The Prosecutor General's (PG) Office, on Wednesday, pressed a total of 12 charges against the two suspects implicated in the multiple-abuse Ruqya case, over the psychological, physical and sexual abuse perpetrated against a woman and her three daughters while confined to a house under the premise of Ruqya (exorcism).
According to the PG Office, the woman's husband, Ismail Waheed aged 39, is charged with unlawful restraint under Section 140 of the Penal Code, knowingly refusing to report an act of exploitations under Section 122 of the Penal Code, two counts of simple assault under Section 120 of the Penal Code and negligence of a child under Section 124 of the Child Rights Protection Act.
The Ruqya practitioner, Mohamed Aseel aged 24, faces up to a total of seven charges, including intentionally touching a child's body with sexual intent under Section 3 of the Special Provisions Act to Deal with Sexual Abuse Offenders of Children as well as one count of simple assault and one count of injurious assault and under Section 120 of the Penal Code.
He is also charged with sexual assault under the Section 18 of the Sexual Offences Act, unlawful restraint under Section 140 of the Penal Code, exploitation of a child under Section 122 of the Child Rights Protection Act, and engaging in a sexual act in the presence of a child under Section 5 of the Special Provisions Act to Deal with Sexual Abuse Offenders of Children.
The Ruqya practitioner 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 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 Ruqya 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.
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.