Every year, around 700,000 visitors from around the globe visit the Maldives, lured by its pristine beaches. However, this paradise nation has become increasingly conservative in recent years due to influence of more fundamental forms of Islam.
In the summer of 2012, in the remote Feydhoo island in the Maldives, a police investigation after finding the corpse of a baby buried beneath an outdoor shower area outside the home of an unfortunate 15-year-old girl revealed that the teenager gave birth to her stepfather’s baby, which he allegedly killed and buried.
The teenager reportedly confessed to the police that apart from her stepfather she had consensual sex with another male. It is unclear whether the police has identified or charged this person. The police have charged the girl’s stepfather for raping her for years and murdering the baby she bore.
On February 25, 2013, a juvenile court in the Maldives, instead of sympathizing with the plight of the 15-year-old girl, has found her guilty of having “sex outside marriage.” The Court sentenced her to spend eight months under house arrest and to receive 100 lashes according to the Sharia Law when she turns 18, unless she requests it earlier.
This incident has triggered widespread worldwide condemnation.
Under the current laws of the Maldives, pre-marital sex is a crime and those found guilty are often flogged. Flogging as a punishment for this ‘crime’ directly violates international law, which completely prohibits cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments. Yet, flogging remains all too common in the Maldives. In 2009, the courts sentenced over 180 people for flogging for the ‘crime’ of fornication. Almost 90 per cent of them were women.
However, under the international human rights laws and standards, to which the Maldives is a signatory, ‘fornication’ is not a recognised offence and member states must not criminalize or punish young people who engage in consensual sexual activity, or are victims of abuse.
While visiting the country in 2011, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Navi Pillay called flogging “one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women” and she requested the Maldives to stop this barbaric practice.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said: “The girl is already a victim and is traumatized. The authorities should be trying to protect her, not punish her.”
President Mohammed Waheed Hassan of the Maldives is already feeling global pressure. The president’s office has released a statement saying that the girl is a victim to be protected and not punished by the government. A government spokesperson has also said that the Maldives are considering changing the law.
The Amnesty International UK / Blogs says:
If one good thing could come out of this case, it is that the international outrage prompted by this girl’s story and focus on the darker side of life in this seemingly idyllic holiday destination will convince the authorities to end the practice of flogging and decriminalise consensual sexual activity.
- Maldives girl, 15, sentenced to 100 lashes for ‘fornication’ (guardian.co.uk)
- “Horror in paradise”: Avazz launches campaign to target Maldives’ tourism reputation over flogging sentences (minivannews.com)
- Maldives: 15-year-old Rape Survivor to be Flogged (nalonmit.wordpress.com)
- Maldives: 15-year-old rape survivor to be flogged for ‘fornication’ (www2.amnesty.org.uk)
- Maldives court orders flogging of 15-year-old girl raped by stepfather (japantimes.co.jp)
- Maldives girl to get 100 lashes for pre-marital sex (bbc.co.uk)
- ‘Rape victim’, 15, sentenced to 100 lashes in the Maldives for engaging in pre-marital sex (dailymail.co.uk)
- Maldives girl faces flogging for premarital sex (thehindu.com)
- Sharia law: 15-year-old girl’s stepdad raped her for years, murdered her baby; Islamic court sentences her to flogging for “sex outside marriage” (polititalk.com)
- 15 Year Old Sentenced to Flogging in name of Islam (redhotconservative.com)