Police have uncovered four child abuse rings across the country involving at least 33 male minors between the ages of 14 and 18.
Chief Superintendent Mohamed Riyaz said the cases involved homosexual adult men preying on minors, and that it was likely that more children could be involved.
Only one arrest has been made so far.
The boys were lured through interactions on social media and the internet, said the head of the north wing of the divisional operations command.
“In some of these cases, we have noted that the children were used to bring their friends into this,” he said.
Appealing for parents to be more vigilant of their children’s online activities, Riyaz said “special measures” are needed from parents, schools and the community at large to combat child sexual abuse.
In most cases, Riyaz said individuals with a history of sexual offences befriends children on the internet.
Almost one in seven children of secondary school age in the Maldives have been sexually abused at some time in their lives, according to an unpublished 2009 study on violence against minors.
The rates of sexual abuse for boys was at 11 percent while the figure for girls were almost twice as high at 20 percent.
Police could not reveal further details including which islands the cases were reported from as the investigation was ongoing, Riyaz said.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Zenysha Shaheed Zaki, executive director of Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC), said the child protection NGO has launched a ‘Surf Sm@art’ campaign in February targeting internet safety for children.
“Our hope is that children can be taught to safely use the internet in an age appropriate manner,” she said.
In some cases, Zenysha said parents stop their children from using the internet, which she says is not a “realistic” solution.
Children should instead be taught to use the internet safely and be warned of the dangers, she suggested.
ARC is in the process of developing content for awareness material for social media, television and radio clips, and workshops for parents and teachers, she added. The sessions are expected to begin in June.
Telecommunications service provider Dhiraagu and cable TV service provider Medianet have sponsored the campaign for a one-year period.
Meanwhile, in a high-profile case in November 2009, a 38-year-old pedophile was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for 39 counts of child sexual abuse.
Hussain Fazeel was initially arrested for smuggling alcohol, but police discovered a hard drive containing a large quantity of images and videos of Fazeel having sex with underaged boys, some as young as 10. In other videos, the boys were made to had sex with each other.
Fazeel was charged before ratification of the Child Sexual Abuse (Special Provisions) Act, which carries penalties of up to 25 years.