Child sexual abuse, under Maldivian law, required, and still does, a confession by the alleged abuser, or testimony by four witnesses, for a successful conviction to take place. This meant that if a child reports sexual abuse, the perpetrator denies it, and there are no witnesses, the court can find the child guilty of consent. Victims of child sexual abuse are therefore often punished for reporting the crime while the abuser is almost always let free.
Ibra's much heralded bill to criminalise paedophilia would not protect the vast majority of victims, because it does not propose changes to evidence laws. If the conviction of child sexual abusers is a near impossibility, what's the point of calling for harsher sentences for them? I understand that Ibra was advised by experts and concerned individuals about this, but chose to ignore the issue of evidence laws in his bill.
Child sexual abuse flourished in the Maldives in Gayoom's three decades of power, with presidential pardons granted habitually to the few that were convicted. A survey published a year before Gayoom was ousted revealed that one in six Maldivian women aged 15-49 years was sexually abused under 15 years of age. A UNICEF study published this year has found out that one in five school girls and one in ten school boys experience sexual abuse at least once in their lifetime. The present government is yet to publicly speak out against the the high levels of child sexual abuse in this country or state what it plans to do about it.
Ibra's bill does not offer respite either. The seriously flawed bill was probably more politically motivated than the result of any genuine commitment to protecting Maldivian children from widespread sexual abuse. Note also that Ibra is proposing lowering the age of consent to 16 years, even though those under 18 years of age are regarded as minors under Maldivian law. This means the 16 year old girl from south Maldives would not not have got any protection from Ibra or Anni.
That girl, now legally of age, is reported to have had another illegitimate child and the state is considering flogging her as punishment.
Perhaps Aishath Mohamed Didi and her team should have a taste of the "durra", or the flogging baton, for failing to protect the young woman.