Parliament sends Indian legal assistance treaty to National Security Committee

The parliament has today sent a request made by the President Mohamed Nasheed to sign a ‘’Treaty between the Republic of India and the Republic of Maldives on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters,’’ to the National Security Committee to revise the matter further.

The objective of the treaty was to strengthen the strong diplomatic relations between the Maldives and India by allowing legal assistance from one country to another, said the parliament on its official website.

In a letter sent by the Home Ministry to the President’s Office, the ministry said that the Attorney General (AG)’s legal advice was sought regarding the matter and that the AG had no objections.

The ministry’s letter said that the advice of the Finance Ministry was also sought, which also had no objections.

Assistance in the treaty included locating and identifying persons and objects, serving documents, including documents seeking the attendance of persons.

Assistance included search and seizure, taking evidence and obtaining statements, authorising the presence of persons from the requesting state at the execution of requests, making detained persons available to give evidence or assisting investigations, facilitating the appearance of witnesses or the assistance of persons in investigations.

It also includes taking measures to locate, restrain or forfeit the proceeds of crime and taking measures to locate, freeze and confiscate any funds or finances meant for the financing of acts of terrorism in the territory of either party and any other form of assistance not prohibited by the law of the requested tate was as well mentioned in the assistances that one country will provide to the other according to the treaty.

Article 6[2] of the treaty states that assistance may be refused if the execution of the request would be contrary to the domestic law of the requested state.


Successful agreement on UN Child Rights Treaty led by Maldives

The Maldives has secured the decision to draft a new international human rights treaty as an additional optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) at the Human Rights Council in Geneva this week, reports Miadhu.

The CRC, which is the most ratified treaty in the world, entered into force in 1990. Until now, it was the only major human rights treaty that did not have procedures to allow violations of children’s rights to be reported to UN human rights mechanisms.

The unanimous decision reached in Geneva ends the 20 year deadlock between UN Member States, now allowing international protection mechanisms to intervene when domestic institutions fail to offer protection.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Ahmed Shaheed said the fact that the Maldives was asked to chair and lead the negotiations to secure the agreement on the CRC showed the high regard which the international community has for the Maldives.

He added that the fact that the 20 year deadlock had been broken showed the Maldives’ growing international influence.


President Nasheed meets with German Minister of State

President Mohamed Nasheed met yesterday with German Minister of State Dr Wener Hoyer.

The meeting was held at the Federal Foreign Office on 9 March. The president and the minister discussed the importance of a binding global climate treaty.

President Nasheed said the Maldives is communicating with other countries, including members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) to ensure a common understanding is reached before COP16 climate summit in Mexico later this year.

Dr Hoyer said Germany is also working with other EU members to reach an understanding on climate change.

President Nasheed discussed other areas of possible cooperation between the two nations, mainly the strengthening of the Maldivian legal and judicial sectors. He sought German assistance to improve the institutional capacity of these sectors.


Gayoom concerned over “false information” on women’s rights

Former President of the Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has expressed concern at an increasing amount of  “false information” being spread by Islamic scholars in the country concerning women’s rights.

Quoting from the Qur’an to prove his point during a DRP special event yesterday held on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Gayoom said there was “no religious justification” for the inequality of women and that Islam “does not limit a woman’s equal rights in society.”

He further called on all women to join the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), saying “You will get equal rights and equal opportunity when you are in DRP. You can reach your destination and achieve your goals when you are in DRP.”

Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef, spokesman for the former president and DRP member, said Gayoom was “quite emotional” when speaking of women’s rights at the meeting.

Women’s rights in politics

Gayoom explained that everyone had worked very hard in his government to bring the country to its current position and to find a place for women in society, especially in politics.

Aneesa Ahmed, DRP member and co-founder of women’s rights NGO Hope for Women, said she agreed with Gayoom and added that under his rulership, the number of women in politics “was better than the current numbers in the political arena.”

Ahmed said she so far “haven’t seen improvements” for women’s rights in the country under the new presidency.

“I have heard of the gender policy but nothing is being done for it to be effective,” she said, noting that “it is still too early to talk about it.”

Ahmed said under Gayoom’s government four out of twenty-one cabinet members were women, while currently there was only one woman in the cabinet.

“I have heard a lot of rhetoric on gender equality but no action,” she said.

On 24 February, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the government’s intention to withdraw the Maldives’ reservation to the UN Woman’s Rights Treaty on Article 7(a) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Article 7(a) states that there must be political equality and equal rights for women, and includes running for public office.

Under the 1998 Constitution of the Maldives, women were banned from running for president, as it explicitly stated that the candidate must be a man.

Article 109 of the new Constitution of 2008 does not include any restrictions based on gender under “qualifications for election as President”.

The reservation was withdrawn because it was deemed contradictory to the new Constitution.

Change and improvement

The Judiciary’s website cites an alarming figure: not one rape case has been taken to criminal court in the last four years.

However numerous cases have been reported to the police and several arrests made during this period of time.

Minivan News alone has reported at least nine abuse cases against women and girls since January 2009, most of them involving multiple perpetrators and/or victims. Most of the victims are under the age of 18.

The fact that none of these cases have made it to court could potentially make many women afraid to report such cases to the authorities.

The Ministry of Health and Family held a panel today including members of the Ministry of Health and the Department of Gender, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and the Prosecutor General’s office, among others.

Deputy Minister of Health and Family Mariya Ali said it was a “varied” panel offering an “alternative dialogue” to find solutions to issues on women’s rights, such as the prosecution of rape cases.

Ali said the ministry, working with the Prosecutor General, is “following up a lot of abuse cases that were put on hold.”

When asked about Gayoom’s statement on the misuse of Islam to spread inequality for women in society, she said “some of the things [the Islamic scholars] are saying can be misinterpreted by the public” but confirmed that the Ministry of Health is “working closely with the Islamic Ministry” to deal with these issues.

International Women’s Day celebrations and events

International Women’s Day was celebrated around the world on 8 March. This year marks the 99th anniversary of the first Women’s Day celebrated in 1911.

The celebrations, which mark the economic, political and social achievements of women, took many different forms around the world.

There were rallies to stop violence against women in the Middle East; a silent protest in Taipei; a protest of thousands in Iran; a breakfast in Iraq; a rally of hundreds in Bangladesh; a discussion panel in China; and education bus tour in South Africa; a march for equality in Brazil and thousands of other events around the world, all commemorating the rights of women.

The Ministry of Health and Family will be celebrating this year’s Woman’s Day this week, with the theme of “Equal rights, equal opportunities: progress for all.”

Most of the public events being organised by the ministry and Department of Gender will be held over the weekend, including a children’s evening and stage show at Villingili stage area on 12 March.

There will also be a Friday sermon based on the theme of the celebrations.