Prosecutor General's (PG) Office on Saturday pressed charges against Anees Hilmy, 38, from Baarah, Haa Alif Atoll, who was arrested over grooming and raping a child aged 11 in a guesthouse in capital Male'.
PG Office filed three separate charges against Anees at the Criminal Court, after investigations into the suspect further revealed pornography and explicit photos on his mobile device.
Public Prosecutor Ahmed Shafeeu charged Anees with carrying out sexual acts with a child under Section 3 of the Special Provisions Act to Deal with Child Sex Abuse Offenders, grooming a child to sexually assault them under Section 123 of the Child Rights Protection Act, and producing or distributing obscene material under Section 622 of the Penal Code.
Intentionally touching a child's body with sexual intent is punishable with an imprisonment period between 10 to 14 years, while grooming is punishable by 10 years of jail time. Moreover, possession of obscene material results in a prison sentence of one month and six days.
If convicted of all charges, Anees can face up to 24 years, one month and six days in prison.
Maldives Police Service arrested Anees on June 13, a few days after the sexual abuse case was reported on June 10.
Commissioner of Police (CP) Mohamed Hameed lodged a request at the PG Office to detain Anees until the end of his trial, under the law concerning Special Procedures Against Child Sexual Offenders (12/2009).
On May 28, police arrested Unais Ahmed, 25, of Thulhaadhoo, Baa Atoll, over a similar incident of raping a minor in a guesthouse in Male'.
Unais is suspected of falsifying his identity to develop a relationship with a 16-year-old girl, scamming funds from her father, bringing her to capital Male' on May 27 under the promise of providing healthcare for her, encouraging her into inappropriate sexual acts and raping her.
On June 27, the PG Office pressed four different charges, including carrying out sexual acts with a child, identity fraud, theft by deception and exploitation of a minor.
Public ire continues to increase 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.
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.
Meanwhile, the police have warned over increasing incidents of child grooming and exploitation over the internet, urging parents and guardians to be aware and report knowledge of any such information to the police's Family and Child Protection Wing at +960 3000600 or the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services at 1412.