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Two arrested over 'Ruqya' multiple-abuse case remanded

Mariyam Malsa
27 November 2020, MVT 18:30
The 'JaagaEhNeh' protest held against rape and all forms of sexual violence, on July 12, 2020. PHOTO: AHMED AWSHAN ILYAS / MIHAARU
Mariyam Malsa
27 November 2020, MVT 18:30

Maldives Police Service, on Friday, revealed that the court had remanded the two local men arrested over allegations of psychological, physical and sexual abuse perpetrated against a woman and her three daughters while confined to a house under the premise of Ruqya (exorcism).

As per the police, the man aged 24 was remanded until the end of the investigation while the 39 year-old man was remanded for 15 days.

The police had revealed earlier that one of the men was detained with a court order on Wednesday night, while the other arrest was made Thursday morning.

The Ruqya practitioner, aged 24, is accused of sexually assaulting the woman’s seven-year-old daughter, in addition to subjecting the family to other forms of abuse, while the husband, aged 39, is accused of both supporting the acts and taking part in some of them.

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 practised Ruqya.

She stated that her husband told her that he believed her migraines to be 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.

Mihaaru reported that the woman, who sported bruises on her legs during the interview itself, stated that medical reports had confirmed that the seven-year-old child was subjected to severe sexual abuse.

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.

In particular, she expressed concern that a police officer who made an official visit to the house was convinced to abandon the matter after the husband made assertions of [her] jinn possession, despite having been notified of the 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 has currently launched an investigation into the allegations, as an officer from the island had already demonstrated neglect with regards to the case.

Earlier this year, the police revealed that numerous individuals that had sought spiritual practices such as black magic (Sihr) and Ruqyah in Maldives had reported experiencing various degrees of harassment and sexual abuse.

Since the beginning of the year, public ire has grown considerably over the government's meagre record of arresting and convicting sexual offenders, despite numerous pledges made to p"rotect the rights of children and women".

Protesters demanding justice for rape and sexual assault victims held demonstrations during June and July in front of Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services as well as the roads of capital Male', following an upsurge of reported cases and alleged misconduct of police during investigations.

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