Maldives Police Service confirmed on Saturday that authorities are looking into a case involving the grooming, blackmail and sexual abuse of a minor in capital city Male'.
According to Police, reports of a missing child was reported at approximately 0537 hours on May 28. Authorities were able to locate the minor and apprehend a 24-year-old male, in a guesthouse at roughly 1308 hrs, the same day.
The man has a known criminal record and was alleged to have made threats and attempted to extort the child and family. The individual is not an acquaintance of the family.
Police further noted that the child was brought to Male' from an inhabited island, with legal documentation for her transfer amid the nationwide travel ban implemented over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The criminal investigation is being undertaken by the police's Family and Child Protection Department (FCPD).
For years, sexual abuse against children has been on the rise in Maldives, evidenced by the Ministry of Gender and Family's 2017 statistical report indicating 418 reported cases of child sexual abuse.
In January this year, a spike in reports of child abuse cases was noted following the surfacing of a report concerning a two-year-old that was sexually abused by a family member.
An investigation by the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Gender into child abuse cases reported to the police over the past 15 years, published in February revealed that only 390 out of a total of 3,100 of all child abuse cases reported to the police reached a conviction.
Furthermore, the parliamentary investigation noted considerable delays in both police investigations and court procedure, revealing that 70 percent of all concluded cases from the last 15 years took more than a year to complete.
Following the ongoing lockdown imposed over the health crisis, concerns have been raised by a number of NGOs and advocates working against gender-based violence and to protect child care rights, about the increased danger faced by those “locked-in” with their “abusers”.
The government is yet to act on its pledge to reduce the number of cases and increase the number of arrests and successfully pressed charges against offenders.