The Parliament, on Tuesday afternoon, passed the report compiled by Human Rights and Gender Committee following its inquiry into the performance of State institutions in response to cases of sexual abuse.
The inquiry report, which had been compiled following the sexual assault of a 20-month toddler by her paternal great-grandfather and grandfather in January, was passed with the unanimous consensus of 74 parliamentarians.
The committee, during its inquiry, found that Maldives Police Service had let off some alleged sex offenders with mere warnings, and had filed away their cases.
It noted in the report that it was “a matter of great concern” and posed “an obstacle to ascertaining the safety and protection children have the right to in this society and opened room for more children to fall victim to sexual abuse”.
Additional issues noted in the report includes lack of sufficient investigations into sexual abuse cases, and an undue amount of time taken to complete investigations.
The committee found that investigations into 70 percent of the sexual abuse cases filed with police over the past 15 years had remained open for more than one year, and prosecution remained pending in many cases due to the open investigations.
“Failure by Maldives Police Service to investigate such cases with the speed it requires and within an efficient investigative system led to delays in pursing prosecution in such cases, posing an obstacle to justice for child sex abuse victims,” reads the report.
The committee also found that it also took an undue amount for trials, when cases did reach prosecution stage, and a low conviction rate.
Only 36 percent of child sex offense cases on trial over the past 15 years had produced convictions.
The committee found level of inter-institutional cooperation and collaboration in response to sexual abuse cases to be alarming low.
The committee made several recommendations to improve how the State handles cases of sexual offenses against children.
It recommended that investigations into child sex offense cases be carried out by investigators equipped with specialized training, to ascertain that all State officials involved in any stage of child sex offense cases prioritizes the interests and welfare of the victim above all else, and to establish a mechanism to facilitate and promote inter-institutional cooperation and collaboration in dealing with such cases.
The committee findings were consistent with earlier findings by the Auditor General’s Office in late 2019 which revealed more alarming systematic failures in dealing with sexual abuse cases.