Thursday, March 5, 2009

Maldivian children abused by parents, schools and the community

A new UNICEF study is confirming what many in the psychosocial field have known for years: that child abuse is widespread in the Maldives.

One in five school girls have been sexually abused at least once, while the figure for school boys is just over one in ten. These rates are "considerably high" even by global standards, according to one of the researchers.

Of the nearly 2,000 students who participated in the largest study of emotional and physical punishment and sexual abuse of children in the Maldives, three out of ten children said their parents hit them with boys more likely to be subjected to physical and emotional violence than girls. 

School life doesn't fare any better; 23 per cent of boys and 10 per cent of girls said they had been hit by a teacher, even though corporal punishment is banned in Maldivian schools. Five per cent of the children said they had been so badly injured by their teacher that they had needed to go to the hospital. 

One third of the teachers in Maldivian schools are not qualified to teach. Not surprisingly, only 5 per cent of students sitting the GCSE exams passed in English in 2005. The UNICEF study paints a bleak picture of life for Maldivian children: they've been let down by their parents, the education system and by the community.

But a substantial section of Maldivian society, 36 per cent, supports physical punishment of children. Even supposedly progressive members of the community are pro-punishment. Dr. Abdullah Waheed, the deputy home minister, echoed populist sentiment in a personal blog post recently, when he criticised child laws protecting children as "ill-conceived and inappropriately implemented" and alleged they "prevented teachers from disciplining children". If this isn't a cry to bring back corporal punishment, I don't know what is.

Kay Engelhardt, a consultant for the international research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres which was part of the study, has commented that violence already enters the life of Maldivian children at an early age. "Home is not safe, the community is not safe and school is a grey area", Engelhardt told

But Maldivians in positions of power have habitually been unsympathetic to young people. Gayoom's buddy and former education minister Zahir Hussein, in the 80s, hit a Majeediyya student with a stick in front of the whole school. Hussein also, notoriously, tried to turn a blind eye to the serial child sexual abuse by two teachers during his disastrous reign at the ministry. Gayoom's faithful servant Umar Zahir, who headed the home ministry for several years, allowed rampant physical, psyhological and sexual abuse of children in the government's reformatory.

And now we have the likes of Dr. Abdullah Waheed, who failed to establish or manage a decent rehabilitation centre for recovering addicts or a modern prison service, advocating Maldivian children to be subjected to even more violence.


Anonymous said...

Teachers should be the ones who disciplines children, it's the parent's responsibility. tsk tsk, Waheed.

It's sad to say that many parents do turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to physical and mental abuse of their own children. Our country being congested with such irresponsible parents is the key factor in the abundance of child abuse. While they parents failed to stand up to defend their children, so did the government .....I guess they were the same people.

Anonymous said...

*teachers shouldn't.


Anonymous said...

Would appreciate if you could post a link or details of the report.
Thanks for higlighting such major issues which are taken as trivial in the community.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Waheed's writing is ridiculous. He should immediately stop writing.

Earlier in a blog post regarding the curious case of Fazeel (sorry Shaatey for borrowing your line), Dr. Waheed was pretty worked up about "the rise of homosexuality and pedophilia."

As the blogger calling himself Drink Cunt Juice pointed out, I also felt that Dr. Waheed was trying to give off the idea that only homosexuals abused children in Maldives.

This does great injustice to those scores of little girls who have been abused by adult men, like the curious case of Naseem Sir who is now allowed to openly conduct a tuition class.

Curiously, Dr. Waheed is not the only one succumbing to this homophobic attitude.

Even Haveeru Daily has been scare-mongering by playing the "homosexuals and pedophiles" angle if you read the news about Fazeel and the recent reports on the arrest of more pedophiles.

All in all, my conclusion is that, this suggestion that homosexuals are only responsible for child abuse, is a gross distortion of facts, and thereby a great injustice to so many little girls who have been sexually abused because their case will not get highlighted by the media when the media (and also Dr. Waheed) tries to play on the "homosexuals and pedophiles" angle.

When people try to harp too much on the homosexual angle, it very frankly gives you the idea that these people (both Dr. Waheed and the writers at Haveeru) are closeted gays who are very insecure about themselves and by their gay-bashing are trying to project to the society that they are not gay. But that's a failed attempt because everybody knows that the top people at Haveeru are secretly gay.

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