Police arrest 37 year-old man in connection with pregnant 11 year-old

Police have confirmed that a 37 year-old male is being held in custody in connection to an investigation into the case of an 11 year-old girl who gave birth to a premature baby on Thursday, November 1.

The confirmation was made as high-profile politicians, public figures and NGOs have launched a wider debate on child abuse and responsibility towards the welfare of young people in the Maldives.

Both government-aligned and opposition figures have called for authorities to properly investigate the pregnancy and alleged abuse of the girl, a stance backed by the Maldives’ Ministry of Islamic Affairs, which has labelled the matter a “very serious” and “dirty crime”.

The 11 year-old girl, who cannot be identified due to her age, gave birth to her child two months prematurely on Thursday.

Her child later died early morning on Friday (November 2), after being taken to Feydhoo regional hospital in Seenu Atoll for further treatment, with medical officials telling local media at the time that the girl had said she had been the victim of multiple cases of child abuse.

Police Spokesperson Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today that a 37-year old male was presently being held in custody in relation to the case, but could not confirm if the 11-year old girl herself was presently under observation by authorities or was back with her family.

Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed told Minivan News he was aware of the ongoing investigations into the matter, which he labelled “a very big crime,” adding that the young girl should not herself take any blame or punishment.

“Personally I can’t say any word to punish a small girl in grade six. This may be a rape or sexual abuse case,” he said.

“We must find the man who did this dirty crime and he must be punished. I believe this to be a very serious case and have this morning talked with the Human Right’s Minster and Attorney General regarding the [issue].”

The Minister for Gender, Family, and Human Rights is presently is mandated to deal with the matter.

Gender Minister Dhiyana Saeed referred Minivan News to Dr Aishath Rameela, State Minister for Gender, Family, and Human Rights.

Dr Rameela was not responding to calls at time of press.

Twitter debate

Debate over the case has raged on social media over the last few days.  Political figures including MP Rozaina Adam of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) stressed via Twitter that investigations conducted by both the police and the Maldives Gender Ministry of were proceeding at “top speed”.

Rozaina, who labelled the case as both “unacceptable” and “shocking”, demanded on social media that police make the case a high priority and find the person responsible for fathering the child.

“An 11 year-old doesn’t get pregnant by herself! This is child abuse we are talking about here n authorities need  to find out who is responsible,” she wrote on the social media service.

Rozaina was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

Meanwhile, Ali Rameez, a famous singer who gave up music and now heads the Islamic NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf, tweeted on Friday: “All you people who claim to be Muslims! In Allah’s Shariah [law], a child grows up when he or she reaches puberty. Not when they turn 16, 18, 25.”

Rameez, who also hosts a religious program on private radio station SunFM, tweeted earlier that he was “not aware that children could get pregnant.”

The comments were criticised by some social media users including former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam, who tweeted: “Where are the children’s right groups… Where is HRCM.. Horrified with the preaching of people like Ali Rameez.”

Outside of the political sphere, local NGO, Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) yesterday issued a statement calling on the government, civil society organisations and the general public to step up efforts to combat child abuse in society.

“ARC strongly condemns the recent case of child abuse resulting in the pregnancy of an 11 year-old child. ARC calls upon the authorities to utilise all necessary resources to ensure the safety and protection of the child,” the statement read It is an obligation for us as responsible citizens to protect our children, and it is the Maldivian government’s obligation as a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) that all international commitments to protect the rights of all children are adhered to fully.”

ARC also highlighted the importance of respecting the child’s privacy, while urging parliament, the government and the nation’s judiciary to take “action urgently” over the case.

“We also call on the relevant state institutions, civil society and other international entities in the country to take all precautionary measures to prevent violations of children’s rights, protect their safety and well-being, and to maximize their efforts to address comprehensively the issue of the violations of children’s rights in the Maldives,” the statement added.


Participaton key focus of provocative National Gallery exhibition

Societal challenges in addressing the prevalence of child abuse within the Maldives was the central theme of a one-day contemporary art exhibition held at the National Art Gallery in Male’ on Saturday.

Ismail Asif, who coordinated the exhibition along with a number of fellow local artists, said each installation aimed to focus on fears of how “common” child abuse had become within the Maldives, partly as a result of an unwillingness to discuss and tackle the matter within society.

“[The exhibition] is about trying to break taboos, it really is a challenge to discuss these matters.  The system has so many flaws we wanted to depict; these are flaws within the education system, the judicial system and wider society,” he said.

Despite the difficult subject matter, organisers claimed that after three weeks of work, the exhibition, which ran from 4:00pm to 6:00pm, aimed to encourage participation from members of the public to try and encourage discussion about child abuse.

Asif talked about the exhibition’s wider themes, without trying to play down the provocative nature of the installations.

“We very much wanted to focus on participation, normally when it comes to trying to address child abuse as an issue, people will just have a poster or banners they can look at concerning the problem.  We wanted to try and give more a sense of looking through the eyes of the victims,” he said.

The exhibition itself combined installations involving a sculpture of a female figure holding up a toilet, depicting what Asif claimed was the discrepancy between national perceptions of the  traditional status of local women and their treatment within real life.

Among perhaps the more outré installations on display at the yesterday’s exhibition was a specially-constructed walkway that required members of the public upon entry to pass through a small passageway with artificial hands attached to either side of the exhibit.

Asif said that the exhibit was used to open the event to try and reflect themes concerning harassment of vulnerable young people.

Scale of the problem

In recent years, local authorities and NGOs have released a number of findings trying to detail the extent of child abuse and wider sexual assaults within society.

The state-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital’s (IGMH’s) Family Protection Unit reported in 2010 that the centre was notified of 42 cases of rape between 2005-2010. Most of these cases were found to involve minors.

According to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, 13 rape cases were reported last year alone, the majority of which most were gang rapes or assaults involving minors.

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 minors.

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.


HRCM to discuss case of minor sentenced to 100 lashes for fornication

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has said it would on Tuesday discuss the case of a 16 year-old girl who was on Sunday sentenced to house arrest and 100 lashes for fornication with a 29 year-old man, confirmed Vice President Ahmed Tholal.

Permanent Magistrate of Raa Atoll Hulhudhuhfaaru, Magistrate Abdul Samad Abdulla, sentenced the girl to eight months under house arrest, and for public flogging once she reaches the age of 18.

Meanwhile the man, who has been identified as Ahmed Rasheed, Finivaage, R. Angolhitheemu, has been sentenced to 10 years in jail on charges of sexual assault on a minor.

The sentencing has attracted international media attention and appeared in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper.

President of the Hulhudhuhfaaru Island Council, Mohamed Zubair, told Minivan News today that the crime had occurred approximately two months ago. He said that the matter had been filed in court by the girl’s family.

Zubair said that although the girl was of school-age, she had stopped attending classes months ago.

An official of the Hulhudhuhfaaru Magistrate Court, Ali Rashid, spoke in length to Minivan News about the case on Tuesday.

“The girl has been sentenced to eight months house arrest. The charges for an adult who has committed fornication is a year’s house arrest, but since she is a minor, she can only be given two thirds of the regular sentence,” he explained.

Rashid said that the girl had been sentenced for fornication because she had confessed to it. The man, however, had denied the charges.

“The man said he hadn’t committed fornication, but he admitted to having hugged and done certain other things with the girl. This amounts to sexual assault of a minor under the law. That’s why he has got the minimum sentence possible under the relevant law, 10 years in jail,” Rashid explained.

The Magistrate Court confirmed that the man was now being kept in custody by relevant authorities.

The official of the Hulhudhuhfaaru Magistrate Court referred Minivan News to Article 25 of the act detailing special actions to be taken in cases of sexual offences against children (Act number: 12/2009).

Article 25 says: “Unless proven otherwise, it cannot be considered that a child between ages 13-18 had given consent to committing a sexual act. And unless proven otherwise, it will be considered that the sexual act was committed without the child’s consent.”

As the case now stands, two contradicting sentences have been given to persons involved in the same case.

While, as per the magistrate court, the man has been convicted of sexual assault, which translates into an act committed without the consent of the girl, the girl herself has been sentenced on the charges of having consensual sex outside of wedlock.

Private lawyer Mohamed Shafaz Wajeeh, agreed with this observation.

“I agree that there is a strong contradiction here. Also, the man has been sentenced under common law. The act he committed is criminalised under the existing laws, those drafted and passed through the parliament. The girl, on the other hand, has been sentenced under Sharia law, which is not specifically written down. There is a discrepancy in how men and women are sentenced. At times females face more difficulty denying charges of fornication. This, I believe is a structural issue which needs to be addressed.”

An official of the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human Rights, said that the ministry would not speak about specific cases.

Refusing to identify herself, she said, “If the girl has been sentenced for a crime, it’s either the court or JJU (Juvenile Justice Unit) that needs to be concerned. We will be concerned once the girl is flogged, but as far as I know, she hasn’t been flogged yet. We do not want to associate ourselves with a case that we are not involved in.”

Minister of Gender, Family and Human Rights, Dhiyana Saeed, was not responding to calls at the time of press.

In November 2011, UN HIgh Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, speaking in parliament, raised concerns about the issue of flogging in the Maldives.

Speaking on the issue, Pillay said, “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.”

Her statements and calls for discussion on the issue were met with outrage from the opposition and religious Adhaalath party, giving rise to protests and demonstrations. The Foreign Ministry itself dismissed the calls for discussion on the issue, stating: “There is nothing to debate about in a matter clearly stated in the religion of Islam. No one can argue with God.”


High Court upholds order to reinstate policeman accused of sexual assault

The High Court on Monday upheld a Civil Court verdict to reinstate the job to a policeman who had been accused of sexual assault, reports Haveeru.

Husham Hameed and three other police officers stand accused of undressing and sexually assaulting a woman after they forced her into a police car in August 2010.

However, the High Court bench unanimously ruled that Husham could not be dismissed from his job unless he was proven guilty of a criminal act.

Husham had previously held the title of ‘Mr. Maldives’, Haveeru reports.


Police arrest four men for abducting, drugging and gang-raping 16 year-old girl

Police have arrested four suspects for the abduction and gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in a guest house in Male last weekend.

The girl was grabbed by the men while she was walking down the road around midday on December 11, forced into a car and taken to a guest house, Head of the Police Child Protection Unit, Superintendent Ali Shujau told the press on Thursday.

She was drugged by the men and gang raped, he said, adding that the men filmed the crime.

The four suspects were identified by the Police as 20 year-old Azmeel Ahmed of Hithadhooge, Seenu atoll Hithadhoo, 25 year-old Mohamed Azum of White Sea, Seenu atoll Maradhoo-Feydhoo, 19 year- old Ismail Muneez of Maafannu Hiyama and 21 year-old Ahmed Nabeeh Moosa of Maafannu Fennairu.

They all were arrested withing 34 hours after the police were alerted to the crime. All the suspects have previous criminal records for drug abuse and assaults, Shujau added.

According to the police the family reported the crime after the girl went home and told about it. Police did not reveal how the victim reached home.

Shujau noted that the girl could not give a clear statement of the attack, although she identified two of them by their “gang names”. He also added that it is too soon to say whether the attack was directed to her.

A similar case was also reported in March 2010, when group of 15 men abducted, drugged and gang raped a 20 year old girl on the island of Hithadhu in Addu City.

Shujau had earlier told the press that police investigations have revealed that school children aged 14 to 18 were being lured to guest houses by adults.

Police found that minors were sexually abused at guest houses after being lured through the internet, he said.

The reported sexual assaults on young girls, women and even female expatriate workers, has been on the rise at an alarming rate this year.

Police confirmed on Wednesday, that they had arrested four men on accusations of attempting to sexually assault a 15 year-old girl on Nolhivaramfaru in Haa Dhaalu Atoll. The girl fortunately escaped with no injuries, police said.

In October, police arrested two men and a minor on suspicion of raping an Indian nurse working in the island of Gulhi in Kaafu Atoll.

In another attack in September, group of five men including the chairman of an anti-drug NGO allegedly drugged and raped a 15 year old girl on the island of Guraidhoo in Kaafu Atoll.

In August police also arrested five men on the island of Innamaadhoo in Raa Atoll for allegedly raping a 16 year-old girl. While in the same month, an Indian gynecologist working at Hoarafushi Health Centre in Haa Alifu Atoll, was also attacked by a group of masked men at her house in August. She fought with the men and was able to escape.

A group of five were also arrested in May, on suspicion of gang raping an 18 year-old girl on Maabaidhoo in Laamu Atoll.

A 74-year-old woman was brutally raped by an alleged 19 year old on Hithadhoo in Addu City. She had to undergo surgery after the incident.

A 2006 study by the then Ministry of Gender and Family found that one in three Maldivian women aged 15-49 have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives, while one in five women in the same age group reported experiencing this from an intimate partner.

Moreover, one in six women in the capital Male’ and one in eight countrywide reported experiencing childhood sexual abuse under the age of 15 years.


Police arrest four men for attempted sexual assault of 15 year-old girl

Police have arrested four men on accusations of attempting to sexually assault a 15 year-old girl on Nolhivaramfaru in Haa Dhaalu Atoll.

According to Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam, the girl was attacked by the four men on Sunday night. The girl escaped the attempted assault with no injuries, he said.

Local news outlet Sun reported that the girl was attacked while “out on a date with her boyfriend” around midnight. The pair tried to escape but the girl was caught by the group and threatened with a knife to perform sexual acts.

The girl reportedly escaped from the clutches of her attackers while they were taking her to an isolated location in the island’s jungle.

This year has seen increasing reports of sexual assaults on women and children, including gang rapes.

In October, police arrested two men and a minor on suspicion of raping an Indian nurse working in the island of Gulhi in Kaafu Atoll.

In another attack in September, group of five men including the chairman of an anti-drug NGO allegedly drugged and raped a 15 year old girl on the island of Guraidhoo in Kaafu Atoll.

In August police also arrested five men on the island of Innamaadhoo in Raa Atoll for allegedly raping a 16 year-old girl

A another group of five were arrested on suspicion of gang raping an 18 year-old girl on Maabaidhoo in Laamu Atoll.

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) and the Department of Gender and Family Protection Services had earlier strongly condemned the recent “atrocities” of sexual violence against minors, women and persons with special needs.

In an earlier press release , HRCM noted that the prevalence of sexual violence against the most vulnerable members of society, such as the elderly, under-age children and the disabled has “reached worrying levels.”

“We call on the government, state institutions, political parties, civil society organisations and all citizens to work together with renewed courage to stop such inhumane actions, save the community and establish a secure environment,” reads the HRCM statement.

According to Sub-Inspector Shiyam, police investigations have revealed a similar trend in most of the sexual assault cases.

Shiyam said that the girls are were attacked after being “lured by their boyfriends or friends to an isolated location at late hours”. In some cases girls were “lucky enough” to escape from the perpetrators, although in a few cases they were gang raped, he added.

He urged parents to be “more responsible with their children” adding that it is not advisable to let girls hang around outside with their boyfriends at late hours.


Health Ministry criticises “inhumane treatment” of alleged sex abuse victim

The Ministry of Health and Family has today condemned some islanders on Dhidhoo, Haa Alifu Atoll, for what it has called the “inhumane treatment” of a 13-year old school girl.

The girl in question is an alleged victim of a sexual abuse case involving eight men, including two under the age of 18. The case came to light in April and was under police investigation.

The Health Ministry has hit out at the reported treatment of the girl by members of the local community that have been accused of trying to block her from returning to public education.

“Even if it’s the actions of a few, we are saddened to see that at a time when the girl is already undergoing physical and mental trauma, there are people who attempt to deprive the [alleged victim] of her basic rights and inflict more trauma,” the ministry stated in a press release.

After a long period of absence from public education, the girl attended school yesterday. However, a group of islanders barged into her class and removed her chair in an attempt to get her out of school, according to local news service, Haveeru.

She reportedly remained in class without a chair during the morning, and when she left school at interval time, the same group went and locked the entire building in an attempt to stop her from returning.  Police confirmed that they had “received reports of the closure of the Dhidhoo School” and had later re-opened it.

The school’s role

One local islander, who wished to use a false name to protect her identity, told Minivan News that there had been concerns about the alleged victim’s return to her school.

“Most islanders object to the fact that she is able to go back, while the school goers among the male suspects involved in the case are barred from [attending],” said Aiminath Sheenaz,18, a resident of the island.

Sheenaz said that when the abuse case first came to light, after a couple of days the girl did attend school. However, she added that disturbances created by some islanders had led to her staying home.

“The Ministry of Education informed the school to take her back that’s why she was in school yesterday,” Sheenaz claimed.

The principal of Dhidhoo school, Hussain Badheeu, was not answering calls when contacted by Minivan News and was unable to confirm the reports.

However, according to the press release published by the Health Ministry, the school had asked the alleged victim’s parents not to send her to back until the investigation was complete.

“When this ministry became aware of this, we contacted the relevant authorities and requested they facilitate her return to school,” the release stated.   “Education is a basic right, and after concluding the alleged victim is not at fault for what happened, the Ministry of Education asked the school to take her back.”

Islanders Attitudes

Despite the ministry’s verdict, Sheenaz said that some islanders believed it remains unfair that the alleged perpetrators can’t attend school.

“It was consensual. She did all that, fornicated with so many men,” she added.

Although being closer in age to the alleged victim, Sheenaz claimed she was also convinced of the 13 year old’s “willing participation” in these acts, adding that this was the prevailing belief of most islanders also. When the eight men suspected of having involvement with the case were first arrested, a group of islanders protested and called on the police to release the group that resulted in clashes.

Asked if attitudes about the case were likely to change in the future if the court case went on to prove that the male suspects had sexually abused the girl, Sheenaz was adamant that it would be impossible.

“A lot of people have given assurances that the girl agreed to the sexual acts,” she said.  The fact that these assurances apparently originate from the alleged suspects themselves does not seem to make a difference to these attitiudes.

The President of Dhidhoo council declined to comment on the issue when contacted by Minivan News.

However, it is believed that both the suspects and the victim are presently living on the same island at present.  Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that the suspects implicated in the case were freed after a court had ordered their release.

The sub-inspector added that the investigation had now been completed, with the case expected to be sent to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office very soon.

Shiyam said that the reported disturbance that occured in Dhidhoo concerning the case would be investigated and action taken against anyone who threatens fellow members of the public.

The Health Ministry has also bemoaned the lack of organisations such as NGOs advocating the rights of the alleged victim or voicing concern about the treatment she has received on her island.

“Actions like this by the public – hindering the girl from attending school –  even if it involves [a few people], encourages perpetrators of similar crimes to repeatedly offend,” said the ministry press release.  “We call upon everyone to stand up against injustice like this and work towards protecting the rights of the victims.”

Official police figures given to Minivan News this week indicated that a total of 163 sexual abuse cases were reported last year.  By comparison, the same statistics also revealed that 108 sexual abuse cases had been reported up to the end of May 2011.

According to these figures, 30 of these cases allegedly involved victims aged between two to 12 years.


Uncertainty hinders investigation of Russian man’s sex assault claims

Police are investigating complaints that a 29-year old Russian national visiting the Maldives faced threats of sexual assault from an unidentified man he met online after coming to Male’ to work for him, despite claiming to have very limited details on the suspected attacker.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that the claims made last week by the Russian national presented an unprecedented case in the country and that investigators still needed additional details on the exact nature of complaints made regarding the expatriate’s allegations.

“The alleged victim came to police to complain about an individual he said had invited him to Male’ for a job after befriending each other online. After saying he would find him job, it was claimed that the person attempted to sexually abuse the alleged victim,” he said. “He didn’t have much detail about the alleged assault attempt, but we have noticed that the Russian national has been speaking to local media outlets about this.”

Shiyam added that police were hoping to question the suspect as part of its investigations, but were not at present looking to make arrests as the case is claimed to still miss vital details about what exactly had happened.

“At the moment we are just working on reports, but the alleged victim does not know anything about the individual who invited him out,” he said. “We are not sure from our interview if the suspect is a local businessman or even a Maldivian national. However, the case could be serious and we are treating the investigation as such.”

Shiyam claimed that the police were themselves hoping to speak to the Russian national further regarding the alleged incident in order to try and clarify who the alleged attacker could be.

The Russian Embassy based in Sri Lanka, which overseas administrative affairs for its nationals coming to the Maldives, was unavailable to respond to Minivan News at the time of press regarding the investigation.

Resort case

Aside from the Russian national case, Shiyam said that police had concluded an investigation into an unrelated sexual assault case alleged to have occurred at the Shangri-La Vilingilli resort in Addu Atoll. Police today said they had since ended their investigations into the allegations without making arrests.

A female member of staff at the resort complained to police last week that she believed she may have been sexually assaulted by a fellow colleague after being taken back to her room having felt unwell upon consuming a drink.

After having conducted medical checks at a local hospital and investigations at the resort, Shiyam said that no charges had been pressed against the suspect.

“The alleged victim was unsure exactly what has happened herself and no arrests had been made as part of the investigation,” he said.

Shiyam said last week that the alleged victim, who worked at a bar on the resort, had reported feeling unwell after drinking an alcoholic drink and was helped to her room by another member of staff.

According to police, upon being returned to her room, the alleged victim claimed that she had not been unaware of any assault upon herself.

However, Shiyam said that other sources had later come forward to claim that some sexual activity was believed to have occurred in the room involving the alleged victim.

In addressing current police procedure regarding suspected cases of sexual assault, Shiyam claimed that police were trained to investigate in various ways; including taking alleged victims to hospital for medical examinations to identify any possible signs of rape.


Police confirm island councillor charged over sexual abuse allegations

The Maldives Police Service has confirmed that an individual recently appointed to serve on the island council of Vaikaradhoo in Haa Dhaal atoll had been arrested on suspicion of sexually molesting a 14 year-old minor.

A police spokesperson confirmed to Minivan News that the arrest of a councillor serving on the island had taken place, but was unable to give any details on the suspect’s identity.

Local press have speculated on the identity of the suspect, who they claim had been identified by sources within the police as a councillor representing the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). If convicted, the Elections Commission (EC) has confirmed that the suspect would be stripped of the councillor position that was appointed during last month’s local council elections.

Elections Commissioner Fuad Thaufeeq said that standard procedure in the case of criminal convictions within the recently formed local councils would be that the Local Government Authority (LGA), which oversees devolved government in the country, would have to inform the EC of any serving members found guilty of a crime.

“There are conditions of candidacy, where if a person [serving on an elected council] is convicted of committing a crime they would be ineligible for office for a period of time,” he said.

Thaufeeq stressed that in the case of serious crimes like sexual abuse, there would be “no chance” that any convicted candidate would be eligible for election ever again.

“As it stands, [the criminal conviction of a serving councillor] will require a separate election to be held for their vacant seat,” he added.