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Gender committee launches probe into Ruqya sexual abuse case

Mariyam Malsa
25 November 2020, MVT 13:21
The parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Gender meeting on June 29, 2020. PHOTO/MAJLIS
Mariyam Malsa
25 November 2020, MVT 13:21

The Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Gender, on Tuesday, commenced an investigation into the sexual abuse perpetrated against a woman and her three daughters while confined to a house under the premise of Ruqya (exorcism).

A committee meeting scheduled for 2030 hrs on Wednesday will be attended by representatives from Maldives Police Service, Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services, Ministry of Health, Human Right's Commission of Maldives (HRCM) and the Ministry of Education.

Speaking to local media outlet Mihaaru, the 30-year-old woman revealed that the four females were confined to her husband's house in August with a man from the island that practiced Ruqya. She stated that her husband believed that her migraines were the result of supernatural possession by 'jinn'.

Ruqya, sometimes referred to as Fanditha in the local Dhivehi language, is an Arabic term that refers to a 'mystical' practice exercised by certain Muslims, for the purpose of repairing 'damage' that is believed to be caused by jinn possession, witchcraft (Sihr) or the evil eye.

According to the woman, the Ruqya practitioner claimed that a jinn had possessed her as well as her seven-year-old daughter. She went on to state that the remaining two daughters faced psychological abuse as they were told that their mother and sister were 'jinn'.

The woman further disclosed that she was abused on the premise of 'punishing' the jinn, which included beatings, being treated as a slave, being denied an adequate amount of food and sleep deprivation.

As per Mihaaru, the woman who still had bruises on her legs stated that medical reports had confirmed that the seven-year-old child was severely sexually abused.

Additionally, the woman stated that no assistance was received from neighbours and friends as they were told that cries and sounds of distress would be heard from the house throughout the Ruqya period.

She particularly expressed concern that a police officer that visited the house was convinced to leave with assertions of jinn possession even after being informed of ongoing abuse. The woman also stated that a social worker failed to intervene in the situation after being obstructed by her husband.

The family stated that they had decided to report the matter to the Atoll Police Station, which is currently conducting an investigation, as an officer from the island had been neglectful concerning their case.

Earlier this year, the police revealed that several individuals that sought spiritual practices such as black magic (Sihr) and Ruqyah reported sexual abuse.

Since the beginning of the year, public ire has grown considerably, regarding the government's meagre record of arresting and convicting sexual offenders, despite numerous promises to protect the rights of children and women.

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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