives’ ratification last year of a Domestic Violence Act has done little to curb the abuse of women, minors and other vulnerable people despite provisions to do so, a leading civil society expert and former gender minister has said.

Aneesa Ahmed, Chairperson for the Hope for Women NGO, told Minivan News that despite extensive provisions in the act, little progress had been made by police, the judiciary and wider Maldivian society to address domestic violence and abuse.

“The problem we are seeing is that measures provided in the act are not being implemented. There is no mechanisms to do that. Police have been preparing for the act, but they are handicapped in doing so,” Aneesa claimed.

“There are no safe houses, no shelters for victims of abuse. The act doesn’t solve the problem on its own, we need education and a greater understanding or rights and the need for sensitivity.”

Aneesa’s comments were made after 130 UN member states last Friday (March 15) signed up to a plan to try and prevent violence towards women and girls as part of a wider international strategy.

The declaration calling for an end to gender-based violence was passed despite opposition from Russia, the Vatican and a number of unidentified Islamic nations.

“Iran, Libya, Sudan and other Muslim nations ended threats to block the declaration and agreed to language stating that violence against women could not be justified by ‘any custom, tradition or religious consideration,'” reported AFP.

One year later

With the Maldives having passed it’s own Domestic Violence Act last year, Aneesa contended that there remained a lack of support and understanding of the need for sensitivity in dealing with all victims of domestic abuse at both a legislative and societal level.

She contended that such support was lacking for all victims protected under the bill, which includes men, women and children.

Pointing specifically to challenges currently facing women, the issue of empowering the country’s female population – both financially and through education – remained a particular problem in the country, according to Aneesa.

“Women [suffering from domestic abuse of violence] are reluctant to leave their children, but often have no way of supporting themselves, even within their own families,” she said. “The situation here for victims is bad, not much has been done to raise awareness.”

Aneesa claimed that even in cases where women have gone to seek legal action against an abusive partner, the country’s courts were seen as a hostile environment for such cases, even to those experienced with dealing with the judicial system.

She also raised the issue of reluctance among friends of abuse victims to go to courts on their behalf, stating that there was often uncertainty over whether they would be protected from potential reprisals for going to the authorities. These concerns were identified by Hope for Women as another example of the wider lack of understanding on legal rights provided to abuse victims.

Aneesa added that abuse victims on a number of occasions had sought assistance from Hope for Women, pointing to the case of a woman who had filed for divorce from an abusive partner back in August 2011.

She said that after leaving her husband, the victim was said to have forfeited her custody of her child.

Upon later regaining custody of the child, Aneesa added that both the mother and her family continued to suffer both mental and physical abuse from the victim’s husband – on occasion leading to intervention from the police.

However, despite this intervention, Hope for Women claimed that not a single hearing had been held on the case in the country’s courts, with the husband refusing to attend on any scheduled dates.

This has lead Hope for Women to directly appeal to higher legal authorities including court watchdog, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), according to Aneesa.

“Nothing has been done since 2011 on this case,” she said.

Aneesa added that there was a need for legal authorities and society to be “sensitised” in dealing with victims of domestic abuse, while also pointing to a parallel need for the rehabilitation of offenders.

“Both the courts and the state lack sensitivity in dealing with these cases, while judges also need to be sensitised,” she said.

Hope for Women NGO is looking to travel to islands across the country, while leaflets have also been prepared containing information for women on their rights under the law.

Acting Minister of Gender, Family and Human Rights Azima Shukoor was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

Gender equality

During International Women’s Day earlier this month, former and current Maldivian presidents of the Maldives all spoke on what they said was the importance of gender equality to national development.

Despite the calls of some of the nation’s most senior political figures, a recent national study found support for women’s equality was found to have experienced a “significant drop” despite overall progress in improving the human rights situation nationally.

The conclusions were made in the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM’s) second baseline survey on behaviors and attitudes regarding human rights in the Maldives, which was published December 10, 2012.

The ‘Rights’ Side of Life’ survey noted increasingly conservative attitudes towards gender roles, particularly among women themselves.

“In every case, women agreed with the particular justification for violence more often than men did,” the report found.

“In the case of some answers, the difference was considerable. For example, 45.1 percent  of women considered that husbands had good reason to beat their wives if they were disobeyed, but only 25.7 percent of men agreed with this proposition. Similarly, 28.3 percent of women said that refusing to have sex with their husband was justification for beating them, though only 12.8 percent of men thought this.”

According to the study, 57.1 percent of men believed it acceptable to beat their wives for “going against Islam”, while 71.6 percent of women felt this was acceptable.

The study also acknowledged under-reporting of the issue due to the public nature of the focus groups.

“Men’s groups tended, for example, to condemn violence by men when it was apparent from other views that they expressed that they considered that there were circumstances when such violence was justified. It was also apparent that a number of the women in the focus groups were not prepared to say the same things in public that they would express in private. Similarly, the male discussion groups publicly condemned behaviour that they were prepared to support in private,” the report noted.

HRCM Deputy Tholal expresses shock at attitudes towards gender discrimination

Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) Vice President Ahmed Tholal has spoken on the challenges presently facing women in Maldivian society, expressing shock at the attitudes of some – including senior policy makers – to gender discrimination.

Tholal’s comments were made as the Gender Advocacy Working Group on Monday (December 10) held a special event to celebrate the conclusion of 16 days of activities promoting calls for an end of violence against women.

The HRCM Deputy pledged during his speech that the commission would resolve to work ceaselessly in trying to bring an end to gender-based violence across the country.

“At HRCM, we often hold related workshops. We often have activities to assess perceptions of gender roles by the participants. The perspectives on women held by some senior policy making level individuals are often views that leave us, as men, completely ashamed,” he said.

“Being a man myself, I myself am shocked and ashamed by the justifications these people present as reasons why men and women cannot work at the same levels, or hold equal posts. This is why we need to keep on working on this cause.”

Tholal further continued, “Some would say that the constitution and supporting laws do not differentiate based on gender. My question is, is this honestly the case when it comes to actual practices?”

He added that as long as these prejudices were common, and women were subjected to discrimination and violence, he was reluctant to accept that Maldivians lived in a “modern and civilised society”.

16 day focus

As part of  calls for an end to violence against women, the Gender Advocacy Working Group this year carried out awareness activities from the November 25 to December 10 – a date chosen to coincide with International Human Rights Day.  These awareness activities were held with the cooperation of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), as well as a number of other local NGOs, government offices and youth volunteers.

The objective of the campaign was to call for an end of violence against women in the country, while also pressuring the government to expedite arrangements for providing services to the victims of domestic violence.

The advocacy group pointed to records showing an estimated one in three women in the Maldives have been victims of domestic violence during their lives, calling on government to ensure that the Family Protection Authority was provided with a sufficient budget to implement the Act Against Domestic Violence and complete the actions detailed in it.

“One of the main steps that need to be taken to end violence against women is to accept that such acts do occur in our society and to honestly want to bring an end to it, it is therefore necessary for the community to share the same viewpoint on such matters if inhuman acts like these are to be eradicated,” the Gender Advocacy Working Group claimed in a statement.

The group organised a number of activities in Male’, Hulhumale’ and Villimale’ to raise awareness of the issue over the 16 days. These included the relatively new concept of forum theatre performances on the street, which encouraged onlookers to join in and be a part of the act.

In addition to these performances, 16 ambassadors of the campaign were honoured. A theatre performance by youth volunteers showed a number of related problems that were faced in the local society, and prompted suggestions for solutions from the audience.

The campaign has also pledged to help victims of domestic violence by planning to set up safe houses, provide free legal counsel and establish a helpline for support.

The group has also called for the inclusion of issues of gender-based violence and gender equality in the school curriculum and to increase participation of women in the law implementation bodies of the state.

Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) Vice President Ahmed Tholal has spoken on the many challenges presently facing women in Maldivian society, expressing shock at the attitudes of some- including senior policy makers – in regards to gender discrimination.

Domestic Violence Act “incomplete” without Family Protection Authority

Members will be next week appointed to the primary body tasked  with implementing the Domestic Violence (DV) Act, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik said on Wednesday.

According to Dr Waheed names have been nominated by the Gender Ministry to the Family Protection Authority (FPA) board.

“I have been informed that the Gender Ministry has prepared the proposal. So the members will be appointed without further delay,” Waheed said:”Next week”.

Under the landmark piece of legislation passed and ratified last April, a seven member board has to be appointed to the FPA.

The authority is mandated under the law to conduct programs setting out measures for taking all necessary steps to prevent domestic violence including rehabilitating perpetrators of such crimes, arrange flexible reporting mechanisms, facilitate the investigations and provide all necessary support and shelter to victims of abuse.

According to the Gender Advocacy Working Group (GAWG) created by UNFPA Maldives,  a letter was forwarded to the President’s Office with recommended people to be appointed for the FPA board.

“It is important to nominate people who have strong expertise on the issue from different sectors.” Michiyo Yamada, Gender Specialist at UN Women Maldives noted.

“We urge the government to establish the Family Protection Authority as soon as possible, since they are mandated to lead the implementation of the DV Act, such as creating public awareness, providing services to survivors, coordinating the work of relevant institutions including police and health.” she observed.

She also noted that GAWG will support and cooperate with all institutions to implement the legislation. The multi-sectoral group represents interested organisations and individuals, promoting gender equality and non-discrimination.

“Extensive ground work is needed to implement the act by training service providers and setting up the system to prevent and respond to domestic violence across the country,” Michiyo added.

Recommended names were not released by the group as it is being reviewed by the government.

A Gender Ministry official confirmed to Minivan News that GAWG’s nominations were taken under consideration while shortlisting the names for President’s office.

Stakeholder’s concerns

All stakeholders from government, civil society, judiciary and state institutions gathered at the Tuesday’s national consultation workshop on UN Secretary General’s Unite Campaign to end violence against women, and “agreed” on the urgency of forming a central authority to prevent domestic abuse and overcoming the existing challenges in providing protection and justice to those victims.

According to Human Rights Lawyer Mohamed Anil, who participated in the DV Act’s drafting process, the “legislation is incomplete without the authority”.

“It is already created from the date of ratification. On paper it exists now. But without the members authority is nonexistent, ” Anil observed.

He added that the when the legislation fully comes into operation it will bring “significant new changes”, one of which he pointed out is the additional power granted to the security forces to investigate abuse and violence within domestic spheres.

Should the police find reasonable evidence to believe  a person is a victim of domestic abuse, the DV legislation stipulates the police can enter the place of crime without a court order and arrest perpetrators and even request for a protective order on behalf of the victim.

Due to these “extra-powers” Anil said, police are required to compile an internal regulation outlining the guidelines in dealing with domestic abuse cases.

Should the authorities fail to report or address a case of domestic abuse, they can be held accountable under the law.

The law also mandates the police to remove the victim from the abusive environment to a shelter, if necessary on the institution’s own expenses.

In the most recent case of alleged infanticide on Feydhoo island, the council and islanders have been claiming in the local media that the authorities had failed to relocate the 15 year-old mother of the dead baby despite several complaints of sexual abuse within her home.

Stakeholders at the meeting highlighted that the Family and Children Center (FCC) shelters on the islands are under-equipped and too short staffed to accommodate and help victims, while budget constraint are further hampering the process.

“Look at the condition of FCC on islands. We once had to keep a sexually abused girl at the atoll state house because the shelter did not have any facilities and there was no other safe place to keep her,” Shaviyani atoll Council President Moosa Fathy noted at the workshop.

“Everyone talks about these issues on stages. It is merely a political fashion show.” he added, noting that there has been several cases where police and state institutions have denied support to the councils.

Therefore, at the end of the workshop, participants promised to make a coordinated effort to end violence against women and girls and promote gender equality.

“We need more commitment and concrete action.” a participant noted.


Maldives’ first protective order issued to a woman allegedly abused by husband for 21 years

A woman allegedly abused by her husband for 21 years has received a protective order against her husband, the first to be granted under the recently enacted Domestic Violence (DV) Law which provides protection for victims of domestic violence.

According to the police, the protective order – intended to protect the victim from further harm or harassment – was requested by the Ungoofaaru Police Station following a complaint filed by the victim at the station on April 30.

In a statement released on Thursday, the police said that the woman has been “a victim of domestic abuse for 21 years” and has faced various forms of abuse from her husband over the years.

“During the investigation police found that the woman definitely needs protection,” the statement read.

Police media official Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News that the case is under further investigation and no arrests have been made yet.

Meanwhile, the woman remains protected from any further abuse under the protective order, he observed.

“A great help”

“The enactment of the Domestic Violence Act has certainly facilitated  police investigations into domestic violence cases. But more importantly, it is a great help for victims of such crimes,” the Sub-Inspector added.

Should the police find reasonable evidence to believe  a person is a victim of domestic abuse, the DV legislation stipulates the police can enter the place of crime without a court order and arrest perpetrators and even request for a protective order on behalf of the victim.

Furthermore, if requested, the courts can command the accused person to refrain from certain activities (a restraining order) in a domestic violence case and even  issue a maintenance order to ensure a means of support or livelihood to the victim.

The court can grant a three-month provisional order without a trial, or the knowledge of the alleged perpetrator, while he or she is given the right to challenge the order during the trial to make the order permanent.

The Domestic Violence Act defines sexual, physical and emotional abuse of victims, economic and psychological abuse, intimidation, stalking and harassment, deliberate damage to property of the victims as offences while the perpetrators can be subjected to the punishments and court orders.

Violations of these orders are considered criminal offences and the perpetrator can face a maximum fine of Rf50, 000 (US$3242) and a maximum three years of imprisonment.

In addition, the legislation stipulates the formation of “Family Protection Authority”, mandated to conduct programs to support victims of domestic violence, setting out measures for taking all necessary steps to prevent domestic violenceincluding rehabilitating perpetrators of such crimes, arrange easy reporting mechanisms and facilitating the investigations.

A seven member board needs to be appointed to the FPA . The board will be appointed soon, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan said after ratifying the legislation on April 23.

The passage to endorsement took over a year longer than anticipated, mostly due to the resistance from several MPs who had argued the bill was “un-Islamic” and criticised it for “unduly favouring women” while at the same time making life “extremely difficult” for men, who they said, were wronged by women.

Maldives has a high rate of gender-related violence, particularly affecting women and girls. A national survey on “Women’s Health and Life Experiences” conducted with the support of UNFPA, UNICEF, and WHO showed that one in every three Maldivian women aged 15-49 reported experiencing some form of physical or sexual violence at least once during their lifetime.


Domestic Violence Bill ratified by President Waheed

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has today ratified the Domestic Violence Bill – the first piece of legislation to be approved by him since taking office on February 7.  The bill was passed by the parliament on April 9 and how now been approved by the president, allowing it to come into force as the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.

This act defines domestic violence as an attack against someone by any other person with whom that they are presently, or have been in a domestic relationship. It also provides protection for victims of domestic violence and seeks to punish the perpetrators of such crimes.

According to the President’s Office, some of the objectives of the act include; declaring all acts of domestic violence as a punishable crime, giving protection and safety to victims of domestic violence and giving cost-effective, due and timely justice to victims of domestic violence.

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act also includes frameworks for  conducting programmes to support victims of domestic violence.  This includes setting out measures for taking all necessary steps to prevent domestic violence, whilst rehabilitating perpetrators of such crimes and facilitating the implementation of court orders and orders from other law enforcement authorities to prevent domestic violence.

Speaking after ratifying the bill, President Waheed announced that the Family Protection Authority (FPA), which is required to be established under the act, would be formed soon.  The president has pledged to appoint the seven member FPA board without any further delay.

UN Women, which provided detailed inputs on the draft bill with other United Nations agencies has meanwhile welcomed the passage of the law and pledged its full support to consolidate the Act.

“This is a remarkable gain for the women of Maldives,” said Anne F. Stenhammer, the Regional Programme Director of UN Women in South Asia in a statement released last week.

“We hope to work together with the government and other UN agencies to raise awareness of the law and help in its implementation.”

Michiyo Yamada, Gender Specialist at the UN Women Maldives organisation added that her office has been working together with other UN agencies to support the government in developing the 4th and 5th combined state report for the Convention on The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

“Addressing violence against women is one of the key areas highlighted in the previous concluding remarks in 2007. UN Women hopes to support the Maldives in implementing the UN Secretary General’s Campaign, UNiTE to End Violence Against Women, which aims at adopting national laws and multi-sectoral action plans and collecting data on the prevalence of violence against women and girls.” Yamada observed.

According to a national survey on “Women’s Health and Life Experiences”, which was conducted with the support of UNFPA, UNICEF and the WHO, one in every three Maldivian women aged between 15 and 49 reported experiencing some form of physical or sexual violence at least once.

Information from Family Protection Units confirm such a prevalence, and indicate that 87 per cent of perpetrators are known to the survivors.