Crime Governance Society & Culture

Women’s Day: Silent sufferers of domestic violence in the Maldives

Raise your voice before it’s too late…

The death of Ziyadha Mohammed, the battered woman from Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Thinadhoo of southern part Maldives, is an indication of the worsening situation of violence against women in the country.

According to her friends and family, Ziyadha was physically and sexually abused by her husband. Her condition worsened because she kept the extent of abuse a secret.

In recent times, this is a major fatality case from domestic violence. Though there are not many deaths recorded by domestic violence or violence against women, statistics show that the culture of violence against women is an alarming issue in the Maldives.

Violence against Women

According to the study on women’s health and life experiences conducted by Maldives’ ministry of gender and family in 2007, one in every three women aged between 15-49 years have experienced physical or sexual violence or both at some stage of their life.

The statistics of Maldives Police Service also show that domestic violence has been increasing at an alarming rate. The number of domestic violence cases in 2015 has increased to 341 from 187 reported in 2014. More than 300 cases have been reported in 2016 as well.

Police assume that the actual number of domestic violence cases, especially cases victimising women, will be higher than the police records as many go unreported in the country.

Challenging social norms

This small island nation has a culture of hiding violence against women, because the society, by and large believes, that issues leading to violence should remain within the family to keep up their reputation in the community. The societal norms and beliefs make it difficult to combat the issue.
A women’s right activist said that the situation of women in the Maldives is far from good.

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“They say that in the Maldives, gender issue is at a level that is far better than anywhere else in Asia. But that is not the point. The point is that one in three women at some point in their life experience violence of some form: sexual, physical abuse and that is not good” she said.

Women’s rights activists believe that female participation at policy-making level is critical to the cause of gender equality. But that is not the case in the Maldives. The negligible number of female representatives in the cabinets of different administrations prove that Maldives still has a long way to go to achieve the ambitious goal of gender equality.

Stand against violence

The present government says that political, economic and social empowerment of women and zero tolerance of violence against women are key pledges in their manifesto. Former Foreign Minister, Dhunya Maumoon, said that the government is committed to addressing the root cause of violence against women by investing efforts in gender equality and empowerment.

According to her, Maldives has made significant progress through Sexual Abuse and Harassment Prevention Act, the Sexual Offences Act and the Domestic Violence Prevention Act which strengthen the country’s legal framework to prevent further violence.

Yet, to combat violence against women, it is necessary to stand against it and change the norms and beliefs that it is ‘right’ to tolerate violence from family or husband.

While awareness can help the victims come forward, better implementation of the legislations is also required for this fight.

Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) says more efforts are needed to implement anti-domestic violence acts and authorities need to do more work on it.

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If Maldivians retain the culture of hiding the actions of violence against women and continue the habit of tolerating these kinds of violence, this country may have to witness more tragic losses.

(WION)
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Source URL: Google News

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