National Conference on Domestic Violence Protection Act concludes

Hope for Women and the Gender Advocacy Working Group (GAWG) have today concluded the National Conference on Domestic Violence Protection Act.

Relevant stakeholders gathered to discuss the implementation of the law, with GAWG consultant Humaida Abdul Ghafoor concluding that, while there had been slow progress, there was still “a long way to go”.

The workshop was conducted as part of the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign, which concludes on December 10.

Numerous regulations were yet to be put in place, with the soon-to-be updated Penal Code, one such example.

Representatives from the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office noted that 18 of 85 cases were successfully prosecuted in 2012-13, explained Humaida. Of these, however, 7 people received a MVR200 (US $13) fine, 8 received a MVR150 (US $10) fine, 2 were handed MVR75 (US $5) fines, while one person was sentenced to 6 months.

While the Maldives passed the landmark Domestic Violence Act in 2012, Hope for Women has previously expressed concern that poor implementation had meant the new law had little practical effect on the problem.

A 2007 study by the Ministry of Gender and Family – the first comprehensive nationwide survey of domestic violence in the Maldives – showed that one in three women between the ages of 15-49 had been a victim of domestic violence.

The study suggested there was general acceptance of domestic violence across the country and among both sexes, who perceived it as being ‘normal’ or ‘justified’.


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.

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.


Women leading youth brain drain due to “stifling environment”

“There is a lot of brain drain here, that’s part of why I came back. I didn’t want to be a brain drainer. I wanted to fix it.”

Halifa* is a 25 year-old Maldivian woman, educated and living abroad, who returned to work in the Maldives for a one year contract in a highly specialised professional field.

For many young people, Halifa says, Maldivian culture is an obstacle to growth and employment.

“Many youth wish they weren’t even Maldivian, they don’t know why they had to get stuck here,” she says. “When I talk to one of my friends, she says she wants to get out and come back when it’s better. That attitude is actually quite common.”

The Maldives has an unemployment rate of 32 percent, with women accounting for 24 percent overall. Young people comprise 40 percent of the population of the capital Male’. Of these youth, few females hold diplomas and many are unemployed.

“Lots of girls quit school to get married, and before long they’re having kids and trying to raise a family aged 19 or 20,” Halifa says.

For those who do look for jobs, the options are few.

“Most bosses hire for looks,” says Halifa. “Girls are often hit on by bosses, and some give in. Maybe they think they can handle it if it will improve their CV. But after the relationship, most girls leave the job and maybe take up the burqa. The experience may be so bad that they won’t look for another job.”

Growing religious fundamentalism is causing ripples of concern over female employment – although the Constitution allows for equal rights, few stand up for them. Instead, women increasingly accept a “culture of timidity and submissiveness,” in the words of another Maldivian woman, who is pursuing her doctorate.

It is a significant time for the strengthening of Maldivian democracy following the introduction of multi-party elections and many new freedoms. But it seems that women are both dissuaded from and reluctant to participate in the job sector. Frustrated by social, political and religious obstacles, youth are looking to apply themselves elsewhere. Is the Maldives facing a female brain drain?

“The ultimate goal is to raise an educated housewife”

A 2007 UNICEF report found that girls were almost 10 percent more likely to pass from primary to secondary schooling than boys, and repeated primary school less often. But sources say fewer girls are fulfilling their potential.

A government official who spoke to Minivan News said that many women lose their motivation to pursue higher education at grade 11, choosing marriage instead. The official said things are changing, but opportunities remain scarce for both genders.

“I think what women lack really is higher education, and men as well. If we want to move ahead, we need to focus on providing higher education,” she says.

Cost and accessibility contribute to the low achievement rates. Higher education is expensive by Maldivian standards, and the wait for scholarships is demoralising, says Halifa. Students who study abroad are often from wealthy families, and therefore not selected for their intelligence or ambition.

Halifa adds that Maldivian culture does not justify the effort of getting a degree: “Education is valuable in the Maldives, everyone wants their kids to have degrees. But then what do they do? They still expect them to be at home.”

According to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) report dated 2007, Maldivian cultural standards make it difficult for girls to pursue professional degrees.

“Cultural expectations regarding young women living away from home impact upon the numbers of female students studying abroad and hence female attainment of tertiary qualifications. From 1995 to 2000 a total of 876 students were awarded government scholarships to study abroad, 42% of which went to girls. From 2001 to 2005, 39% of undergraduate scholarships went to girls, 38% of post-graduate scholarships and 22% of doctorate scholarships.”

The Maldivian parliament has 77 members, only five of whom are female. MP for the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Eva Abdulla, said the lack of higher education affects a woman’s chances in the job sector.

“It is difficult for women to get the education necessary to compete with men of the same age for the same job. Statistics show that women are receiving less education than men after tenth grade, whereas up until secondary school they are on par.”

Abdul said the pressure to stay home and become a mother was significant. She also acknowledged that a woman’s path to employment is unclear.

“Equality in the work force and equal opportunities for women won’t happen naturally if we just improve education. We need to make some real changes to show an improvement in the ratio of men to women in the work force,” she said.

In some cases, however, employers see education as a threat instead of an asset. Halifa’s boss allegedly told her she was lucky to be hired with a degree. Since the boss only held a diploma, she preferred hiring employees whose qualifications did not jeopardise her own.

“Cover up and wear the burqa”

Halifa says her boss made unflattering assumptions about her personal life since she was over 20 and unmarried.

“I was guilty before I even knew I was being judged,” she says.

There is “not one single resource” for women who feel they are receiving unfair treatment at work, said Abdulla. “I don’t know if we have even made it comfortable for women to talk to each other here.”

Halifa adds that complaints of sexual harassment only provoke criticism of her religious practice: “They just tell me to cover up more and wear the burqa,” she says.

Although Maldivian law and society allow for equal rights between genders, speaking out is considered brash and unfeminine, and the cultural mindset of wearing the burqa means more girls are being married young without finishing their education. One woman called this shift in behavior “brain wastage: a deliberate refusal to apply the brains that one has – and this is the biggest problem that Maldivian women face today.”

Behind the pack

“Gender equality is an area in which the Maldives is lagging behind most countries in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” UNDP advisor Ferdinand von Habsburg-Lothringen observed at the Democracy Day ceremony earlier this month. “Democracy is dependent on not just 50 percent of the people. With only half of the eligible work force participating, growth will not flourish in the Maldives.”

According to Abdulla, women want to work but cannot find the domestic support necessary for them to work outside the home.

“I have not met many who say they would rather stay home,” she said. “But the pressure of managing a career and a home is serious. Women have two jobs: one paid, one unpaid.”

The stress on women is detrimental to economic growth.

ADB reports that almost half of Maldivian households are headed by women, while less than four percent of men contribute to household tasks. Approximately 25 percent of women-headed households depend on income from a husband who works away from home, and one sixth are run by widows or divorcees.

“Divorced women and their children are particularly economically vulnerable and [have] limited choices to improve their situation apart from remarrying: Maldivian women have on average four marriages by the time they reach 50 years of age,” states the report.

In 2007, ADB found that female-headed households accounted for 47 percent of the population, one of the highest rates worldwide. Only 21 percent of these households were economically active.

A government official familiar with the issue said “the middle market is the primary area of employment for women”, with few women advancing to the top. She added that she is often the only woman at a business meeting.

Most sources agreed that the recent rise in religious fundamentalism could have a long-term effect on women’s employment prospects.

In 2009, opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam introduced the Soft Loans Provision for Women to enable women to borrow small amounts of money and set up small businesses from home. She said the bill would particularly benefit island women who have fewer employment options.

The bill was stopped when it reached the Islamic Ministry, which declared interest haram.

“This is ridiculous, because our banks operate with interest,” Adam said. “But when interest involves women the Ministry calls it haram. And it’s only a tiny amount of interest, about six percent maximum.”

Adam said the loans provided by the bill would range from Rf5,000 to Rf300,000.

“Unless we do something about the growing religious fundamentalism in the Maldives, women will only stay at home and breed children in the coming years. That is not constructive for a growing country and economy. It would be a major economic setback,” said Adam.

“We are a country in transition so what happens during this time defines what happens next.”

Women face many challenges to employment: complicated social expectations, unclear motives for education, an increasingly strict Islamic code, and scrutinising work environments. If current social trends continue, there will be little room and few incentives for the next generation to contribute to the country’s growth.

“Educated Maldivians find themselves intellectually stifled in the current climate, especially with the astonishing gains that ultra-religious conservatives have made in Maldivian society in the last decade,” observed one source.

At this year’s 55th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Abdulla said gender stereotyping and violence “threaten[ed] to erode our gains and erect obstacles to future progress.” She warned that unless key institutions such as Parliament include more women in their decision-making processes, “policies will continue to lack the multifaceted approaches required to address the complex social, political and economic needs of our country.”

Recent initiatives such as the Domestic Violence Bill and the National University Act are positive steps. But Abdulla said evidence suggests more families are removing girls from education systems and keeping them in the domestic circuit. “We believe that religious extremism that shapes negative attitudes towards women and girls forms the genesis of this devolution towards female education and empowerment,” Abdulla said at the session.

One woman warned that if religious and social trends continue, “in ten years women would be lucky to leave the house, let alone the country.”

Although most sources agreed that religious fundamentalism challenges the thinking, working woman, some say it is not actively preventing women from going to work or improving their lot.

Halifa is optimistic about her generation, but said success depends on key changes. “I think when our generation is in charge they will be people who have gotten out, who have seen other cultures, who are more familiar with the power of women. The religious guys are still an issue for development,” she says.

One government source added that compared to Mexicans, Maldivians do not have a strong urge to cross a border.

Adam cautioned that the Maldives should be aware of the outside world’s appeal to youth. “If we can’t offer challenging jobs and salaries that are competitive with what other countries are offering, we have a hard time keeping our educated youth involved at home,” she said.

Abdulla says she believes that there would be significant opportunities for youth in the government and private sectors in the next five years, but felt that more needed to be done to improve the working environment.

“Equality in the work force and equal opportunities for women won’t happen naturally if we just improve education,” she said. “We need to make some real changes to show an improvement in the ratio of men to women in the work force.”

*Name changed according to request


“1 in 3” campaign launched to break domestic violence taboo

A nationwide campaign against domestic violence dubbed “1 in 3” was launched Thursday by the Maldivian Network on Violence Against Women, a loose coalition of NGOs and individuals who came together to advocate for pioneering legislation on domestic violence (DV) currently before parliament.

The campaign title reflects the findings of a milestone 2007 study on Women’s Health and Life Experiences, which found that 1 in 3 women aged 15 to 49 experience either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, including childhood sexual abuse.

While a draft for domestic violence legislation had existed for several years, the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP’s) women’s wing announced the development of a bill to be submitted to parliament earlier this year.

The announcement was welcomed by President Mohamed Nasheed, who argued that a bipartisan effort to pass the legislation was more likely to succeed.

The DV bill, supported and facilitated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), aims to “make DV illegal, to prevent DV from occurring in our society, to provide justice to survivors of domestic violence and abuse as well as to ensure state responsibility in providing services to address DV-related crimes in society,” reads a press statement by the NGO Network.

The network was formed in October when a group of 30 advocates came together in Bandos to plan support for the bill.

On November 22, the bill was accepted by MPs and sent to committee for further review.


In her keynote speech at the campaign launch, former DRP MP Aneesa Ahmed surveyed the history of government efforts against domestic violence.

As recently as the turn of the century, said Aneesa, domestic violence was a taboo subject in Maldivian society.

“It was not spoken about,” she said. “[People] didn’t want to speak about it. Perhaps because of the immensity of the problem, nobody wanted to talk about it; or because nobody wanted to believe how much it had spread in our society.”

She added that the hesitancy to openly acknowledge the problem was probably borne “out of fear.”

The former Women’s Minister revealed that a pilot survey planned by an NGO with support from the government was scuttled when it encountered resistance from societal attitudes, which held that the government should not “enter into family matters.”

“So we couldn’t carry out that survey,” she said. “The NGO I mentioned was very disappointed and we were very disappointed, but we did not give up.”

While the former government then attempted to foster public dialogue through workshops aimed at different groups of society, Aneesa said that she was “very encouraged” to see a campaign launched by a network of NGOs with high youth participation.

A video testimonial of a DV victim was also presented at the function, featuring a harrowing story of a woman who came to Male’ seeking a divorce but was refused by the judge who counseled reconciliation with her abusive spouse.

“I thought how am I going to make peace?” she asked. “I am finding it hard to endure. They didn’t consider in the least the abuse I was getting.”

The testimonial ended with a plea to MPs “to save women from abusive husbands.”

“A beginning”

Aneesa said that while the passage of the DV bill, with recommendations from the NGO network, would be “a beginning” to tackling gender based violence, she cautioned that the campaign “will not be easy” as the small size of close-knit communities “could be an impediment.”

However, she urged the NGO network and its affiliated advocates not to become discouraged and to continue their efforts.

Aneesa is a founding member of the ‘Hope for Women’ NGO which aims to “eradicate sexual violence against women and girls.”

President Nasheed meanwhile dedicated his weekly radio address yesterday to the subject of domestic violence, noting that “some women don’t even speak about it with their closest friends and family members” and consequently do not report abuse to the authorities.

Men taking advantage of physical superiority to abuse or subjugate women “amounts to the rule of the jungle,” he said.

As women make up half the country’s population, said Nasheed, greater participation of women in the workforce and in national affairs was crucial to ensure economic development and progress.

He added that sexual harassment in the workplace, “even subtle forms of harassment that we may otherwise think are trivial, should be deplored,” adding that “such things should never happen in the workplace.”

President Nasheed expressed gratitude for members of the DRP involved in the drafting of the legislation and pledged the government’s full support for the bill.

Upward trend

Statistics from the Family Protection Unit (FPU) reveal that since 2006 the unit has attended to an average of 145 patients per year – 87 per cent of whom were women – with a noticeable upward trend in the number of cases reported each month.

While sexual abuse was the most common form of abuse suffered by FPU patients, in 83 per cent of cases the perpetrator was a friend or family member, and was known to the victim.

Half of abuse victims reported that the perpetrator was a boyfriend or husband.

The “1 in 3” campaign – launched to coincide with the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, the beginning of the annual global event supported by the UN: ’16 Days of Activism Against Violence’ – aims to raise awareness of the issue through a sustained media campaign over the next two weeks.

At the ceremony on Thursday, which was attended by Health Minister Aminath Jameel and UN Resident Coordinator Andrew Cox, the campaign was officially launched by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Lieutenant Colonel Hamid Shafeeq with the unveiling of the campaign song “Geveshi Hiyaa”.


MPs positive domestic violence bill will be passed

Preliminary debate today over the proposed Domestic Violence Bill has MPs optimistic it will be passed, after it is sent to a special committee to refine the particulars.

“It will most definitely be passed – there are a few things we must keep in mind but there is nothing contentious about it,” said Eva Abdulla, MP for the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“We need to ensure it fits with international best practice, and ensure sufficient budget allocation for each step, as without sufficent budget things like the protective services mentioned in the bill become futile.”

Eva noted that the bill also needed to categorise different offenses, “as sweeping criminal offences do not fully protect the victims and can often discourage the reporting of offenses.”

“The draft bill is very good, however it only becomes meaningful if we can meet it with the necessary human and financial resources,” she added.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam, who presented the bill to parliament, noted that both major parties were working together on getting the bill passed, and would likely vote to send it to a special committee tomorrow.

“Some MPs are finding it hard to accept that this is about violence against women, and are trying to twist it by saying violence also occurs against men. But most accept it,” she said.

Health authorities identify domestic violence as a major problem in the country. Rozaina noted that it was difficult to obtain figures because of a lack of reporting: “a lot of women accept it as if it’s their due.”

If passed, the bill would require monitoring of domestic violence cases and the publication of figures at the end of each year.

“Right now people don’t report it, and people are reluctant to make bring very personal family issues public,” Rozaina said. “We hope that NGOs and the health sector can become more involved, rather than people having to go to the police all the time.”

Deputy Minister for Health Mariya Ali said that the Ministry received 100 cases of reported domestic violence last year, “and so far this year we are already up to 100.  It is a significant problem, and I don’t think this reflects the true prevalence,” she said, adding that more women were likely to come forward once the Ministry had completed work on a temporary shelter, hopefully by November.

“This bill will bring positive changes to the lives of women,” she added.

The DRP announced it was drafting a bill on domestic violence in April, hoping to create more comprehensive legislation for victims and perpetrators of violence in the home.

The bill would encompasses legislation on both physical and sexual violence against women and children, as well as improve how people who report these cases are dealt with, and to give more security and assistance to anyone affected by domestic violence.

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s daughter and leader of the DRP’s Women’s Wing, Dhunya Maumoon, first announced the drafting of the bill.

In November last year MPs signed a declaration supporting the elimination of violence against women, recognising the problem of domestic violence facing the Maldives and undertaking to bear it in mind when legislating.

The signing marked the 10th anniversary of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a UN-led initiative to encourage countries to create and enforce laws punishing violence against women and girls, increase public awareness and strengthen collection of data on the issue.

In April 2007, a student who was the subject of a sexual assault by her teacher spoke to Minivan News about the incident and how she felt justice had betrayed her.