Maldives Teenager Spared the Rod


The High Court of the Maldives overturned a flogging sentence against a teenage girl found guilty of fornication. The move was welcomed by human rights activists.

The 15-year old girl, who was not named, had been sentenced to 100 lashes and house arrest. The High Court on Wednesday ruled that the girl, whose stepfather is on trial for raping her, had been wrongly convicted by a juvenile court of having pre-marital sex with another man.

“Annulling this sentence was of course the right thing to do. We are relieved that the girl will be spared this inhumane punishment based on an outrageous conviction,” said Amnesty International’s deputy Asia-Pacific director Polly Truscott.

The girl was first arrested in June 2012 after the body of a baby she had given birth to was found buried outside her home on Feydhoo Island. Her conviction on charges of fornication caused an international uproar. More than 2 million people signed an online Avaaz campaign to have the verdict reversed.

Rights activists argue that prosecutions for “fornication” violate individuals’ rights to privacy, freedom of expression, and bodily autonomy. Flogging, carried out with a cane, is normally handed down as a punishment by village chiefs who also act as local judges. Media reports indicate that a large majority of the individuals convicted of “fornication” in the Maldives in 2011 were female.

The chief justice of the country's criminal court defended the practice of flogging in a 2009 article by the Independent describing how the country was divided over the strict application of Islamic sharia law.

The Maldivian judicial system currently practices a combination of common law and sharia. Article 142 of the country’s constitution mandates that any matter on which the constitution or the law is silent must be considered according to the sharia code.

For more details on this story, click here. To read more about the debate over flogging in the Maldives, click here. For how women’s rights issues are tarnishing the Maldives reputation as paradise isles, click here.


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