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Criminal Court releases child sexual abuse suspect

Fathmath Shaahunaz
23 June 2020, MVT 16:50
Poster of a child as seen through a keyhole, to illustrate the topic of child abuse. PHOTO/FREEPIK
Fathmath Shaahunaz
23 June 2020, MVT 16:50

The Criminal Court on Monday released an individual arrested over accusations of child sexual abuse, as his remand could not be extended beyond 15 days.

The suspect in question was taken into custody on May 28 and remanded for 15 days over sexually abusing a child.

However, during his remand hearing at the Criminal Court, Judge Adam Mohamed refused to extend the suspect's remand until the end of his trial, noting that the Prosecutor General's Office had submitted the request under the 'Criminal Procedure Code' instead of the 'Special Provisions Act to Deal with Child Sex Abuse Offenders'.

As per the High Court's verdict earlier this month, which referred to Section 60 (e) of the Criminal Procedure Code and Section 49 of the Constitution, any suspect who poses the "danger of the accused absconding or not appearing at trial, the protection of the public, or potential interference with witnesses or evidence dictate otherwise" may be remanded for a period no longer than 15 days even without sufficient evidence. However, remand extensions may only be granted for cases of serious criminal offences.

As the Criminal Procedure Code does not list child sexual abuse as a serious crime, Judge Adam Mohamed stated that the lower court was stipulated to abide by the High Court's rulings and released the individual.

The court added that the police and PG Office may apply to revise the suspect's remand after completing the procedures in the 'Special Provisions Act to Deal with Child Sex Abuse Offenders', which would place the suspect in remand until the end of his trial.

These verdicts by the courts came amid public ire over the government's meagre record of arresting and convicting perpetrators of sexual offences despite several promises to support the rights of children and women.

Most recently, a collective of gender equality advocates originating from Family Legal Clinic (FLC), Nufoshey and Uthema Maldives launched the #FundOurSafety initiative, voicing demands to declare rape and sexual offences as serious criminal offences and reallocate state funds for the protection of victims.

Earlier in January, Maldives observed a significant rise in the number of reported child sexual abuse cases, 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.

Although the aforementioned case sparked widespread outrage and harsh criticism against the government, the growing momentum was soon overshadowed by COVID-19 fears as the ongoing pandemic first began to appear across the globe, and eventually in Maldives.

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.

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