Rape and Domestic Violence: Laws that came into effect in 2014 regarding sexual harassment and sexual offenses criminalized spousal rape and gender discrimination in workplaces, including in educational institutions and service providers such as hospitals.
In 2014, 86 cases of sexual violence against women and 65 cases of physical violence against women were reported to the Ministry of Law and Gender. From January to September 2015, the MPS received 531 reports of sexual assault and forwarded 230 of these for prosecution. A man may 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.
Media reports of violence against women and rape were common. Most rape and abuse cases reported in the media involved minors, and attackers usually knew their victims. NGOs believed 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 victims’ privacy, the stigma of being a victim, and low conviction rates.
As of September, 161 cases of domestic violence against women were reported to the MPS. The MPS forwarded 17 of these cases to the Prosecutor General’s Office for prosecution, two of which led to convictions. A 2012 domestic violence act covering all types of domestic relations 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 provided. The act allows courts to issue restraining orders in domestic violence cases and criminalizes any actions against these orders. Nevertheless, law enforcement officers were reluctant to make arrests in cases of violence against women within the family, reportedly believing such violence was justified.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): There were no data on the frequency of FGM/C, although observers reported the practice was a growing problem.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: In September the president ratified the third amendment to the Penal Code which stated only Maldivian Islamic law penalties may be imposed for Hadd (robbery, fornication, homosexual acts, alcohol consumption, apostasy) and Qisas offenses (retaliation in kind). Penalties could include hand amputation for theft and stoning to death for adultery. Prior to the amendment, the Penal Code only allowed for the implementation of milder penalties in limited cases, including flogging for fornication and optional flogging for consuming alcohol and pork, not fasting during Ramadan, and for perjury.
In its February submission to the second UPR on the country, Amnesty International called for a moratorium on flogging as a form of punishment. In the government’s response to the UPR in May, the Secretary of Legal Affairs defended the practice of flogging, stating that “Maldivians believe that Islamic principles and human rights go hand in hand” and that flogging is a useful crime deterrent.
Sexual Harassment: The law bans sexual harassment in the workplace, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. There were allegations of sexual harassment in government ministries and the private sector. In June authorities dismissed a female employee at the Housing Development Corporation after she filed a complaint against the human resources manager on accusations of sexual harassment. After a formal investigation by a government committee, the manager was found guilty but was not prosecuted and was dismissed with a warning.
The MPS reported nine filed cases of sexual harassment from January to September under the Sexual Harassment Act.
To streamline the process of reporting abuse against women and children, there were family and children’s centers on every atoll. According to the HRCM, these centers also provided services for neglected children, support for families unable to take of their children, and women with mental illness or disabilities. The Ministry of Law and Gender reported the need to establish residential facilities at family and children’s centers on every atoll to provide emergency shelter assistance to domestic violence and other victims.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health, and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Access to information on contraception and skilled attendance at delivery and in postpartum care were widely available.
Discrimination: Discrimination against women remained 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 a 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, since it could result in termination or demotion. The HRCM reported the government fell short of promoting women’s equality by failing to establish child-care 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 accounted for 54 percent of civil service employees, although only 2.16 percent were in the senior and professional service classifications as of July 31.