The young man who was stabbed and thrown overboard has the attention of the entire nation, not just because of the brutal attack against him, but upon discovery of his involvement in an underage marriage with a 13-year-old child, in which she was sexually exploited and impregnated.
Following mounting public pressure over the issue, Maldives Police Service and Gender Ministry issued a joint-statement on Sunday.
It said the investigation hadn’t uncovered any evidence the girl had been subjected to an illegal marriage, but uncovered evidence the girl belonged to a family which held extreme views on religion and had been denied basic educational and healthcare rights.
It also said the case came to attention of authorities on June 6, 2018, and that the authorities had been keeping a 'close eye' on the case for over the year which has passed since.
While the authorities had been keeping a 'close eye' on the girl, she was subjected to an illegal marriage and impregnated. She gave birth this November.
The situation gets worse the deeper the case is explored.
FAMILY SANCTIONED ‘MARRIAGES’
A reliable source confirmed to Sun that it isn’t the first illegal marriage the young girl had been subjected to. She was subjected to two previous illegal marriages to two different men before her ‘marriage’ to Hammad, 26, the R. Maduvvari man who was stabbed and thrown overboard.
While both the police and Gender Ministry deny uncovering any evidence the girl had been subjected to any illegal marriage, Parliament’s Human Rights and Gender Committee confirms receiving information from multiple sources that the girl had been subjected to illegal marriages.
“Some of our sources inform us that this isn’t the girl’s first ‘marriage’. That it isn’t the first time she was exploited by someone under the cover of ‘marriage’ conducted outside of the Sharia system,” said Jeehan Mahmood, the Chair of Human Rights and Gender Committee during its meeting this Monday.
Sun has been informed all three ‘marriages’ were sanctioned by the girl’s family. The first two ‘marriages’ were broken off at the girl’s pleas.
She was subjected to her first ‘marriage’ at the age of nine years, and subjected to her marriage with Hammad at the age of 12 years. She was 13 years old when she gave birth last week.
GROSS FAILURE OF STATE AUTHORITIES
Sun has been informed through reliable sources that the girl’s father was one of the men who was arrested from A. A. Himandhoo in 2007 following clashes with security forces who raided the island to stop a group of separatists who refused to pray with other worshippers at the island’s mosque, and were using their own mosque. The man, a senior member of the group, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
He finished serving his 10-year sentence in 2018, but continues to serve another prison sentence.
He remains unchanged on his views on religion.
Sun has been informed that the girl was taken into State custody after her pregnancy was discovered during a visit to R. Ungoofaaru Regional Hospital. However, the Gender Ministry, after taking the girl into State custody, returned her to the custody of her mother.
The Gender Ministry returned her to the custody of her family despite uncovering evidence of its religious extremist views, despite uncovering evidence she was being denied her rights, and despite discovering her pregnant at the age of 13 years. She was returned back to the same people who subjected her to three illegal marriages. There is no evidence of any action by state authorities to protect the girl other than to keep a ‘close eye’ on the case, and return her back to the people who exposed her to abuse.
An emergency motion was filed with the Parliament this Monday in response to the case. Many of the parliamentarians who debated on the motion accused the state authorities of gross failure to prevent the spread of religious extremism.
Many also accused law enforcement agencies of turning a blind eye to such cases.
“Is the police institution, and the person in charge of the police institute asleep while these people act as they please, outside of this nation’s laws?” asked Vilufushi MP Hassan Latheef.
MARRIAGE OR RAPE?
Maldivian law does not recognize the marriage of anyone under the age of 18 years. Any marriage to a person under the age of 18 years is a criminal offense. The law previously had a loophole which allowed children who are 16 years to get married with their family’s consent. However, such marriages were heavily restricted and required additional legalities such as an assessment from Gender Ministry and special permission from the Supreme Court.
This loophole was removed with the enactment of the Child Rights Protection Act this November, which established marriageable age as 18 years. It established that a marriage may not be performed unless both the bride and groom are of marriageable age, even if it said so otherwise in any other law.
Legal experts argue that the ‘marriage’ of the 13-year-old girl is therefore illegal. And that any sexual relations which took place within the confines of said ‘marriage’ was therefore rape and may be prosecuted as such.