How the Maldivian society deals with rape victims
Trigger warnings: rape and child abuse
I think we as a society have failed the people of this country. Our lack of compassion towards people are shocking and disappointing. Its upsetting because, we as a community are not growing or understanding the social issues and oppression. We seem to be stuck at the same place that we were years ago.
I am not writing this because of a certain incident that happened a few weeks back. I am talking about our society in general and how we cope towards people’s emotions and struggles. We are often painted as the most hospitable and kind people in the society. An island with white sandy beaches and beautiful blue oceans that we all love and adore. And that’s what the world sees us as. They don’t think twice about the crimes or oppression that this country has because it is always sugarcoated.
Let’s talk about rape culture in the Maldives, yes, I have talked about this before and I think we should talk about this again. The way that our society deals with rape is rather shocking to me. We are not all sympathetic towards victims of rape. Especially towards minors and women who have gone through years of abuse, whether it is from a stepfather, a close family member or from your closest friends. It is somehow the victims fault. It is the victim’s fault that he/she decided to wear a certain type of clothe and go outside. It if the victim’s fault for being out late and hanging out with friends.
I noticed a common pattern in rape cases in the Maldives is that they never the identity of the rapist. The authorities who are investigating the case is now under ‘serious investigation’ and that’s the end of what is heard of that case.
This one particular rape case that happened in 26th June 2012, was of a 15 year old girl that was raped for several years by her stepfather and her own mother was an accomplice in the crime. The girl was sexually abused and as a result she was impregnated by her stepfather. She had given birth to the baby and her mother and stepfather had killed the newborn infant and buried the infant outdoor shower of a house. The 15 year old girl, her mother and stepfather were arrested. The 15 year old girl was charged with ‘consensual sexual relations’ facing fornication charges, her stepfather was charged with sexual abuse, possession of pornographic materials and committing murder without intent and her mother was charged with concealing the crime and failure to report child sexual abuse to the authorities.
As the case reveals itself day by day, month by month, the 15 year old minor was convicted of premarital sex with 100 lashes and 18 months of house arrest. Yes, a minor who, apparently has ‘consensual sexual relations’ with an adult. She had confessed that it was consensual, but the man that impregnated her was not her stepfather but another unidentified that they were not able to present in court.
The authorities had the audacity to say that they felt sorry that she had to go through years of sexual and mental abuse by her guardians and they also went on to say that she ‘deserved the punishment’ as it is the penalty for fornication under Shariah Law in the Maldives. It wasn’t because of the flogging that she ‘deserved this punishment’, it was because she supposedly had consensual sex with an unidentified man.
I was shocked when I read about this case. I was angry and upset, not at myself but at the justice system of the Maldives that allows to punish sexual abuse victims for a crime that they didn’t commit. I was shocked that there were people who was working on this case that believed that a 15 year old minor would even have consensual sex in the first place. Think about it, why would a 15 year old have consensual sex other than the fact that she was manipulated or mentally abused to have sex with an adult? Her stepfather had abused her for years and her own mother had known about this and kept quiet for years. Are we supposed to feel sympathetic towards the mother because she wasn’t able to protect her own child? Are we supposed to forgive her stepfather for abusing her? Or are we supposed to believe that a 15 year old was in the wrong the whole time?
In another rape case that happened on 15th May 2013, was of a girl that was gang raped in an island in the Maldives. The police had arrested three 17 year old males and one 19 year old man who had raped a 20 year old girl. The police never revealed the identity of the rapists and the case was immediately put under investigation.
This case in particular was what is famously known as the ‘rape apologist and victim blaming scenario’. Let me explain: victim blaming is when the society or an authority is held accountable for the danger that occurred to them. Whether it is rape, sexual harassment, emotional, mental or physical abuse, they are used to make the victim feel like they should feel guilt, fear, shame and powerless towards their oppressor. Rape apologist is when the society or an authority justifies the actions of a rapist and claims that the incident never happened, or makes the society feel like we need to be sympathetic towards the rapist rather than the victim.
And that is what happened in this case. The four boys and the girl were friends and they hung out all the time. The girl wasn’t a well-disciplined girl and it seems that, it was unlikely that anyone would have raped her, it would have been easier than that, said the councillor of the island. The girl had reported it to the police as gang rape because the rapists had filmed the incident. The councillor of this island continued to say that the boys were very scared and worried, because they were not that type of guys.
What does ‘not that type of guys’ mean anyways? Why are we supposed to feel sorry for the rapists? The simple answer to that is, that we shouldn’t. Period. I was baffled and upset that the councillor felt that we needed to feel sorry for the four rapists when the victim had suffered more than anyone in that situation.
This brings me back to the gang rape incident that happened in March 2017, a 19 year old woman was gang raped in Hulhumale’. She was found on the pedestrian in the BBQ area with her clothes torn apart and dumped in the area. (If you haven’t heard about this, now you know). It’s May now and the police still haven’t made any arrests. I wonder if they even bothered to find the rapists, or are they saying that the ‘investigation is their highest priority’ and never solved it anymore?
Regardless, of who that person is and how that person behaves around people is not an excuse to rape someone. Just because she was walking or talking a certain way is not an invitation for you harass her or rape her. Nobody asks to get raped. But unfortunately, to this day, rape is still justified in this society. And that is what I meant by the fact that we as a society have failed the people of this country, especially the youth. We still don’t know the difference between wrong and right. We are still looking for ways to justify sexual harassment and people are getting away with it. We as a society should understand that, this generation and the next are the foundations of a better tomorrow and that our voices matter, as long as we are heard.
I decided to write this article after I read an article written by Hani Amir. I had included the link if anybody want to read it.