Rape and Domestic Violence: The penal code does not classify rape as a separate offense. Other provisions of the law are used to criminalize rape. The PGO uses charges of forced sexual assault or sexual abuse of a minor to prosecute offenses that could amount to rape. Sixty-one cases of forcible sexual assault were forwarded for prosecution from January to July, and charges in 21 of those cases had been filed by year’s end. A man can be convicted of rape in the absence of a confession only if there are two male witnesses or four female witnesses willing to testify. In the case of a child, the burden of proof is lower. The PGO reported it lost almost all cases of forced sexual assault because insufficient weight was given to the testimony of the victim.
Media reports of violence against women and rape were common. Most rape and abuse cases reported in the media during the year involved minors, and attackers usually knew their victims. NGOs believed that most cases remained unreported due to fear of reprisals, losing custody of children, lack of economic independence, insensitivity of police in dealing with victims, absence of regulation in media concerning victim’s privacy, the stigma of being a victim, and low conviction rates.
Spousal rape is not considered a crime under the law.
A domestic violence act covering all types of domestic relations, enacted in April 2012, prohibits physical, sexual, verbal, psychological, and financial abuse. It also extends protection to wives against being forcibly impregnated by their husbands against medical orders and includes an extensive list of other abuses for which protection is given. The act allows courts to issue restraining orders in domestic violence cases and criminalizes any actions against these orders. Nevertheless, law enforcement officers were reportedly reluctant to make arrests in cases of violence against women within the family, believing such violence was justified in Islam.
Sexual Harassment: The law bans sexual harassment in the workplace, but there were allegations of sexual harassment in government ministries. Various forms of harassment, especially verbal abuse, were accepted as the norm in government offices. Fearing reprisals such as loss of employment, women did not normally make official complaints. In 2012 a staff member of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) made the first such complaint against the commission’s president, Mohamed Fahumy Hassan. In November 2012 parliament voted to remove Hassan from his post as president and as a member of the CSC based on the gravity of the allegations. Hassan subsequently asked the Supreme Court to overturn his removal, as the allegations were not proved in court. The court in turn ordered parliament to delay selection of a replacement, pending the court’s decision on the case. Although parliament appointed Hassan’s replacement on August 13, the Supreme Court, at Hassan’s request, issued an injunction against any appointments to replace him. On August 20, parliament nevertheless appointed a new president of the CSC, who assumed the role.
The MHG reported five cases of sexual harassment filed.
Family and children’s centers were located on every atoll and intended to streamline the process of reporting abuse against women and children. The centers had a shortage of trained staff and faced legal challenges, such as collecting evidence about abuse cases.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of children, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to information on contraception and skilled attendance at delivery and in postpartum care were widely available. According to the 2009 demographic and health survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family, 99 percent of women received prenatal care from a skilled provider. According to the survey, a skilled health worker assisted 95 percent of births in the five preceding years. Only 6 percent of women did not receive any postnatal care. Women who lived in Male had the highest rate of care (96 percent) from a gynecologist, doctor, nurse, or midwife, compared with 90 percent in outlying areas.
Discrimination: Discrimination against women was a problem. Authorities more readily accused women of adultery, in part because visible pregnancies made the allegedly adulterous act more obvious, while men could deny the charges and escape punishment because of the difficulty of proving fornication or adultery under Islamic law.
Under Islamic practice, husbands may divorce their wives more easily than wives may divorce their husbands. Islamic law also governs estate inheritance, which grants male heirs twice the share of female heirs. According to the PGO, property is divided equally among siblings unless the men in the family demand a larger share.
According to an HRCM report published in 2009, there were no policies in place to provide equal opportunities for women’s employment, despite provisions in the constitution and the law. The absence of childcare facilities made it difficult for women to remain employed after they had children, and societal disapproval discouraged women from working at tourist resorts for extended periods. The HRCM also received reports that some employers discouraged women from marriage or pregnancy, as it could result in termination or demotion. A 2011 HRCM report noted that the government had fallen short of promoting women’s equality by failing to establish childcare centers and child-friendly working environments, and failing to implement affirmative action.
Although women historically played a subordinate role in society, they participated in public life. Women constituted approximately 40 percent of public-sector employees. They accounted for approximately 52 percent of civil service employees in the executive branch as of the end of August, although only 1.3 percent were in the senior and professional classifications within the service.