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Police express concern over claims of unaccountability, failure

Ahmed Aiham
12 July 2020, MVT 14:17
Protestors gather demanding system reforms and establish justice for victims of sexual offences. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI / MIHAARU
Ahmed Aiham
12 July 2020, MVT 14:17

Maldives Police Service, on Saturday, expressed concern over ongoing calls for police reforms and claims that the institution was incapable of protecting citizens from the threat of sexual offenders.

In a press release, authorities noted that sexual offences are considered serious crimes and that police continue to raise awareness on the matter and remain steadfast in the protection of women and children from abuse.

Highlighting the institution's efforts in relation to sexual crimes, police noted that such cases are investigated by a specialized department in the service, and that it gives great importance to train and develop officers in preparation to the constantly evolving criminal sphere.

In line with the current administration's Strategic Action Plan (SAP), police stated that it priorities the procurement of various tools while focusing on the reform of its investigative methods regarding sexual offences.

Emphasizing on the need to bolster law enforcement, police noted that a collaborative environment is conducive to ensure that citizens are free from harm.

Moreover, they urged members of the public, as well as media, to refrain from disseminating false information.

In conclusion, police praised the efforts of local NGOs that raise awareness and work towards safeguarding fundamental rights and protections awarded to society.

The police statement comes at a time when public ire continues to soar 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.

Several child and women rights groups have begun protesting across the country, demanding police accountability and justice for victims of rape and sexual offences.

Protesters criticized the incumbent administration's constant assurance that the government has a "zero-tolerance policy" towards sexual abuse, fueled by a string of sex crimes reported recently, followed by controversial arrests and alleged misconduct of police.

Recently, a collective of gender equality advocates originating from Family Legal Clinic (FLC), Nufoshey and Uthema Maldives also launched the #FundOurSafety initiative, voicing a list of demands including the reallocation of state funds toward the protection of victims.

The '#JaagaEhNei' movement is set to gather on Sunday, July 12 at 1330 hrs, in front of Hotel Jen, to call for the conviction of perpetrators of sexual injustices to the fullest extent of the law, whilst also demanding the abolishment of selective and tokenist justice against such heinous crimes.

Minister of Gender, Family and Social Services Aishath Mohamed Didi previously expressed solidarity with protesters, stating that "for far too long, the system has failed to protect our women and our children from sexual harassment and abuse".

She went on to express the urgent need to reform the procedures surrounding the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences as well as the necessity of fostering changes in social attitudes toward such crimes.

Furthermore, she noted that domestic violence cases reported to the authorities saw an increase with the easing of certain lockdown measures at the end of May, which were imposed across the Greater Male' Region over the COVID-19 outbreak.

In Maldives' first recorded instance of a protest being carried out on the premises of the parliament, demonstrators recently sported signboards calling for decisive action on sexual assault cases.

The former Minister of Gender, Family and Social Services, Shidhatha Shareef also tendered her resignation on February 6, following mounting pressure over negligence in cases of child sexual abuse.

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