Amputation for theft added to draft penal code

The draft penal code bill has been amended to include punishments as prescribed in the Quran, such as amputation for theft.

The new article added during a parliamentary committee meeting Thursday (March 28) states that if someone convicted of a crime requires legal punishment, as specified in the penal code, that person will face punishment as stated in the Quran.

MP Imthiyaz Fahmy clarified the amendment to the draft penal code is about hadd punishments only and “not at all” about all Sharia offences, speaking with Minivan News today.

“Hadd offenses are already crimes in the draft penal code. However the prescribed punishments in Sharia for those particular crimes are not codified in the draft penal code, but instead they are left up to the interpretation of Sharia,” stated Fahmy.

“But to completely evade making a reference to hadd punishments or to mention that no hadd punishment at all should be imposed is impossible to the the fact that Sharia shall be one of the basis of all the laws of the Maldives,” he added.

Criminal punishments are detailed for murder, fornication, thievery and drinking alcohol.

The committee’s chairperson, MP Ahmed Hamza, told Sun Online the new draft penal code will require amputating persons convicted of theft, while a person convicted of apostasy (renouncing Islam) will also face punishment.

The bill does not include apostasy as a crime, therefore someone found guilty of this offense cannot be subjected to Quranic punishment, committee member MP Ahmed Mohamed clarified.

Gambling is also not criminalised, according to committee member MP Abdul Azeez Jamaal Aboobakuru. He told local media that the bill does not “state a manner in which such crimes can be convicted”.

Fahmy explained that Sharia law does not prescribe a hadd punishment for gambling.

The penal code draft bill does include factors that must be considered before convicting a person of murder; for example, any contradictory evidence would prevent such a conviction.

Imposing the death penalty cannot be subject only to the confession of the accused.

“Sharia does not run headlong into death penalties, amputation or stoning to death. Therefore depending on the circumstances, Sharia may avoid capital punishments,” said Fahmy.

He further clarified that Sharia punishments may be interpreted according to any of the schools of Sunni Muslims.

While interpretation of Sharia law punishments are within the purview of Maldivian judges, Fahmy believes that the current judicial system is incapable of providing Maldivian people justice, even with the new penal code.

“I do not believe the judiciary and the criminal justice system in the Maldives is capable of doing justice or able to take care of the new penal code. The judiciary is unable to ‘keep up with the Jonses’,” Fahmy stated.

The parliamentary committee’s additions to the bill follow its rejection of all but one amendment suggested by the Fiqh Academy of the Maldives.

Speaking to local media on Monday (March 25), Hamza said the committee had decided to accept only a suggestion concerning the offence of theft. Other amendments, he said, were merely changes to the wordings of the bill and carried little legal weight.

“They have submitted amendments to abolish certain sections. These include certain legal defences. When we looked into removing those defences, we found this impacted fundamental principles embedded to the draft penal code. So we decided to reject their suggestions,” he stated.

Following the decision, Vice President of the Fiqh Academy Sheikh Iyas Abdul Latheef told local newspaper Haveeru that the academy had informed parliament that current draft penal code should not be enforced in the country.

“The current draft does not include the Hadds established under Islamic Sharia. There is no mention of the death penalty for murder, the punishment of stoning for fornication, the punishment of amputation for theft and the punishment for apostasy. We proposed amendments to include these punishments,” Latheef stated.

Comments submitted by the United Nation agencies in the Maldives, Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), and Attorney General are being considered and incorporated into the draft text.

The initial draft of the penal code was prepared by legal expert Professor Paul H Robinson and the University of Pennsylvania Law School of the United States, upon the request of the Attorney General in January, 2006. The project was supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Professor Robinson’s team have published two volumes (Volume 1 and Volume 2) consisting of commentaries on sections of the draft bill.

The bill was first sent to the Majlis (parliament) in 2006 and will replace the 1961 penal code.

The penal code bill is being forwarded to the parliament floor this upcoming week, according to local media.

False preaching regarding rape and fornication

The parliamentary committee slammed the “false preaching” of the Chair of Adhaalath Party’s Scholars Council Sheikh Ilyas Hussain over the bill earlier this week.

Sheikh Ilyas declared that the new penal code does not recognise fornication with mutual consent as an offence.

MP Nazim Rashaad contended that whether sheikh or not, nobody could misinterpret the clause and claim that the bill did not recognise “mutually consented sexual intercourse” as an offence, and accused the Sheikh of lying to discredit the bill and parliament.

Briefing committee members on the sections concerning sexual offenses, Rashaad stated that under the draft penal code, both fornication and rape are offences under section 411 of the draft bill.

The existing penal code does not explicitly recognise “rape” as a crime, and cases are handled under provisions for sexual offences.


One in seven Maldivian secondary students have been sexually abused, finds 2009 report

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 children.

Rates of sexual abuse for girls are almost twice as high than for boys at 20 percent – one in five girls have been sexually abused – while the figure for boys was 11 percent. Girls are particularly at risk in the capital Male’, the report found.

The National Study of Violence Against Children, produced by UNICEF and the Ministry of Gender and Family and conducted by global research firm TNS, was heavily cited at last week’s Conference on Child Protection held at Bandos.

The stud – currently unofficial – is the first large-scale national study on the issue of physical and emotional punishment against children in the Maldives, interviewing almost 17,035 people in 2500 households as well as 2000 children in schools.

The study found that 47 percent of Maldivian children under the age of 18 have undergone physical or emotional punishment at home, school or in the community.

“The use of emotional punishment is considerably wide-spread and is also supported by the
parents’ beliefs that this is an effective way of teaching children the proper behaviour,” the report found.

Boys were more susceptible to physical punishment while large numbers of girls at secondary school level reported emotional punishment. Eight percent of school students, mostly boys, reported physical punishment from their school teachers.

Physical violence was more common among students attending secondary school in the atolls, with one in four reporting they had been hit by adults or other children during the past year. The figure for Male’ was 14 percent.

30 percent of children at secondary school reported being hit by at least one of their caregivers, while 21 percent said at object had had been used to do this.

A quarter of all carefivers said they believed that physical punishment had a positive effect on the rearing of children..

Furthermore, “children who suffer from a handicap – however light – have experienced
significantly more emotional punishment than children without such handicaps,” the report said.

The study also revealed a lingering distrust of authorities and their ability to deal with issues relating to physical or sexual abuse of children.

“When aware of a case of abuse in the community, the majority [of respondents] chose to not
inform the authorities, not [to] cause any trouble and/or due to limited belief in the efficiency of
the system.”

The report identified that despite high awareness of the issue, the cultural background of the Maldivia society “does not particularly prohibit emotional or physical punishment of children.” Efforts to increase the level of discussion were “hampered by the notion that such events should be solved in the home and not discussed publicly.”

Resolution of cases within the legal system was a particular change for the Maldives, especially cases involving child sexual abuse.

“The victim itself might turn out to be made liable for such an event and might be subjected itself to penal proceedings if the perpetrator does not plead guilty or four witnesses for the prosecution cannot be found,” the report noted.

It urged the education of caregivers as to the negative impact of violence against children, and highlighted particular discrepencies in the education system.

“Over 30 percent of teachers in the Maldives are untrained because 80 percent of staff training costs are transport related. In a country where 70 percent of the population lives on islands far from the capital, and where transport among islands can be prohibitively expensive, many children are at the risk of being invisible,” the report warned.

The report also produced some interesting demographic findings about the structure of the Maldivian families. In 24 percent of cases, a child’s male caregiver is not their biological father – in seven percent of cases, this role is performed by an older brother, and only rarely (two percent) by a stepfather or uncle. 87 percent of children have their biological mother as a caregiver.

A quarter of all children reported health difficulties. The majority of these concerned problems seeing, and to a lesser extent, “walking or climbing stairs”.

Domestically, arguments between children and their caregivers in the home revolve around fairly universal themes: watching TV (10 percent), household chores (10 percent), homework (12 percent), and staying up late (seven percent).

The main source of domestic arguments for girls were household chores (15 percent) – the second highest source of friction for boys was hairstyle (12 percent).

The 24 hour toll-free Maldives Child Helpline is available on 1412.