Flogging sentence for child rape victim dropped but justice still out of reach for Maldivian women
Avaaz welcomes the Maldives High Court verdict overturning the flogging sentence of 100 lashes to a 15-year old girl for the alleged crime of ‘fornication’. But Avaaz remains concerned about the appalling state of women’s rights in the Maldives and the serious hurdles women and girls face in trying to get justice for gender-based crimes.
This verdict finally came after intense pressure from over two million Avaaz members who backed a campaign calling on President Waheed to act to drop the charges against the child and ensure wider, systemic legal reform to protect women and girls. Avaaz also visited Maldives and lobbied at the highest levels of government to ensure that charges against the girl were dropped immediately and that the Attorney General’s office was actively fighting her case in court.
The Maldives High Court released a statement saying it had decided to free the 15-year old girl because the girl denied ‘confessing’ to consensual sex outside marriage.
Jeremy Waiser, Campaign Director at Avaaz said: “Today people in the Maldives and across the globe celebrate that this young girl is free and won’t be flogged. It is a glimmer of hope which must not be an isolated case -- now it’s time to listen to the majority of Maldivians and kick start major reforms to protect women and girls and put an end to flogging for consensual sex outside of marriage, once and for all.”
With the Maldives’ presidential election just two weeks away, Mr. Waiser added: “The ruling and the recent opinion survey should serve as a wake-up call to all candidates and parties that they cannot afford to neglect one half of the Maldivian population -- women and girls want to live without fear of persecution and with dignity.”
A Maldives-wide survey for Avaaz this year bears this out. 92% of Maldivians polled want to see reform of domestic laws to better protect women and girls from sexual assault, and 73% disagreed with punishments applied to women for “sexual crimes”.
The vindictiveness with which the Prosecutor General’s office pursued the case against this Maldivian child highlights the dangers that women and children face in the Maldives. Maldives’ own official data shows:
• One in three women between the ages of 15 and 49 has suffered either physical or sexual abuse over the 5 past years
• Yet 90% of those sentenced to flogging in the Maldives in 2011 were women
• And according to a gender and human rights expert, not a single person has been convicted for rape in the last 3 years
The High Court’s ruling is a step forward, but the Gender Ministry should now ensure that the girl receives a proper education, is not sent back to the custody of relatives who failed to protect her, and ensure that she doesn’t end up ghettoised because of stigma.
Avaaz is a 25-million-person global campaign network that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decision-making. (“Avaaz” means “voice” or “song” in many languages). Our team is spread across 19 countries on 5 continents and operates in 16 languages.
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