Trial against minor for “consensual sexual relations” to continue this week

The case of a 15 year-old minor charged for having “consensual sexual relations” is to continue in the Juvenile Court on Wednesday (January 30), despite the Prosecutor General (PG’s) Office confirming it is reviewing its decision to prosecute the minor.

A Juvenile Court Spokesperson confirmed to Minivan News that the case was expected to continue this week despite calls during the previous hearing on Wednesday (January 23) from the PG’s Office for the case to be delayed pending review.

The filing of criminal charges against the 15 year-old girl – identified as a victim of alleged sexual abuse in a separate criminal case – has been slammed as an “absolute outrage” by international NGO Amnesty International.

The government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik this month pledged to hold meetings with relevant authorities in the country to amend laws it contended – in certain cases – were punishing sexual abuse victims as if they were criminals.

Calls for delayed trial

Juvenile Court Spokesperson Zaima Nasheed told Minivan News today that during a previous hearing of the case on January  23, the PG’s Office had called for the trial to be delayed. The request, which was made 10 minutes before the hearing had commenced, was not able to be granted by the court at the time, according to Zaima.

“As the court does not have a procedure to cancel and delay hearings without a probable reason, the hearing went ahead,” she said.

Zaima added that the state attorney requested the judge to cancel the hearing against the minor as there was another case going on in the Criminal Court that was related to trial.

“The state attorney told the judge that a male suspect charged in connection with the case [against the minor] was being tried in the Criminal Court for sexually abusing the 15 year-old and being a person in a position of  trust,” she said.

“The state attorney told the court the PG needs to review the case and see if there is any reason the girl should not be charged for fornication.’’

Zaima claimed that the presiding judge had requested the state during the previous hearing send a written letter to the court before 3:00pm the same day requesting for cancellation of the hearing.

“As the Juvenile Court presides over cases related to minors, the court is required to conclude all cases as soon as we can. The court therefore always schedules a next hearing as soon as the previous one concludes,’’ she said.

According to Zaima, the PG had not yet requested the case to be withdrawn.

The PG’s Office confirmed to Minivan News that the decision to press charges against the 15 year-old girl was being reviewed, though no further details could be given until a decision had been made.

The President’s Office announced earlier this month that a review of legislation outlining the treatment of victims of sexual abuse was ongoing following international coverage of the PG’s decision to press charges against the 15 year-old girl.

In a case unrelated to the charges against the minor, the girl’s stepfather was also facing criminal charges for alleged sexual abuse after authorities last year discovered a new born baby buried in the outdoor shower area of a home on the island of Feydhoo.

In light of the cases, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad pledged that discussions had this month been scheduled with authorities including the Islamic and Human Rights Ministry to review the treatment of minors and adults who had been sexually abused. According to Masood, the pledge has been made on the back of a number of similar cases where young women were perceived to have been victimised and punished by authorities.

“If needs be we will come out with legislation where victims [of sexual abuse] are treated as victims,” he said. “It’s incredible that sometimes these victims are actually being seen as perpetrators [of crime] under the law.”

Masood added that the government would be making further announcements on its future plans to address these concerns once it had held talks with ministerial and legislative authorities.

The President’s Office was not responding to calls at time of press.

NGO criticism

The filing of criminal charges of “consensual sexual relations” against the 15 year-old girl were slammed this month by NGO Amnesty International.

The NGO’s Maldives Researcher Abbas Faiz stressed at the time that suspected victims of rape and sexual abuse required counselling and support rather than facing prosecution.

Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) Vice President Ahmed Tholal has previously told Minivan News that he was hugely concerned about the number of reports of sexual abuse against minors in the country.