President Yameen vetoes sexual offences bill

President Abdulla Yameen has returned the sexual offences bill passed by parliament last month for reconsideration.

According to the President’s Office, in a letter to the speaker of parliament, President Yameen provided details of issues noted by the Attorney General after reviewing the legislation (Dhivehi).

“The bill containing some provisions that are contrary to Islamic Shariah and Islamic principles was among the reasons considered for returning the bill,” the President’s Office stated.

Under article 91 of the constitution, within 15 days of receipt the president could either assent to a bill or “return the bill for reconsideration of the bill or of any amendment proposed by the president.”

The sexual offences bill was passed on December 30 with 67 votes in favour out of the 69 MPs in attendance.

Following the passage of the bill, Vice President of the Fiqh Academy Dr Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef condemned the conditional recognition of marital rape as a crime and called on MPs who voted in favour to repent.

“With the exception of forbidden forms of sexual intercourse, such as during menstrual periods and anal intercourse, it is not permissible under any circumstance for a woman to refrain from it when the husband is in need,” Dr Iyaz had said on a local Islamic question and answers website.

While the bill did not categorically criminalise marital rape, it allowed for four exceptions: while a case for dissolution of the marriage is in a court, while the divorce filed by either husband or wife is pending a court, sexual intercourse to intentionally transmit a sexually transmitted disease, and during a mutually agreed separation (without divorce).

Dr Iyaz however contended that a woman must still show “complete obedience to her husband” even if she had filed for divorce.

Moreover, in cases of a revocable divorce, a man can renew the marriage during the waiting period (i’ddah) by having sexual intercourse. The woman’s consent would not be necessary in such cases, he argued.

He added however that the woman would have the right to go to court if the man’s intention of resuming the marriage was abuse.

Dr Iyaz is currently campaigning for the Hulhuhenveiru parliament seat on behalf of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

The contentious bill was drafted and submitted in October 2012 by now-Progressive Party of Maldives MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed. Nasheed wrote in the draft legislation that it was not intended to replace Shariah, explaining that it did not preclude application of a Shariah penalty for an offence specified in the bill.

The proposed law covers sexual offences ranging from adultery, homosexuality, incest, bestiality and necrophilia.

2007 study by the Ministry of Gender and Family revealed that 58.2 percent of female respondents agreed that they were obliged to have sex with their husbands, whilst 29.3 percent of women believed it was acceptable for a husband to beat his wife for refusing sex.


President vetos state wage policy bill

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has vetoed the bill on state wage policy passed by parliament on December 17.

According to the President’s Office, President Waheed “detailed the 10 main issues noted by the Attorney General regarding the bill” in a letter to the Speaker of the People’s Majlis.

Under article 91(a) of the constitution, the President has 15 days to either ratify or “return for reconsideration” any bill or amendment passed by parliament.

However, 91(b) states that “a majority of the total membership of the People’s Majlis” can override a presidential veto.

The wage policy legislation was passed with 46 votes in favour, two against and two absentions.


President returns thalassemia bill for reconsideration

President Mohamed Nasheed has vetoed legislation on thalassemia control passed by parliament last month and returned the bill for reconsideration.

According to the President’s Office, the Attorney General identified legal issues in the enactment of the law and recommended amendments to allow thalassemia patients to be covered under the National Health Insurance Scheme Act.

President Nasheed sent a letter to Speaker Abdulla Shahid containing the Attorney General’s legal advice and issues identified for amendment.

The President however ratified the Maldives Civil Aviation Authority bill passed by parliament on December 27. The new institution will be tasked with regulating domestic air travel and establish mechanisms to ensure safety in the air.

The Civil Aviation Authority becomes an independent entity outside the civil service with legal status and powers to enforce the Act. While a cabinet minister is to oversee the authority, its five-member board of directors would be appointed by the President.


Veto could impede local council elections, says EC

The Elections Commission (EC) would be in “a difficult situation” if the president ratifies the decentralisation bill but vetoes the complementary local council elections bill, EC President Fuad Thaufeeq has said.

If the president leaves more than a 28-day period between the ratification of the two bills, said Fuad, the EC would not have enough time to prepare for the elections.

President Mohamed Nasheed has said he will veto the local council elections bill as article four of the legislation woul disenfranchise “half the electorate” as it requires citizens to be present in their registered constituency to be able to vote.

“If he ratifies the decentralisation bill first, it states that elections should take within 150 days,” Fuad said. “But the other bill, the local council elections bill, gives a period of 122 days. So even if the Majlis passes amendments as soon as possible, say in June, we won’t have enough time to prepare.”

He added that the EC believes the two bills should be ratified together in order to avoid the clashes.

Moreover, if an amendment is passed to allow remote voting, the EC would need “double the funds to allow people to vote anywhere”.

The EC would need “a lot of manpower” as there would be 279 constituencies and some islands would require 100 different kinds of ballot paper.

The EC did not raise concerns with article four as it would be fairer for those living in their registered constituency or island of birth to elect local government representatives.

“It would be better for those who actually live in the island to be able to vote than those who are registered,” he said.

In his weekly radio address on Friday, President Nasheed said article four would disenfranchise “at least 60,000 people” from the atolls currently residing in Male’.

Nasheed said he would ratify the bill only as “a last resort”.

“In my view, it is not the right thing to do. It is not a good bill,” he said.

Mohamed Zuhair, president’s office press secretary, said parliament had to bear responsibility for the problems as “they passed the bill knowing all these periods were in there”.

In addition to problems regarding process, he added, the president had to consider economic, social and legal ramifications.

“We can’t sacrifice content or substance because it could compromise the process,” he said. “But the president hasn’t made a final decision and he will serious consideration to these issues.”

Although article four did not allow for remote voting in the original draft legislation submitted by the government, MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) proposed an amendment to allow people to vote anywhere in the country.

However, the amendment did not garner bipartisan support as MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) voted against it.

Vili-Maafanu MP Ahmed Nihan said the DRP said he participated in a “heated debate” at a meeting with the EC over article four.

Nihan said the DRP agreed to keep the article unchanged based on the EC’s recommendations and the government’s assurances.

“We passed the bill the way it was sent to us by the Attorney General,” he said. “Now [MDP] are trying to blame us. We have said we will submit an amendment to allow everyone to vote even if takes three times more money.”

Nihan said the DRP parliamentary group was ready for an emergency sitting of parliament to vote on amendments, but added that the president should ratify the bill first as further delays would put the government and the Majlis “on the back foot”.


President vetoes special needs legislation

President Mohamed Nasheed has vetoed the bill on protecting the rights of and providing financial assistance to people with special needs following an appeal from NGOs and advice from the attorney general that it would conflict with UN conventions.

Article 91(a) of the constitution states the president shall either assent to a bill within 15 days or return it for reconsideration.

The bill was passed on 21 December and would have automatically become law if the president did not ratify it today.

Mohamed Zuhair, president’s office press secretary, said the legislation was returned as the president believed it could lead to “social, economical and legal problems” if it was enacted.

Zuhair said Attorney General Husnu Suood advised the president that many provisions in the bill conflicted with international standards and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the Maldives has acceded to.

Suood told the president that the bill would create obstacles for persons with special needs making decisions on their own and participating in society.

Zuhair added the ministry of health and family informed the president that social and economic difficulties could arise if the provisions in the legislation were implemented.

Moreover, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives as well as NGOs Care Society, Handicap International and Association for Disabilities and Development had urged the president to ask parliament to ensure that the law would protect the rights of people with special needs as required by the UN convention.


"Don't ratify the bill!"
"Don't ratify the bill!"

Care Society, the Maldivian Deaf Association and the Association for Disabilities and Development were joined by parents of persons with special needs at a gathering outside the president’s office this morning.

The NGOs and parents held up placards urging the president not to ratify the bill.

Speaking to Minivan News, Sidaatha Shareef from Care Society said the NGOs wanted a law to protect the rights of the special needs.

“But we had to gather today after working through a lot of different stages. When the bill was at parliament, we met parliament members and met members of the social affairs committee separately and made recommendations in writing and gave them a presentation,” she said.

The bill was passed without considering any of the recommendations, she continued, and the NGOs met with the president’s office, the HRCM and the health ministry to raise their concerns.

“But, since we have not got an adequate response, we are here today to see what decision is made,” she said, adding if the president ratified the bill it would be a “big failure”.

Among the main concerns with the bill was lack of health rehabilitation. “That is one difficulty that the parents here endure every day. It is a basic right that they should be getting,” she said.

She added the language of some provisions the “spirit of the bill” would “segregate” people with special needs or provide assistance as “charity”.

The NGOs wanted the bill to be “more inclusive, rights-based and in line with the UNCPWD”.

Shortly after Sidaatha went into the president’s office and was told to wait until the end of lunch hour, Hassan Afeef, political advisor to the president, came out and addressed the group.

Asked how the president would make his decision, Afeef said, “The president is considering doing it in line with your thinking.”