Supreme Court enacts new regulations on flogging

The Supreme Court has enacted new regulations on the enforcement of flogging sentences, specifying conditions and criteria for meting out the Islamic Sharia punishment.

The regulations (Dhivehi) made public yesterday state that the offender must be of sound mind, must not be pregnant, and must not have an illness that could endanger his or her life due to flogging.

Moreover, a sentence for flogging must be implemented after the convict has either exhausted the appeal process or declined to appeal the verdict in the specified period.

Speaking at a ceremony held last month to mark the anniversary of the Criminal Court, Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed revealed that 37 flogging sentences remained unenforced due to alleged lack of cooperation from the relevant authorities.

If the offender is a deaf mute or does not speak Dhivehi, the regulations state that the court should seek a statement through a translator.

The court must also appoint a competent “special employee” to implement flogging sentences.

If the offender is under age when the verdict is delivered, the regulations state that the sentence must be imposed when the offender turns 18 years of age.

Section 222 of the regulations on conducting trials would be abolished once the new regulations come into force.

According to statistics from the Department of Judicial Administration, almost 90 percent of those convicted of fornication or pre-marital sex in 2011 were female.

Of 129 fornication cases in 2011, 104 people were sentenced, out of which 93 were female. This included 10 underage girls, 79 women aged 18-40, and four women above 40 years.

In response to a Minivan News report in 2009 of an 18 year-old woman fainting after a 100 lashes, Amnesty International called for a moratorium on the “inhumane and degrading punishment.”

Of the 184 people sentenced to public flogging in 2006, 146 were female, making it nine times more likely for women to be punished.

In November 2011, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the authorities to impose a moratorium on flogging and to foster national dialogue and debate “on this issue of major concern.”

“This practice constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women, and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country,” the UN human rights chief told MPs during a maiden visit to the Maldives.

Her remarks sparked protests by Islamic groups outside the UN building and drew condemnation from the Islamic Ministry, NGOs and political parties.

In August 2013, a flogging sentence of a 15-year-old girl rape victim convicted of fornication was overturned following an international campaign.


Police arrest three foreigners for illicit sexual activity

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has arrested three Bangladeshi nationals in the capital Malé last night for engaging ‘illicit sexual activity’.

Two men aged 32 and 34 years, along with a woman of 29 years, were arrested at around 7:30pm after information had been given to Maafannu Police station.

Following the arrest, police found videos of the suspects involved in similar activity.

Police confirmed that sexual activity between foreigners out of wedlock is considered a crime in the Maldives, noting that any reports of unlawful activity will be investigated.

Under Article 173 of the ‘Regulation on the Conduct of Court Proceedings 2003’, a wide range of activities are listed under ‘illicit sexual acts’ without any specific definitions of what comprises an ‘illicit’ sexual act.

It is commonly understood that most sexual acts out of wedlock are considered to be in this category.

The penalty under the article for ‘common’ illicit sexual acts carried out privately is 1 -2 month house arrest , and for ‘serious’ illicit sexual acts carried out privately the sentence is 7 -10 months banishment for men and 7 -10 month house arrest for women.

Homosexual acts and those with a married person, however, result in heavier penalties.

Ways in which a private illicit sexual act can be considered ‘serious’ include the participation of more than two people, photographing of the act, or committing the act in the presence of another person.

Article 190 of the regulation states that, with the exception of flogging, non-muslim foreigners shall be treated the same as Maldivians, while the penal code also makes no exception for foreigners who commit crimes within the jurisdiction of Maldives.

The common practice in cases where foreigners are investigated for illicit sexual acts, however,  is usually deportation without prosecution.

With around one million tourists visiting the Maldives each year, there are no known cases where tourists have been prosecuted for private ‘illicit sexual acts’. Marriage certificates are not a requirement for visiting honeymooners, which surveys suggest comprise nearly a quarter of visitors to the country.

Police have recently looked into such acts allegedly carried out by Maldivians at a Sri Lanka nightclub, while last month President Abdulla Yameen returned the sexual offenses bill to parliament, citing the inclusion of ‘unislamic’ provisions.