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State relocated 5 victims of 'child marriage' in 2019: Gender Ministry

Shahudha Mohamed
28 January 2020, MVT 20:07
A child running around in Kanduhulhudhoo, Gaafu Alif Atoll. Recently, there has been a notable spike in the reports of child sexual abuse cases across the country. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/ MIHAARU
Shahudha Mohamed
28 January 2020, MVT 20:07

Local media Mihaaru reported that Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services, in 2019, investigated five cases of children being raped under the guise of marriage, a culture fueled by extremist religious ideologies.

These minors were sexually abused and forced into marriages out of court, in violation of the Maldivian Constitution.

Responding to Mihaaru's questions about the matter, the ministry's Communication Director, Ibrahim Mohamed assured that the cases were investigated with the help of Maldives Police Service and the victims were relocated to safe environments.

Since all the victims in these cases involved minors, their personal details were not revealed to protect their identity.

Although only five such cases were investigated, it is highly likely that many similar cases go unreported, considering that victims' families are known to cover-up and condone the crime in most instances of 'child marriage', said the ministry official.

According to the ministry, some parents that were questioned over similar cases have refused to share information and cooperate with the authorities as well.

Noting that some groups of the community turn a blind eye to acts committed under the justification of extremist beliefs, Ibrahim stated that this lack of concern poses a challenge in curtailing the issue.

He further added that the numbers of such cases were publicly disclosed to raise awareness in society and tackle such cases as a gravely serious problem.

"The ministry has a zero-tolerance policy on acts of violence carried out in the name of religion. We require the public's cooperation to put an end to such acts", he said.

Moreover, he noted that there was an increase in the number of cases reported last year, following the administration's initiatives to tackle religious extremist, now rampant in society.

Reports include parents refusing to vaccinate their children or sign birth certificates, in addition to taking away the child's right to education.

"The ministry prioritises determining the reasons behind such matters and taking appropriate measures. In addition, an awareness programme has been scheduled, targeting the ministry's social workers and care workers".

Ibrahim, who is also a member of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC)'s Radicalisation Committee, stated that Gender Ministry was closely working with NCTC to draft policies on tackling crimes stemming from radicalisation. Efforts are underway to compile a National Action Plan as well.

A case of 'child marriage' surfaced last November following a dispute between individuals practising extremist ideologies. The child in question was impregnated when she was 12-years-old and gave birth aged 13. The minor, along with her newborn infant and some siblings, were transferred to state care.

The man accused of being her rapist and 'husband', Ismail Hammaadh of Maduvvari in Raa Atoll, is currently under arrest. The state pressed charges against him as well as the victim's parents.

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