Independent Commission’s Committee sends CSC Chair’s harassment case to parliament to approve his dismissal

Parliament’s Independent Commission’s Committee has decided that the committee has enough evidence to find Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan guilty of harassing a female staff member working under the CSC, and has decided to send the issue to parliament sitting to approve Fahmy’s dismissal.

According to local media, the committee has now sent the report from the committee regarding the issue to the Speaker of Parliament.

The incident is said to have occurred on May 29. In June this year, Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News that the case was lodged at police as well, who were investigating the matter.

Both Fahmy and the victim were summoned to the parliament’s Independent Commission’s committee after the complaint was lodged.

Fahmy was alleged to have called the female staff member over to him, taken her hand and asked her to stand in front of him so that others in the office could not see, and caressed her stomach saying ”It won’t do for a beautiful single woman like you to get fat.”

According to local media, the woman told her family about the incident, who then called Fahmy. Fahmy then sent her a text message apologising for the incident, reportedly stating, ”I work very closely with everyone. But I have learned my lesson this time.”

In response to the allegations Fahmy told Minivan News that the female staff member made up the allegation after she learned she had not won a scholarship to Singapore offered by the CSC.

He alleged the claim was politically motivated, as she would have otherwise filed the case with police and not parliament.

Earlier in July this year, the Independent Commission’s Committee gave Fahmy 14 days to resign after investigating the matter, however he then informed the committee that he would not resign.


MDP MPs call on JSC to suspend CSC Chair Fahmy

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs have called on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to suspend Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan from the judicial watchdog body as a sexual harassment case against the JSC member had been forwarded for prosecution.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, MDP MPs ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, Hamid Abdul Gafoor, Ibrahim Rasheed, Mohamed Rasheed and Mohamed Thoriq criticised the JSC’s public statements insisting that parliament could not summon judges to committee.

The MPs contended that the JSC continuing to hold meetings with Fahmy in attendance was against the spirit of the constitution, adding that Fahmy had a conflict of interest in sitting in the JSC while a criminal case against him was being prepared to be filed at court.


Police send CSC Fahmy’s sexual harassment case to Prosecutor General

Police have concluded their investigation into the alleged sexual harassment of Civil Service Commission (CSC) head Mohamed Fahmy, and have forwarded the case to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News that the case was forwarded to the Prosecutor General yesterday afternoon, after closing the investigation into the case.

Haneef said the police requested the PG press charges against Fahmy.

In June, Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee launched an investigation into alleged harassment of a female staff member by the CSC Chair after a senior research officer at the CSC accused him of sexually harassing her.

Both Fahmy and the victim were summoned to committee after the complaint was lodged in the first week of June.

Fahmy was alleged to have called the female staff member over to him, taken her hand and asked her to stand in front of him so that others in the office could not see, and caressed her stomach saying ”it won’t do for a beautiful single woman like you to get fat.”

According to local media, the woman told her family about the incident, who then called Fahmy. Fahmy then sent her a text message apologising for the incident, reportedly stating, ”I work very closely with everyone. But I have learned my lesson this time.”

Speaking to Minvian News at the time, Fahmy said the allegation was false “and a blatant lie.”

“The female staff member concerned did not win a scholarship to Singapore, and that is why she is doing this in return,” Fahmy said.

The Independent Institutions Oversight Committee of the parliament concluded an investigation into the case and found Fahmy guilty, and asked him to resign within 14 days.

However Fahmy decided not to resign and the committee opted to forward the case to the parliament floor.


Majlis Committee asks CSC Chair to resign within 14 days for alleged sexual harassment

The Independent Institutions Oversight Committee of the People’s Majlis has asked Civil Service Commission (CSC) President Mohamed Fahmy Hassan to resign within 14 days for alleged sexual harassment, local media has reported.

The police and the Independent Institutions Oversight Committee launched an investigation into the sexual harassment allegations against Fahmy in June after a female senior research officer lodged complaints with the two institutions.

MPs, who wished to remain anonymous, told Haveeru and Sun Online that a majority of the eleven member Independent Institutions Oversight Committee found Fahmy guilty of sexual harassment after summoning and interviewing Fahmy, the victim and several female employees of the CSC.

A vote on a motion urging action against Fahmy was split when five members voted for and against the motion, local media has reported. Chair of the Independent Institutions Oversight Committee Mohamed Nasheed cast the deciding vote, passing the motion to order Fahmy’s resignation within 14 days.

A source, who had knowledge of the committee sitting, confirmed the local media reports to Minivan News, but declined to comment further.

Fahmy and several members of the Independent Institutions Oversight Committee were not responding to calls at the time of press.

Haveeru previously reported that the alleged harassment occurred on May 29. Both Fahmy and the victim were summoned to the committee after a complaint was lodged in the first week of June,the report claimed.

Fahmy was alleged to have called the female staff member over to him, taken her hand and asked her to stand in front of him so that others in the office could not see, and caressed her stomach saying “It won’t do for a beautiful single woman like you to get fat.”

The alleged victim’s family reportedly called Fahmy about the incident, after which it is claimed he sent a text message apologising for the incident.  Reports at the time alleged the read, “I work very closely with everyone. But I have learned my lesson this time.”

In response to the allegations, Fahmy told Minivan News last month that he believed the female staff member made up the complaint upon finding out she had not won a Singapore government offered scholarship to the CSC.

He alleged the claim was politically motivated, arguing the woman would have otherwise filed the case with the police instead of parliament.


Foreign women working in Male’ targets of sexual harassment

At midnight Rachael, 25, returned from a friend’s place. Glancing around to make sure she was not being followed, she climbed the stairs to her seventh-floor apartment in Male’.

When she’d first arrived from the UK several months ago to work on a government project, she had smiled and replied to the greetings thrown her way on the street. She stopped doing it when the men started following her.

Unlocking the door, she stepped inside and was closing the door, when a strange Maldivian man charged at her from a concealed alcove.

A struggle ensued, and the man forced the door open and pushed his way into the room.

“I work here,” the man said. Rachael moved behind a chair and demanded what he was doing.

Part of her apartment was leased as a workspace by the owner of the flat, but she had never seen this man before.

He approached her, claiming he was cleared to work in the building at night. Suddenly he lunged at her, pushing the chair away, and pinned her to the wall.

He started groping her. Terrified, Rachael kneed him and with all her strength managed to push him out the still open door using the office chair.

He stood outside for a while asking to be let back in.

Rachael called a friend who came around, and she moved to a hotel for the night. The next morning she called the police.

“They were wonderful, they came and took fingerprints and gave me a number to get in touch with them, in case I saw the man again,” she said.

Today Rachael shares a flat; she is terrified of living alone. She has seen her attacker once again on the street – he gave her a leery smile as he passed, which added to her insecurities.

“I have no hard feelings towards Maldivians, this was something that could have happened anywhere in the world,” says Rachael. But she is now especially wary of the vulgar words, and the way some young men on the streets of Male’ try to brush up against her – even pushing her into shop windows.

Rachael’s ordeal seems to be an extreme case and thankfully a rare one. But her expatriate friends are not impressed with the way they are harassed on the streets.

An everyday ordeal

Harassment is a daily occurance for them, and takes many forms, sexually explicit comments to remarks about their anatomy. But it is often persistent, they say, despite the fact that as working expatriates they are very concious of the way they dress.

Alice, 28, has been in the country working as a teacher for less than six months.

Once she was on the streets with a group of her students, aged between 9 to 11 years old.

“A bunch of teenage boys started saying how they’d like to f—k me,” she recalls.

Alice ignored it at first, but it continued and unable to bear it, she went up to them and asked them why they were talking like that, especially as she had children with her.

“The boys pretended they didn’t speak English, and the moment I walked away, started passing vulgar comments, even directing them towards the children” she says.

Her students told her that it was a common. Fuming she phoned the police.

“The police seemed to find it amusing until I told them that I had children with me – and wasn’t that a problem?”

The police had a chat with the boys that still remained, as some had already left by then: ”At least those boys don’t do that anymore,” she says.

Her colleagues told her these things happen and that nobody complains as “they are under age boys and police can’t do anything.”

Racheal says she knows of another foreign woman working in Male’ who was recently had a taxi driver force is way into her apartment after driving her home. He claimed to be searching her flat for alcohol.

Several other foreign women have complained of being groped by passing motorcyclists, and requests for ‘a quote’ are common, they say.

Few complaints

Police confirm that they “rarely get complaints of this nature.” Police spokesman Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam says last year there were few complaints.

When he filled in the role of a duty officer for a week, “ I didn’t get even one complaint,” he said, urging women to report if they are harassed.

Shiyam said depending on what the person has done, “under the public nuisance laws, we can prepare a case and send it to Prosecutor General’s office.”

The police have a separate tourist policy and he says that harassment is hardly a concern “as it’s a very rare occurrence with tourists.”

However he adds that  many “tourists always walk around with a tour guide, so they are never alone,” unlike foreign women working in the country.

He reiterates that people should lodge complaints: “we will take it seriously and find the culprits involved and take action against them.”

Price of being a foreigner

Reactions from locals to the issue are mixed.

All the Maldivian women questioned said incidents were mostly confined to verbal harassment, and most said it was decreasing.

Aiminath, 18, says couple of years ago the problem was much worse – “now it’s mostly limited to rare catcalls or a passing remark.”

Leena, 26, who is fair skinned and wears a veil,  says she often gets comments along the lines of “your face looks like a jambu” (a fruit).

Fazeela, a trendy 28 year-old says “nowadays sometimes people actually pass complimentary remarks, on how I have done my hair, or how I am dressed.”

But Zareena, 35, a mother of two,  says the younger generation is getting worse.

“It’s mostly teenage boys who pass extremely vulgur comments like: ‘look how that thing jiggles’,” she says.

She floats the theory that physical harassment directed at local women has lessened, “as guys know that we will scream, and slap them and embarrass them if they try anything.”

The physical harassment seems to be now directed at foreign women, with the culprits mostly young teenage boys and guys in their late 20’s.

“Brushing up against us on the street, or trying to pin us up against the wall and touch us is a common occurrence,” says a friend of Alice.

Rebecca has been in Maldives for two years now, and says she is always very careful to be culturally sensitive and dress appropriately: “I cover my arms, chest and legs when I am outside.”

Despite the fact that she finds it “far too hot” to dress like that, she says she always dresses modestly “but it seems to make no difference.”

Rebecca has also lived in countries like Malaysia and suffered harassment, “but never to this extent.”

“I love this country and find Maldivians to be a very friendly and nice people,” but says what she endures on the streets is horrific.

The stares men give her on the street are neither casual nor flirtatious, Rebecca says.

”It’s more like they are looking at something pornographic, without any sense of self-awareness.”

The stare is often accompanied by some sexual comment.

“I wish I could tell these men that they should show more respect for women. Their mothers and sisters are women, would they like them to be treated this way?” Rebecca asks.

“There’s absolutely no justification for it. If they see us and assume we are morally lax, then how come we ignore them or run away from them when they try to talk to us?”

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the women concerned.


Forced labour and discrimination rife in the Maldives, claims report

Forced labour is a “serious problem” in the Maldives and a sign that the government is not fulfilling its obligations as a member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), claims a report into the country’s labour and trade union policies by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

The report, produced for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in October, found a “relatively large number of forced labour-type situations among migrant workers and female domestic workers in the Maldives.”

“Domestic workers, especially migrant female domestic workers, are sometimes trapped in situations of forced labour and are in many cases forbidden from leaving the employers’ home through threats and other means,” the report said, citing figures from the 2009 report of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives.

“It is estimated that the number of migrant workers has almost tripled during the past five years and there are more than 80,000 migrant workers in the country, equivalent to
around 26 per cent of the population. While many are not in a situation to be defined as bonded labour or forced labour, many other labourers from neighbouring countries pay
large sums as commissions to receive employment in the Maldives and often are not in a position to quit their job before they have paid back the sums of money borrowed.”

“I think there’s some truth in it, particularly with female workers from Sri Lanka and India finding themselves in situations where they are not being paid, or not able to limit their working hours,” said President of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) Ahmed Saleem.

Children were particularly at risk, the report noted, with some of those migrating to Male from the outer islands for educational purposes finding themselves forced to work as informal domestic workers in exchange for accommodation and food.

“The house work done by such children is not voluntary in the cases where their continued stay in such houses depends on such children obediently doing house work as required by the owners of houses,” the report found, adding that child labour was also reported in the fishing industry.

Saleem said he had not heard of such practices in the fishing industry, but noted that when people living on the islands sent children to study in Male “many places will provide food and pay expenses, and in return the [child] may feel obliged to do work.”

There were many advertisements for such arrangements in local newspapers, he observed.

Workplace discrimination

The report also lambasted the government for failing to implement the prohibitions in the Constitution and Employment Act against workplace discrimination, especially regarding women.

“Women face discrimination at the workplace and in society, a problem which the government has failed to address in any satisfactory way,” the report said.

“At certain workplaces it is not permitted to get married or pregnant as this would lead to a termination of employment or change of job, and the complete absence of child care facilities forces many women to leave their job once their first child is born.”

Aishath Velezinee, member of the Judicial Services Commission, questioned whether this occurred and noted that the Maldives’ lack of childcare facilities stemmed from the culture historically relying on extended families for this purpose.

“Until lifestyles and ways of living began to change, there hasn’t been a need for it,” she said.

As for sexual harassment, another area highlighted in the report, “it exists but there is also a bill being drafted. I would say the state is addressing the issue.”

Discrimination based on sex was similar to that based on perceived cultural and profession hierarchies, she said.

“People don’t seem to understand the concept; they see [discrimination] as a cultural thing. It is a big issue: we don’t seem to understand the discrimination as it is meant in the Constitution or as it is expected in a democratic country.”

Even in the Supreme Court, she said, junior staff were made to take off their shoes and either wear slippers or go barefoot to protect the soft marble floors while senior staff could wear shoes.

The report also noted that women were prevented from working at many resorts because of their remote locations, as it was not considered socially acceptable for young unmarried females to stay on resorts for long durations.

“Traditionally women are disadvantaged in the Maldives, particularly in the application of Shari’a law in matters such as divorce, education, inheritance, and testimony in legal proceedings,” the report said, a state of affairs Velezinee admitted was “true”.

Saleem however observed that the Maldives treated women far better than other Islamic cultures, “where many [women] would describe themselves as slaves and sex objects.”

“Maldivian women have had voting rights since time immemorial. I’m not saying anything is perfect, but I think we have done more than other Islamic countries,” he said.

Collective bargaining

Furthermore, the report claimed that the Constitution and Employment Act contained no provisions allowing workers to collectively bargain, and despite the presence of active workers’ organisations such as the Tourism Employees’ Association of Maldives (TEAM) and the Teachers’ Association of the Maldives (TAM) the country had yet to formally recognise any trade unions.

“Strikes have been suppressed and encountered violent reactions from the the police [in the past],” the report said, observing that “freedom of association is still far from common practice.”

The right to collective bargaining “should be integrated [into the Constitution and Employment Act] now the Maldives is a member of the ILO,” the report urged.

“It must be the primary priority of the Maldives to ratify and fully implement the eight core ILO conventions and bring its labour law and practice in line with international labour standards.”

Saleem agreed: “Everyone knows the Employment Act needs changes. The Labour Ministry has said it will look at the recommendations we made [on the subject], but it has been two months. It’s time the government made it a priority – the Labour Minister has a lot of work to do.”