President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, on Monday, amounted the time lost in negligence on part of the authorities tasked with protecting the rights of children as being a win for perpetrators of abuse.
The statement was made during the presidential address delivered at the parliament's 2020 inaugural session, which commenced at 0900 hours.
Ten minutes into his speech, the President addressed the most discussed topic during the first month of 2020 stating aptly, “We have all spent the last month in mourning following the inhumane violation of an innocent girl, not even 2 years of age, subjected to sexual abuse by her most trusted guardians.“
“Responsibility for this incident falls primarily on the systematic failure of the judiciary to hold perpetrators accountable, and the negligence of other state administrative bodies", said the President, acknowledging the culpability of the government in allowing the tragedy to take place and adding there were cases concerning child sexual abuse lodged as far back as 2012, still awaiting a conclusion.
“For these cases, every passing moment of delay, due to the dereliction of duty within the justice system or that of government institutions, is a moment of victory for those that violate the rights of children and subject them to abuse", said the President.
However, President Solih assured that after the newly amended Child Rights Protection Act comes into force on the February 20, it will "ensure the protection of all children from having to experience any form of sexual abuse - more so than ever before.”
The President further remarked that the Child Rights Act was passed after previous administrations had stalled the legislation in discussions for 28 years.
On the same note, the President highlighted the rising issue of unregistered births, which he attributed to parents attempting to evade the state’s mandatory vaccination policies. Referring to the aforementioned Act he declared that, “parents do not possess the choice to deprive children of vaccination” adding that under his administration, the government would “identify and vaccinate” children in such situations, as well as “monitor their education”.
Nevertheless, authorities have reported a significant increase in arrests made over accusations of child sexual abuse, thus far no convictions have been confirmed. With respect to the 21-month toddler referenced in the President's address, only an extension of remand periods for primary suspects was reported on February 1.
Prior to public outrage sparked over the toddler's sexual abuse, the incumbent government earned considerable ire over delayed action in the case of the 13-year-old child 'bride', which drew attention to the ongoing, unchecked existence of a 'culture of abuse' across Maldives.
Yet the current government's initial draw of critique with respect to child rights, occurred 20 days after President Ibrahim Solih took office after he commuted the sentence of Ibrahim (Hoara Ibbe) Rasheed. Three months later, the president expressed remorse over freeing an unnamed individual in a decision he described as being "hasty" and "one thing I wish I had not done; I feel remorse over it.”
This Monday's hour-long parliamentary session concluded at 1000 hours, with the address spanning a duration of approximately 42 minutes.
Maldives' constitution stipulates that the president shall deliver his address during the initial sitting of the parliament's first term, which must be held within the first week of February.
In addition to the above, during the address, the president outlined various government priorities and key plans for the year 2020.