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Police arrest 1 in protest against sexual assault

Shahudha Mohamed
29 June 2020, MVT 21:54
Protestors gather on the streets of Male' City, against all forms of sexual violence and to hold perpetrators and the authorities accountable, on June 29, 2020. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI / MIHAARU
Shahudha Mohamed
29 June 2020, MVT 21:54

Maldives Police Service, on Monday, arrested one participant from the protest against sexual abuse held to demand justice for victims of rape and sexual assault.

Police took the individual into custody after pepper spraying a few participants that tried to prevent his arrest.

Video footage shows that the individual taken into custody kicked an officer amidst clashes during the demonstration.

The protest, organised by non-profit organisation Voice of Children (VOC), was peaceful for the most part, other than a few confrontations between officers and protesters over the police's attempt to stop the participants from reaching the President's Office.

However, the clashes were diffused before they escalated into further violence.

The video in the above tweet depicts some of the clashes between protestors and police officers.

Participants kicked off the demonstration around 1600 hrs near Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services with banners and sign boards calling for the state to hold authorities accountable for failure to deliver justice to victims of sexual abuse.

Over 150 protesters, majority of whom were youths from both genders, gathered near the ministry and raised their voices, urging the government to expedite cases, disclose the identity of perpetrators that were influencing the authorities, and calling for the arrest of rapists.

The protest was organised amidst the public outrage fueled by a string of sex crimes reported recently, followed by controversial arrests and alleged misconduct of police.

"Where is the zero-tolerance?", protesters chanted, questioning the incumbent administration's constant assurance that the government has a "zero-tolerance policy" towards rape and sexual abuse.

As gatherings of large groups are prohibited under the public health emergency issued due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all particiapants wore masks although they failed to exercise social distancing. One participant held a sign board that read "rape is worse than corona".

Around 1715 hrs, protesters began marching towards the President's Office, continuing chants aimed towards raising awareness, such as "do your civic duty", "stop rapists" and "no means no".

Following a few clashes on the capital's ring road Boduthakurufaanu Magu, participants sat on the road in front of Bank of Ceylon and continued to voice their demands.

Participants also called for the resignation of Commissioner of Police (CP) Mohamed Hameed and Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Mohamed Riyaz.

Protestors gather on the streets of Male' City, against all forms of sexual violence and to hold perpetrators and the authorities accountable, on June 29, 2020. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI / MIHAARU

Towards the end of the protest, organisers encouraged survivors to come forward and share their stories of abuse. A handful of individuals delivered emotional remarks about their experiences, supported by applause and encouraging words by participants.

The protest concluded around 1830 hrs.

Organisers revealed that another protest for the same cause is scheduled for next Monday, but have yet to confirm the location.

VOC reiterated that the movement is not political and the aim of the organisation is to ensure justice for victims and to hold relevant authorities accountable.

The protest was held amidst public outrage over the sexual assault of a foreign woman aboard a safari last weekend. Police arrested two suspects from the scene of crime but released them shortly after, leading to controversy and allegations that authorities are "politically influenced" by those in power.

Prior to this, two cases of child sexual abuse were reported to the authorities on May 27 and July 10, as well as a number of similar cases earlier this year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.

Recently, a collective of gender equality advocates originating from Family Legal Clinic (FLC), Nufoshey and Uthema Maldives also 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.

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