Maldives to withdraw reservations on women’s rights treaty

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs today announced the government’s intention to withdraw the reservations of the Maldives to the UN Woman’s Rights Treaty.

The Ministry has informed the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that the Maldives will shortly be withdrawing the controversial national reservation, which limits key aspects of the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The reservation restricts the application of Article 7(a) of CEDAW, under which state parties commit “to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country and, in particular, shall ensure to women, on equal terms with men, the right: (a) to vote in all elections and public referenda and to be eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies.”

Under the 1998 Constitution, women were banned from running for president. Article 109 of the new Constitution of 2008 does not include any restrictions based on gender under “qualifications for election as President”.

Aishath Zahir, Deputy Additional Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “this withdrawal is reinforcing the Constitution,” and “it reinforces our obligations under international law.”

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had repeatedly asked the Maldives to withdraw this reservation, since it was contrary to the purpose of the Convention of Women’s Rights and went against the principle of the equality of women and men.

The withdrawal of the restriction on Article 7(a) is a necessary official notification from the Maldivian government to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the statement claimed. This is being done so that “the new reality is fully reflected in international law.”

Because under the new Constitution parliament must approve any changes in the legislature, it is necessary for the government to submit a procedural bill to the Majlis seeking approval.

“As soon as it’s passed by the Majlis we will lodge our instrument of withdrawal to the UN,” said Zahir.

The Bill has been prepared by the Department of Gender and Family in the Ministry of Health and will soon be considered by the People’s Majlis.

Minister of Foreign Affaris Dr Ahmed Shaheed said the reservation was “a relic of a time in the Maldives when women were openly and explicitly discriminated against even within our primary legal framework.”

He added that this withdrawal makes explicitly clear that “everyone is entitled to the same rights and freedoms…without discrimination of any kind, including based on gender”.


Government “will not allow Maldives to become a Taliban playground”: Shaheed

When Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Ahmed Shaheed was asked by TV Maldives whether the country was in danger of becoming a safe haven for terrorists, he answered with “a flat no” and said “the government would not allow the Maldives to become a playground for the Taliban.”

On the weekend of 22 January, a group of Afghan MPs, “a government official” and seven people linked to the Taliban met in the Maldives for secret talks. At the time, Al-Jazeera reported that one of the Taliban’s representatives claimed the destination was chosen because “we feel safe.”

Photographs of the meeting have surfaced showing the Afghan MPs with another group gathered at the Bandos Resort conference centre.

Delegates at the meeting between Afghan MPs and representatives linked to the Taliban
Delegates at the meeting between Afghan MPs and representatives linked to the Taliban

A spokesman for the resort confirmed a group guests including Afghan MPs stayed at the resort and used the conference facilities, but noted it had no way of knowing whether the group was linked to the Taliban or not.

“We don’t go in [to the conference centre] when there is a meeting going on,” the spokesman explained.

Dr Shaheed said that the government was “fully aware of [the meeting] before it happened,” and at the time tried to determine whether to stop the meeting or allow it and see what was going on. He added that there was also no legal reason for denying them entry into the country.

“If they were complying with the UN resolution 1267, we had to allow them in,” he said.

Dr Shaheed is referring to the travel ban imposed in 2002 by the UN Security Council which bans “Osama bin Laden, members of the Al-Qaida organisation and the Taliban and other individuals associated with them” from entering or transiting through the territories of UN Member States.

Press Secretary for the President, Mohamed Zuhair, said the group “weren’t technically Taliban; there was one group from the Afghan government and another group who were sympathetic to the Taliban.”

Zuhair added the Maldivian government wants to focus on “reintegration and reconciliation.”

The government says it was aware of the meeting held at Bandos Resort
The government says it was aware of the meeting held at Bandos Resort

Dr Shaheed said that if there proves to be an “official affiliation between a foreign government [and the Taliban]”, the Maldives will protest to that government.

He added that the Maldivian government “are on our guard” and there is an ongoing investigation “examining who was here” and “whether there was anyone in that group who wasn’t meant to be here.”

He also said the government is “not too pleased about this” and is “very watchful” for these types of meetings taking place within the country.