Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes spousal rape and gender discrimination in workplaces, including in educational institutions and service providers such as hospitals. 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.
The Ministry of Gender and Family received reports of rape and sexual offenses and conducted social inquiry assessments of cases they submitted to the MPS. The ministry also provides psychological support to victims during MPS investigations. The ministry reported receiving six cases of rape and 18 cases of sexual assault as of July 31.
As of July, 439 cases of domestic violence were reported to the MPS and 252 were reported directly to the Ministry of Gender and Family. The MPS forwarded nine of these cases to the Prosecutor General’s Office for prosecution, one of which led to a conviction. The law 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. Officers were nevertheless reluctant to make arrests in cases of violence against women within the family, reportedly believing such violence was justified.
To streamline the process of reporting abuse against women and children, the Ministry of Gender and Family established Family and Children’s Service Centers on every atoll in 2016. Residential facilities were established in only four of the centers to provide emergency shelter assistance to domestic violence and other victims, and the ministry reported an insufficient budget to build new shelters on additional atolls. The lack of staff trained on providing effective psychosocial support for victims of domestic violence and child abuse was also noted as a challenge.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): There were no data on the frequency of FGM/C, although religious leaders called for the practice to be revived in 2014. Local NGOs reported the practice persisted, but societal stigma restricted public discussion of the issue.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: In 2015 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” (retaliation in kind) offenses. Penalties could include hand amputation for theft and stoning to death for adultery. Prior to the amendment, the penal code allowed for the implementation of milder penalties only in limited cases, including flogging for fornication and optional flogging for consuming alcohol and pork, not fasting during Ramadan, and for perjury.
Sexual Harassment: The law bans sexual harassment in the workplace, but the government did not enforce the law.
The MPS reported 12 filed cases of sexual harassment from January to July under the Sexual Harassment Act, none of which was forwarded for prosecution. The Ministry of Gender and Family reported receiving two cases as of July.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
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.
In February the Gender Equality Law can into force, and the government was in the process of developing an action plan to implement the law as of September. According to women’s rights activists, there were no policies in place to provide equal opportunities for women’s employment, despite provisions in the constitution and the law.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived through one’s parents. A child born of a citizen father or mother, regardless of the child’s place of birth, may derive citizenship.
Education: Girls’ access to secondary education was sometimes limited because of a lack of access to sanitation and separate facilities to study. The Ministry of Gender and Family handled 31 cases of children being deprived of education as of October. The ministry reported religious extremism, poverty, behavioral problems, and parental neglect as reasons that prevented children from going to school. The ministry noted the effect of religious extremism on child rights was an emerging issue, but a lack of a baseline study meant the prevalence of the issue could not be determined.
Child Abuse: The MPS received 483 cases of child abuse, 31 of which were forwarded for prosecution as of July. The Ministry of Gender and Family received 752 cases of child abuse as of July 31. The MPS investigates and the ministry is in charge of following up on reports of child abuse, including cases of sexual abuse. The ministry reported that the lack of effective coordination between authorities who handle child abuse cases remained a problem. The law stipulates sentences of up to 25 years in prison for those convicted of sexual offenses against children. If a person is legally married to a minor under Islamic law, however, none of the offenses specified in the legislation is considered criminal. The courts have the power to detain perpetrators, although most were released pending sentencing and allowed to return to the communities of their victims. In 2015 the Ministry of Gender and Family first published the online child sex offenders’ registry that, as of September 5, listed 77 individuals and their photographs, full names, identification card numbers, addresses, dates of conviction, dates of imprisonment, dates of scheduled release, and whereabouts. In September the ministry reported there was no mechanism to update the registry periodically, and it had not been updated since September 2016.
Early and Forced Marriage: The MPS was investigating one report of a child under 18 being married without authorization as of July. According to a September 2016 amendment to the Family Regulation, the Family Court must petition the Supreme Court for approval for girls and boys under age 18 to marry. The Ministry of Gender and Family must also submit an assessment of the proposed marriage to the Supreme Court, and the marriage can proceed only after the Supreme Court grants the Family Court approval for the union.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The Child Sexual Abuse (Special Provisions) Act prohibits child prostitution and the use, procurement, or provision of a child (below age 18) for the production of pornography or for pornographic performance. The crime is punishable by imprisonment between 15 and 25 years. The act stipulates that a child between ages 13 and 18 involved in a sexual act is deemed not to have given consent, “unless otherwise proven.” The law also treats the prostitution of children by a third party as a form of human trafficking with exploitation under the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act with a 15-year maximum sentence. The law generally requires the acts of exploitation be predicated on movement and does not criminalize it in the absence of coercion. The penal code allows the Prosecutor General’s Office to lodge multiple charges against a perpetrator for a single offense. For sex trafficking, this means the office can file charges for human trafficking under the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, for prostitution under the Child Sexual Abuse Act, and aggregate the penalties so perpetrators serve longer sentences for a single offense. As of July the MPS investigated eight cases of child pornography and one case of child prostitution, neither of which was forwarded for prosecution. The Ministry of Gender and Family reported having received six total cases of child prostitution and pornography as of July.
Institutionalized Children: Local NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) released a report in March 2016 detailing abuses in government-run “safe homes.” These facilities were intended to be temporary stopovers for children being taken into state care, but ARC reported children routinely spent many months at these homes. According to ARC, the “safe homes” were inadequately furnished and equipped, lacked basic essentials, and were often understaffed, resulting in inadequate care, protection, and education for institutionalized children.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
By law citizens may not practice any religion other than Sunni Islam; there were no Jewish residents. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution and law provide for the rights and freedom from discrimination of persons with disabilities. The Disabilities Act provides for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities as well as financial assistance. Since the establishment of the National Registry of People with Disabilities in 2011, 6,330 persons had been registered as of September. The act mandates the state to provide a monthly financial benefit of not less than MVR 2,000 ($130) to each registered individual.
Government services for persons with disabilities included special educational programs for those with sensory disabilities. Inadequate facilities and logistical challenges related to transporting persons with disabilities between islands and atolls made it difficult for persons with disabilities to participate in the workforce or consistently attend school.
Multiple NGOs worked to increase awareness and improve support for persons with disabilities. The Child Advocacy Network of Disability Organizations, established by ARC, launched a website in 2015 containing detailed information on common types of disabilities in Maldives and the services available from government authorities and NGOs.
The government integrated students with physical disabilities into mainstream educational programs. Children with disabilities had virtually no access or transition to secondary education. One mental health clinic in Male and several private health clinics employ psychiatrists and psychologists. They focused on a broad range of issues, but service availability remained limited. There also was a lack of quality residential care.
As of June Maldives Immigration reported the number of legal foreign workers was approximately 134,000, with an additional estimated 15,000-20,000 undocumented foreign workers in the country, mostly from Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. NGOs reported government agencies implemented policies discriminatory towards expatriate laborers, mostly from Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. On two occasions in July and August, state-owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company instituted a separate queue for expatriate laborers to access a public ferry system, while western tourists and locals used another queue. NGOs also reported the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure’s decision to charge an entrance fee for expatriates to access a public park opened in August was aimed at barring access for expatriate laborers who frequent public parks on weekends.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits same-sex sexual conduct. Under the penal code, the punishment includes imprisonment of up to eight years, as well as a provision for a supplementary punishment of 100 lashes imposed under Maldives Islamic law. No organizations focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) problems in the country. There were no reports of officials complicit in abuses against LGBTI persons, although societal stigma likely discouraged individuals from reporting such problems. NGOs reported several members of the LGBTI community sought refuge in Sri Lanka after societal shaming related to their sexual orientation.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Yameen Rasheed, a prominent blogger and social media activist who was often critical of the government, was killed on April 23. Eight men were arrested in connection with Rasheed’s death, and the MPS filed charges against seven of the suspects. In August police stated a group of young men, unaffiliated with any organization, had killed Rasheed because they believed he “mocked” Islam. Police also said that the killing was not politically motivated and that they were investigating unspecified persons of interest who may have encouraged the suspects in committing the crime. Rasheed had previously received multiple death threats, which were reported to police, but according to Rasheed’s social media accounts and his friends and family, police had not responded to or investigated these threats. In a public speech on April 27, President Yameen condemned Rasheed’s actions as “mocking” Islam and said “this is how it happens,” which activists viewed as Yameen’s justifying Rasheed’s killing. Rasheed’s father filed a civil suit against police on the basis of negligence to protect Rasheed prior to his death and failure to investigate the killing sufficiently. In September the Civil Court declared the suit invalid.