Gender Minister under fire for ‘re-victimizing’ missing boy

Minister of Gender, Family and Social Services, Shidhatha Shareef speaks during a press conference on June 26, 2019. (Photo/Sun/Ahmed Awshan Ilyas)

Gender Minister Shidhatha Shareef has come under fire for disclosing the entire case history of the 14-year-old boy who went missing from State custody last week.

Shaim Abdulla, 14, Dhafthar 2997, went missing from the children’s shelter in Vilimale’ - where he was placed for an assessment - on June 18.

Speaking at a press conference last Wednesday, Minister Shidhatha detailed Shaim’s entire case history; starting from the point his situation first came to attention of Gender Ministry in a negligence report against his family on June 10, 2009 to his experiences in and out of State care and foster care.

She also said that Shaim is believed to have escaped through a window of the room next to his.

Shidhatha came under immediate fire following the press conference.

She has been accused of re-victimizing and compromising Shaim’s rights in her attempt provide an explanation over why a child under State care went missing.

Those who have voiced criticism against Shidhatha include Deputy Speaker of Parliament, North Galolhu MP Eva Abdulla.

“Details of this child should not have been exposed. That he has been vulnerable to a lifetime of crime is all the more reason for the State to protect him. Exposing him violates his right to a life of dignity. Whatever situation he is in right now, he did not choose this. He is 14,” said Eva.

Former Attorney General Azima Shakoor said that saying Shaim went missing because it had been difficult for the staff at the shelter to manage him was highly irresponsible.

Azima said that she, herself, has served as Gender Minister and knew how difficult the job was.

But information should be disclosed more responsibly, said Azima.

Many have taken to social media to voice lack of confidence over Shidhatha’s capacity to fulfil the responsibilities of her position, both over her decision to disclose Shaim’s history, and over the 2015 case of Mohamed Ibthihal, 3, who was killed following a beating by his mother in V. Rakeedhoo.

Shidhatha had been serving as Deputy Gender Minister at the time, and the abusive behavior of Ibthihaal's mother towards him had been reported to the Gender Ministry on multiple occasions.

Speaking at last Wednesday’s press conference, Sidhatha said that the staff at the children’s shelter were not equipped to deal with children with behavioral problems, but conceded that negligence on the part of the State did exist in Shaim’s disappearance.

She said that she reviewed details of Shaim’s disappearance, and acknowledged the existence of a "challenge" within Gender Ministry and other children’s facilities in dealing with similar cases.

“This is an area which has long been neglected by the State. We are working on reforming such facilities. We are taking necessary action in light of these cases,” said Shidhatha.

Shaim remains missing, and Maldives Police Service has asked for assistance from the public in locating him.