Maldives rape victim faces flogging for 'fornication' | Connect Asia

Maldives rape victim faces flogging for 'fornication'

Maldives rape victim faces flogging for 'fornication'

Updated 9 January 2013, 14:22 AEDT

The President of the Maldives has called for leniency in the case of a 15 year alleged rape victim who could be publically whipped for the crime of fornication.

The girl was reportedly raped by her stepfather for years and gave birth to a baby that was found buried on the family's property. Amnesty International says the stepfather has been charged with sexually abusing a minor, possessing pornography and the murder of the baby, while the mother has been charged with concealing a crime and murder.

But the 15-year-old has also been charged with fornication, a crime under Sharia law, which is used alongside Commonwealth law in the Maldives. If convicted she would be most likely held under house arrest until she's 18 and then receive 100 lashes in public.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane

Speakers: Abbas Faiz, researcher on South Asia for Amnesty International


FAIZ: This girl who has been raped and who needs support and who needs counselling and who needs to be rehabilitated, now instead of all of that, the authorities in the Maldives have decided to charge her with the offence of fornication. She should be actually the person who receives the support rather than being punished.
COCHRANE: The President's spokesman has come out urging leniency for the girl in this case. Do you see that as a small sign of progress?
FAIZ: The issue is not that really they should just talk about leniency or anything like that, they've got to change the law, they've got to come out and say that enough is enough, we are not going to allow the young girls in the Maldives to be subjected to flogging. And flogging continues, it happens almost every month for very kind of minor issues that relate to religious offences. And the government rather than just saying that we're going to be lenient, they should actually stop choosing this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. 
COCHRANE: I take your point about the overall legal system being the main issue here and your calls for reforms to that. But speaking specifically about this case and in particular the presidential spokesman, Masood Imad's comments, saying that there should be leniency in this case, he also said that the flogging could be in his words, 'symbolic and not inflict pain'. Any idea what he's talking about there?  
FAIZ: In this particular case what we're told they're probably trying to do is to kind of subject this girl to the humiliation of being flogged. Whether that flogging is kind of harsh or not so harsh, the fact is that the girl is going to be, a girl of 15, is going to live for three years in fear of the day that she is going to be flogged, even if the flogging is not going to be that harsh, but really the psychological effect that this thing is going to have on that child is very significant. And I think the Maldivian authorities should actually abolish flogging altogether.
COCHRANE: Do you believe that the actions of the police, the courts and the government on the issue are perpetuating this crime?
FAIZ: What I think is really perpetuating the crime is the negligence, the lack of due diligence, because unfortunately what has happened in the Maldives in recent years is that the entire society, the entire country has become heavily politicised. So any action it takes and any action that the authorities, it doesn't matter whether the authorities of this government or previous government, any action that they take is within the context of that political polarisation. So that means there are areas in the country that are being neglected such as for example violence against women, criminal activity, gang culture and all of those things. These are being neglected because the forces of the country are being used to either promote or suppress certain activities, certain political activities. And that is where the difficulty lies. I think it is very important that the government and all the political parties and all members of parliament they fold their hands together and say enough is enough, we are not going to be seen and portrayed as a country that still allows flogging to take place. And then ensure that there is a moratorium on flogging and that should be the end of it.


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