This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.
“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market place, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.” – Abubakar Shekau
It took these words by Nigerian ‘theologian’ and leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau—spoken in a video tape released weeks after the group kidnapped over 200 young girls from their school on 14 April—to shock a couldn’t-care-less world into action.
After mostly ignoring the news of the girls’ tragic fate for two weeks, Shekau’s words finally galvanised powerful countries into sending their experts to join the lethargic Nigerian government in its search for the girls. And, in what appears to be the most important sign that the 21st Century world is paying attention, the kidnapped girls now have their own hashtag #bringbackourgirls.
Shekau’s words appal me and they most likely appal you, but his is not an unusual view in today’s many radicalised societies. Would those outraged by Shekau, for instance, be shocked to learn that such views are more likely than not shared by a substantial percentage, if not the majority, of the Maldivian population of today? Consider the following:
Two days ago, on 11 May, most local news headlines carried the story of a 14-year-old girl who has given birth, for the second time in her short life. The first time she was only 12. The child-mother as well as her two children are currently under the protection of the Gender Ministry, and the accused is under 15-day remand. He is said to be 53 years of age. According to newspaper reports, at the time the child gave birth, the man was being investigated by police for allegations of blackmailing and threatening her.
What do Maldivian people think of the event? Following are translations of a large number of comments that appeared below the news published in Dhivehi on four popular online news outlets: Sun.mv Haveeru Online, mvyouth.mv and CNM.mv. As a measure of their popularity—Sun has close to 44,000 Facebook Likes, Haveeru over 48,000, mvyouth.mv more than 26,000 and CNM almost 30,000. The comments appeared from the time of publication of the news on the various outlets on 11 May till 1:00 a.m local time on 13 May 2014.
Sun.mv was the first to publish the news. By 1:00 a.m 13 May, it had gathered 40 comments in total. Several looked for the right authority to blame—parents, the Gender Ministry [which is mandated with child protection], the government, drugs, society at large, etc.? Some made no sense. Only five (12.5 percent) clearly empathised with the girl and was openly supportive of her. In contrast, 16 out of 40 (40 percent) was overtly critical of her, deeming her an adult, a slut or a criminal or all three. Here are the comments:
Do children give birth? A miracle (liked by 233, disliked by 34)
Can you first define what you mean by ‘children’? Are there children who can give birth? (Liked by 104, disliked by 13)
Do children give birth? Hehehe It says children give birth (liked by 107, disliked by 18)
What do you mean [abused by] ‘a person in position of trust’? Who in what position is that? In what capacity did he do it? Need an answer. (Liked by 96, disliked by 3)
Please. Do children give birth! (Liked by 68, disliked by 9)
Hahahahahahahahahahahaha LOL…sss…I am in bits laughing…it says a child has given birth a second time…look you idiots…what you are saying is the same as saying a chick has laid an egg…if a child gives birth it would be the biggest miracle the world would ever see…people who look at science, study science a bit more to understand what a child is…we, however, will not prioritise science in anything, Insha Allah..the reason is that to everything that is said in the right religion revealed by Allah we Muslims say – Sami’una Wa’athauna (have listened and obeyed)…then, na-na-na-na (Liked by 84, disliked by 6)
Can a child give birth? In that case this five year old of mine can also give birth…scary (Liked by 68, disliked by 10)
Whatever she is called [child or adult] she is liable for Hudd [punishments]. It’s not relations, it’s fornication (Liked by 39, disliked by 7)
Children giving birth is a sign of Armageddon (Liked by 25, disliked by 7)
It’s OK to do DNA testing when girls want to save themselves from blame. But, apparently, it’s not OK to do DNA testing when a husband wants to find out whose child his wife is having. A miracle. (Liked by 17, disliked by 5)
These are children even when they begin and end a year by giving birth!!! Let me tell you something, Gender [Ministry]! Even if young, these people who are giving birth know what they are doing is wrong. Fornicate and call it rape!! Rape is done by violently forcing supplication. Rape is what happened on the bus in India! Take that! Arrest that woman and the man and punish them as due, I say. (Liked by 43, disliked by 23)
Pakaas…oh, these goings on…laughing so much my head’s splitting (Disliked by one, Liked by none)
You people, do not go near fornication. It is the dirtiest of sins…repent fast, and fear Allah (Liked by one, disliked by o)
Once a girl has her period, she is an adult according to Islam… (Like by 5, disliked by 0)
Apparently the one who gave birth and the child she gave birth to are both children. Two children. When will they grow up? (No likes, no dislikes)
I think the Maldivian constitution should be amended to change the age of a minor to below 25. Then all children will be having babies…what is this 18 years that’s brought in to decide a child…if things continue like this, by the time someone is old enough to marry, they would have 4 children, won’t they?? (No likes, or dislikes)
Haveeru published the article a short while later, and had a total of 20 comments by 1:00 a.m. on 13 May. 11 of them — 55 percent — regard the girl as being the ‘criminal’/’sinner’ and deem her deserving of punishment.
What this proves is that the female human being gives birth not just over 18 years of age but also at 12 and 14! This reveals that a human being can reach puberty and become an adult even at 12 and 14! (Liked by 120, disliked by 27)
Haveeru should publish a picture of the arrested man. Isn’t that how we’ll know who it is? (Liked by 105, disliked by 5)
This child’s parents, are they neglecting her? (Liked by 87, disliked by 3)
This child needs to be lashed. This has happened a second time because it [lashing] wasn’t done the first time. (liked by 73, disliked by 34)
If she isn’t 18 despite having given birth twice, she must be dealt with as a child as the law says. According to how magistrates in courts interpret the law, they cannot authorise such children under 18 years of age to marry…now there are [people] under 18, carrying three children, begging near the Market area…If courts applied ‘Islamic community principles’ and the main principle of the current Constitution when interpreting law, such matters would not be going from bad to worse…! Note: The chapter on Interpretation in the Maldives Constitution says that its main principle is Prophet Mohammed Sunna and the Holy Qur’an…! If these things are to be confused and convoluted it would bring great tragedy upon the nation. (Liked by 54, disliked by 8)
As long as it remains an illegal act to marry that woman even if she goes on to have 5 children before the age of 18, those people who destroyed Allah’s law and made and implement their own are as sinful as the man who did the deed. (Liked by 108, disliked by 12)
What’s the agenda behind using a certain type of photo? Don’t have the guts to call fornication fornication. Why not? ‘Don’t judge’ is the policy these days. Remember the scenes from ‘Anbaraa‘? Don’t you see reports of how girls are running away from their parents? Don’t you hear about the way girls are itching to marry drug users? (Liked by 133, disliked by 26)
Hasn’t achieved much really. [If she had] given birth one after another, now that would have been an achievement… (Liked by 16, disliked by 1)
Who is to take responsibility for this, Human Rights, Gender Ministry, parents, society, or the child when she is 18. Is it still not time to wake up. Certainly, it is a question to ask that has there been a solution despite the crime being repeated. These things can be solved only by Islamic Shari’a (Liked by 8, disliked by none)
‘the child who has been a victim of repeated sexual abuse’ — Haveeru has not written this news correctly…You must reveal whether this girl became pregnant both times as a result of rape or by fornication. In spreading news and information let us give priority to accuracy… (Liked by 10, disliked by 6)
That’s a joke..!!! 10, 15 days on remand…why arrest…let him stay home
mvyouth.mv published the news roughly the same time as Haveeru. By 1:00 a.m. on 13 May, there were three comments. Two of the three saw the girl as having done wrong. The third, while identifying the man as a criminal, called for the harshest forms of punishments possible for all criminals. All of them are translated below:
How the headline should be written, A Maldivian woman has fornicated twice by the time she turned 14. Why are you trying to hide the truth. You can’t confuse the truth. Remember that the only people who get confused are those who try to confuse the truth. (Liked by 10 people, disliked by 3)
This has to be stopped even if it is by sealing the place with mercury (Liked by 4, disliked by 0)
It would be a good sentence to pass for the male organ of people who commit such crimes to be cut off. That is — hands of those who steal are cut off, therefore penises of people who fornicate with children must be cut off! That’s the end of that! (Liked by 13, disliked by 3)
CNM.mv a recently established online publication with a rapidly increasing readership led with the headline: “A ‘small’ [“minor”?] Maldivian girl has given birth a second time”. Why was small in inverted commas? Was it the paper’s stance that she is not that small after all, you know, given that she had given birth twice and all that?
22 hours after publication, there were two comments:
Do not believe that a child can give birth…
Very sad news…I call for heavier penalties for child abusers like this.
Such harsh views as expressed by many in the translated comments above would have been unlikely in the Maldivian society of even a decade ago. Unfortunately though, today it is more the norm than shocking. A substantial percentage of the Maldivian population believe that a girl becomes a woman as soon as she hits puberty; that she should then be made to marry so that she can avoid the sin of fornication; that it is possible for a child to consent to sex with an adult; that anyone who has sex outside of marriage whether they are forced to or underage, should be punished with a hundred lashes in public.
A large number of the world population currently expressing their sadness for the plight of the Nigerian girls via hashtags and other such modern means is also likely to be aware of the plight of the 15-year-old Maldivian girl who was condemned to a 100 lashes for fornication. A popular petition did make the rounds after all. Following the international ‘outrage’, her punishment was suspended. For now. But, as can be seen from the commentary translated above, the radicalisation of Maldivian society continues unabated. Meanwhile Maldives remains top of the world’s most desirable tourist destinations. It is only when the Shekaus begin to reign that worldwide virtual ‘outrage’ translates into something even resembling action.
All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]