The Maldives is a beautiful tropical location, often a destination for honeymooners. Under the blue skies, soft white sands and peaceful appearance though, there is a hard regime ruling the islands.
In 2012 a young-girl was allegedly raped by her stepfather. The girl had a baby which the man allegedly killed. He is awaiting trial for his actions. The girl’s mother stands accused of failing to report the abuse to the authorities.
The 15-year-old girl, however, has appeared in court and was found guilty. What was her crime you may wonder? She was found guilty of engaging in pre-marital sex and sentenced to 100 lashes.
Where do you start with such a breach of basic humanity? If it was not enough that the girl suffered abuse at the hands of her stepfather, a person who should have been looking out for her, the fact that a court rubs salt into the wound is beyond belief.
The prosecution has said that the allegations against her do not relate to the rape case. Well big deal, say I! The girl is a minor. The age of consent varies around the world but most people will still view her as a child. Rape, the alleged murder of your baby plus abuse is sure to send you off the rails. Whatever happened to empathy?
The prosecution’s attempts to defend the conviction are pathetic. Zaima Nasheed, a spokesperson for the juvenile court, said the girl “willingly acted outside of the law”. This is not an isolated incident though, as in January another girl who was sexually abused was also sentenced to lashes.
The BBC reports that Amnesty International condemned the punishment as "cruel, degrading and inhumane". The Maldives government has stated that it does not support the sentence and will look into changing the law. Will a change in the law prevent the girl’s punishment from taking place or is it too late to save her?
The girl is under house-arrest in a children’s care facility for eight months. The “lashing” will take place once she turns 18, unless she requests it earlier.
The Maldives is an Islamic archipelago with a population of some 400,000, and has elements of Islamic law (Sharia) as well as English common law.
One of the best ways to help girls in the Maldives is to boycott the country and make sure its government knows why. If you feel incensed by the plight of girls in the Maldives start a petition to change this law or contact your embassy.