Crime Legal Society & Culture

Maldives’ anti-black magic legal measures need ‘streamlining’

Legal measures for the prosecution and prevention of sorcery and black magic need to be ‘streamlined’, authorities have told the Maldives Independent.

Belief in sorcery and black magic, known locally as fanditha and sihuru, is common in the Maldives. Fanditha is allowed for licensed parties under a 1978 law. Sihuru, enlisting demons to harm others, while not illegal is considered taboo and is unauthorised.

Sihuru-related arrests have been common in recent years, but suspects are often released soon after without charge due to the complexity of legal action.

There are legal loopholes in charging practitioners because the current penal code does not have a specific provision for black magic and sorcery.

Police last Thursday initiated a meeting, attended by the Islamic Minister and senior officials from the Prosecutor General and Attorney General’s Office, to discuss ways to strengthen current legal framework surrounding sihuru.

The ‘very preliminary meeting’ was held because of an increasing trend in sihuru, said police spokesman Ahmed Shifan.

“We have noted there are issues in investigating and charging these practitioners that we need to streamline,” he said.

“Usually we end up destroying artefacts used for the practice of sihuru but we are unable to carry out any measures to prevent further acts.”

“We came to an understanding that more research was needed as to how we can go about this.”

A spokesperson for the Prosecutor General’s office told the Maldives Independent that individuals have been historically prosecuted for acts of sihuru under chapter 88 of the former Penal Code for ‘disobedience to order’.

Since the passing of the new penal code, sihuru has been prosecuted under the Religious Unity Act, police said today. However, there is no specific provision for sihuru under the act.

People have been arrested for allegedly practising sihuru, but both the police and Prosecutor General’s office were unable to clarify immediately how many people have been charged for it in recent years.

In December 2016, the Islamic Ministry ordered the privately-owned Sangu TV to stop a weekly programme on sorcery and black magic, saying it posed a threat to religious unity and societal harmony.

In August 2015, the Maldives Figh Academy, then an advisory body of religious scholars, warned against the promotion of black magic in local media after opposition figures linked the uprooting of old trees at the Republic square and removal of the republic monument in Malè to President Abdulla Yameen’s alleged fear of sorcery. The government declined to comment on the issue at the time.

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