Freedom House Condemns Flogging Sentence in the Maldives

Freedom House strongly condemns a Maldives juvenile court’s decision to sentence a 15-year-old rape victim to 100 lashes for premarital sex. Police charged the girl after she admitted to consensual premarital sex during an investigation into allegations that her stepfather had raped and impregnated her and killed their baby. Freedom House calls on the court to drop all charges against the girl and on the government of Maldives to remove from its laws any statutes allowing for cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, which contravene  the country’s  obligations under international human rights law. Additionally, authorities must ensure that the law protects survivors of sexual violence and holds perpetrators accountable.

The investigation began when the dead baby was found buried in the yard of the family’s house on Feydhoo Island. Upon questioning, the girl reported that she had been repeatedly raped by her stepfather and also that she had had consensual sex with another individual. The case against the stepfather is still planned to go to trial, along with charges against the mother for failing to report the abuse. The girl, who has also been sentenced to eight months of house arrest, will receive the 100 lashes when she turns 18 unless she requests it earlier. A spokesperson for the court defended the sentence, arguing that the girl had willingly committed an illegal act.

Pre-marital sex is a crime in the Maldives, whose legal system combines elements of Sharia law and British common law, and public flogging is a common punishment. Prosecutions of extramarital sex allegations and public flogging sentences are both overwhelmingly targeted at women. In 2011, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the government of to end the use of flogging, and authorities have stated that they are considering changing the law.

The Maldives is rated Partly Free in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2013 and Freedom of the Press 2012 surveys.

Learn more:

Freedom in the World 2012: The Maldives

Freedom of the Press 2012: The Maldives