The Edition


Gender equality advocates demand adequate funds for social protection

Mariyam Malsa
15 June 2020, MVT 08:53
Maldives' Gender Ministry study on 'Women’s Health and Life Experiences' (2006) reveals that one in three women and girls aged between 15 to 49 reported having been subject to at least one form of physical or sexual violence, or both, during their lifetime. PHOTO: UNICEF MALDIVES (SARIM/2018)
Mariyam Malsa
15 June 2020, MVT 08:53

A collective of gender equality advocates originating from Family Legal Clinic (FLC), Nufoshey and Uthema Maldives voiced demands to declare rape and sexual offences as a serious criminal offence and reallocate state funds for the protection of victims.

Currently gaining momentum across the local social media sphere, the #FundOurSafety movement highlights inadequate resource allocation towards safe shelters.

Several members of the public have tagged their parliamentary representatives on Facebook posts and tweets demanding action.

Lawmakers that responded include Male City's Galolhu North MP Mickail Naseem, and Maafannu North MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, as well as Thaa Atoll's Guraidhoo MP Ghassan Maumoon. The former two represent ruling coalition leader Maldivian Democratic Party while the latter is presently Vice President of opposition Progressive Party of Maldives.

A tweet published by MP Mickail reads, "I will do my best to ensure parliament fast-tracks amendment to Criminal Procedure Code, and supports increased funding for shelters and psychosocial support for victims".

"And we are already working on the Penal Code amendment bills to that effect which are in Majlis even right now", tweeted MP Imthiyaz.

Actions lobbied for by activists under #FundOurSafety

Shafeea Riza, co-founder of FLC and a key figure leading the #FundOurSafety movement outlined several demands that are widely circulating on Facebook and Twitter. Supporters demand that;

- The State list 'Rape and Sexual Offences' as a serious criminal offence under S22 of Criminal Procedure Code (Law No 12/2016), to ensure stricter deadlines for investigation and prosecution.

- Lawmakers amend regulation 2016/R-37 to mandate rehabilitation for offenders, prior to release, as the offenders are eligible for clemency. As serving time cannot alter behavioural attitudes, they lobby for the of funds to rehabilitate perpetrators.

- The Finance Ministry allocates funding to Gender Ministry and associated bodies as per existing legislation; Domestic Violence Act, Special Provisions Act to Deal with Child Sex Abuse Offenders, Sexual Offences Act and the Child Rights Protection Act.

- Ministry of Foreign Affairs fulfil the country's standing commitments to international agreements including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

- The Ministry of Home Affairs secures safe shelters, to which the police are required to transfer victims under the Domestic Violence Act, including funds needed for this purpose.

- The Ministry of Planning and Infrastructure, which is tasked with achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)s, inform the public concerning actions taken to meet the fifth SDG Goal of Gender Equality.

- Lawmakers work to modernise existing legislation on evidence and witness protection and pass regulatory law to standardize social work.

Further, Shafeea called on citizens to demand that the Parliament hold the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) accountable for inaction against issues that fall under its mandate.

The FLC co-founder urged citizens to share personal experiences in order to add weight to their demands to the government.

The #FundOurSafety initiative was spurred by a recent case concerning the sexual abuse of an 11-year-old, which took place in a guest house located in the capital city of Male'.

A number of concerns have been raised over the state's social protection and as the abuse occurred during a city-wide lockdown imposed in response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Earlier in January, Maldives observed a significant rise in the number of child sexual abuse cases that were reported to authorities, driven by a case involving the sexual abuse of a two-year-old in Gaafu Alif Atoll's Kanduhulhudhoo, that sent shockwaves through the nation.

Locals from all regions took to platforms expressing horror, particularly over the fact that perpetrators were immediate family members and registered offenders. However, the growing momentum was soon overshadowed by COVID19 fears as the ongoing pandemic first began to appear across the globe, and eventually in Maldives.

With dozens of countries responding to the health crisis by closing borders and imposing lockdowns, issues of domestic violence and abuse began to re-emerge, worldwide.

In April, responding to a question posed by The Edition on proactive measures the ministry would take to aid victims of abuse, Gender Minister Aishath Didi stated that the ministry was working with police authorities and non-profit organizations to establish special centres for house victims of abuse and domestic violence.

However, as it stands, the government is yet to deliver on its pledges to reduce the number of cases and increase arrests and convictions against offenders.

According to 'The Maldives Study on Women’s Health and Life Experiences' conducted by the Gender Ministry in 2006, one in three women and girls have reported experiencing either physical or sexual violence, or both, at least once during their lifetimes.