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.
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.