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Maldives Rape Victim's Flogging Sentence Touches Off Anti-Tourism Campaign

Global outrage is growing against a Maldives court's verdict announced on February 26, 2013 to flog a 15-year-old girl who was originally a victim of rape and sexual abuse. She now faces 100 lashes in public which will be administered when she turns 18.

More than one million people have signed a petition created by the campaign website Avaaz.org, urging Maldivian authorities to protect the girl and end the practice of flogging of women and children for sex outside marriage. The petition also threatens to hit at the country's tourism industry until President Mohamed Waheed acts.

The girl has been a victim of sexual abuse dating back to 2009 and consecutive governments have failed to protect her, according to a report by Minivan News.

The court sentenced her to 100 lashes and 8 months of house arrest for confessing to a separate case – not related to the rape – of consensual sex with a man. She was first taken for questioning in 2012 when a dead baby was found buried inside her family compound. Her stepfather has been charged with murdering her baby and child sexual abuse while her mother has been charged with concealing the sexual abuse.

Capital of Maldives, Male. Image by hmed Shuau. Copyright Demotix (30/10/2009)

Capital of Maldives, Male. Image by Ahmed Shuau. Copyright Demotix (30/10/2009)

The police are under fire for a rushed investigation without providing adequate counselling for the girl and obtaining a confession out of her for prosecution. The Prosecutor General's Office claimed that a confession of fornication left no choice for them but to press ahead with prosecution under Maldives’ laws. In January 2013, when charges were pressed against the girl, the government said it will review and correct laws that victimize minors and women who suffered sexual abuse.

Amnesty International immediately condemned the charges. Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives Researcher, argued that suspected victims of rape and sexual abuse required counselling and support rather than facing prosecution.

When the Juvenile Court sentenced the girl in February, the news was covered by mainstream media outlets including BBC and CNN. Faced with prospect of international condemnation, the government pledged to review the case and appeal it in a superior court. The conservative religious Adhaalath Party supported the court's verdict.

The Prosecutor General's decision to use the confession of the girl as evidence against her in the prosecution has been heavily criticized.

#OperationEndherima

Following the sentence, Maldivian activists started using the hashtag #OperationEndherima on social media to mount a campaign to protect the girl and voice out against the injustices she was facing.

Twitter user AdduHaanee (@AdduHaanee) wrote:

@AdduHaanee: little girls shud be smiling, laughing & making lego brick houses. Not getting punished for crimes they did not commit #OperationEndherima

Ismail (@Ismaar1) encouraged others to stand up for the girl:

@Ismaar1: You don't have to be superhero to standup against injustice. Join #OperationEndherima Seeking justice is not a crime

Azaf Riza (@azaf_riza) lamented the situation:

@azaf_riza: We live in a patriarchal society run by morons..victim is further victimised and she will forever be labelled #OperationEndherima

Avaaz Petition

The issue has gained worldwide attention after the petition started on Avaaz on March 20, 2013 received one million signatures within three days.

Meanwhile, Maldivians are reacting online to Avaaz's petition and are continuing the local campaign #OperationEndherima as well.

On Twitter, Hamid Shafeeu (@shafeeu) wrote:

@shafeeu (Hamid Shafeeu): In three days One million people expressed their outrage at a raped child being flogged. One million people. #Shame #OperationEndherima

Nuvana (@Nuvana) called the girl's punishment “insane”:

@Nuvana: Any sane Maldivian would have to agree that punishing a rape victim in lieu of protection is inhumane and insane #OperationEndherima

xiena saeed (@dorinbakedbeans) tweets:

@dorinbakedbeans: hey @DrWaheedH the avaaz petition just reached 1 million mark. thats more than the 2012 tourists #operationendherima pic.twitter.com/hEUhTq7i4K

Avaaz is planning to run ads on travel magazines to pressure the government of Maldives to abolish flogging as a form of punishment. In a country that aimed for one million tourists in 2012 and narrowly missed that mark, the implications of a global campaign that could damage the tourism industry are huge. The Avaaz petition reads:

Tourism is the big earner for the Maldives elite, including government ministers. Let's build a million-strong petition to President Waheed this week, then threaten the islands’ reputation through hard-hitting ads in travel magazines and online until he steps in to save her and abolish this outrageous law.

Maleeh Jamal, the deputy minister of tourism, has said such a negative campaign will damage not only the tourism industry of Maldives but the country as a whole. Jamal's concerns are echoed by some Twitter users who feel opposition activists are using this issue to attack the government.

asoa (@asoa) wrote:

@asoa: @Nuvana 14 y/o Rihana, Sh. Bilehfahi was flogged during @MohamedNasheed office and @Velezinee at Judicial Service. #FuckOperationEndherimaa

#OperationEndherima has also been criticized for failing to highlight the issue of “Hoara” Ibrahim Rasheed, a senior official of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), who is accused of having consensual sex with an underage girl and then later claiming to have married her.

asoa (@asoa) was critical on this point:

@asoa: @kudanai #OperationEndherima silent on Hoara Ibbe issue cos he is MDP. #FuckOperationEndherimaa

There are mixed reactions, both from Maldivians and foreigners, about Avaaz's plan on targeting the tourism industry. The publisher of tourism news website eTurboNews supports boycotting Maldives tourism.

Farah Faizal (@FarahDidi) wrote about the country's priorities:

@FarahDidi: #Maldives Tourism Ministry worried about negative effect of @Avaaz petition. But not worried about #flogging minors? http://sun.mv/english/10890

Some Maldivians feel that targeting the tourism industry is the only option left to force the authorities to review the gross injustices associated with the Maldives’ criminal justice system. However, there are others who feel that a negative tourism campaign will impact not only the politicians as Avaaz believes but the ordinary people of the Maldives who depend on the tourism industry for their livelihood. An estimated 30,000 Maldivians are employed by the tourism industry while thousands of others benefit indirectly from tourism through support services such as the supply of fish and vegetables, transport services and sales of souvenirs.

anonymous (@AnonQC), believed to be a Twitter handle of supporters based in Quebec of the hacker collective Anonymous, wrote that the campaign should specifically target certain tourism spots:

@AnonQC: @Avaaz A better idea would be to only boycott tycoon pro-#mvcoup resorts and promote ethical ones run by honest folks. #Maldives

The account added:

@AnonQC: @Avaaz, general boycott campaign against #Maldives tourism is a dumbfuck idea. Will hurt local folks who are already struggling w/ #mvcoup.

Some Maldivians are against the Avaaz campaign because they believe flogging is a punishment prescribed by Islamic Sharia.

Whistle Blower (@Whistleblovir) defended Sharia law:

@Whistleblovir: @avaaz @FarahDidi Don't spread bogus stories 4 yr political gain. Maldives implement law on those who actually commit adultery as per sharia

Ibrahim Mustafa (@imustho) wrote:

@imustho: Tomorrow if 1 million people make a petition on Avaaz do we have to change our constitution also to allow other religions in Maldives.

  • http://twitter.com/RingofFire1 Michael Greening

    This takes away any desire I have to go to Maldives. #OperationEndherima

  • http://twitter.com/drebombay Andrea L. Sperling

    I honestly wish that religion would keep their filthy noses out of everyone else’s business. Stick to religious things; church, praying, guilt…. Leave politics alone. Everyone around the world would be better off.

    • Carla

      Maldives Islamic religion IS their politics and RUNS their politics. DUH! Sharia Law means that the religious Islamic Sharia belief is…politically…the LAW in Maldives and many other places. Which is why every sane, freedom loving human being should be very concerned when they see Islam taking over. Islam is a death sentence to any person’s and country’s freedom.

  • Christine Sutherland

    I think the time is fast approaching when we must make all religion illegal unless a particular religion can prove that it has no desire to inflict itself on others in any way, shape or form. Is there a single religious leader who should not be hanging his or her head in abject shame?

    In a civilised world, why is Sharia even allowed to exist? International law should prohibit it unconditionally. Why are civilised countries even allowing people of pathological violent thought and action, with a pure hatred of women, to so much as cross their shores? Are we insane to stand by and watch as this goes on?

    In Australia recently, Geert Wilders was effectively banned from speaking about the dangers of Islam. Meanwhile we had the so-called “Islamic Peace Conference” in Melbourne this month, where Sharia law was called for, including cutting off the hands of thieves, and making women wear the hajib so they would not cause rape.

    Every Australian should be saying “What the …”

    Maldives is now well and truly off our radar for tourism. It is clearly not a safe place for women or children.

    However women and children are no longer safe in Australia, and getting less so by the day thanks to Islam.

    • Carla

      Not every religion banned. ONLY ISLAM! To think that a woman invites rape if her head is not covered…is absolute male STUPIDITY. Get control of your sex drives men and take responsibility for your wandering eyes and lustful selves. Geez!

  • moraka

    @Christine Sutherland

    You display clear ignorance towards islam, you praise Gert Wilders, who have shown racist tendensies against all foreingers in Holland and whants to make mulism secondary citizens in the west, you rant in an arrogant eurocentric culture chauvinistic manner. On top of it you talk about forcing other people when it comes to their religion, in a manner that only lunatics with whiteman supperiority complex can. Have you considered psyciatric help.

    • HonkyFronky

      You racist little turd.

      • moraka

        Considering that i havent said any racist comment, i will asume that you are just delarius. Seek medical attention.

    • http://www.facebook.com/scott9988 Scott Bayer

      Any religion that believes other religions dont have a right to exist is just plain evil. If a person cannot be convinced to switch to Islam he should be killed.Do you believe in that? Anybody that thinks that way is a backwards barbarian that does not deserve to coexist with other people.

      • moraka

        Have considered actually studing islam. I have a hard time taking your question serious.

        • Carla

          Moraka…if you are considering studying/converting to Islam…YOU need to seek medical help IMMEDIATELY! Islam is the ONLY current religion (I said CURRENT)…that has
          in it’s ‘holy’ book instructions to kill those who do not
          convert/believe in Islam. And it is the only religion that makes women cover themselves because their men can’t take responsibility and control their perverted sexual selves. It is the ONLY religion that tries to become the ‘law of the land’ (politics) to MAKE women responsible for the evil, sexual acts of men. INSANE ‘religion’ and you’re insane if you’re considering following such a backwards, uncivil, cruel and slave-inducing set of rules.

          • moraka

            Wow do you Carla have no ability to apeal. You first insult my intelligence by stating that i need medical help. Then you insult my intelligence again, by comming with a series of nonsensical lies, that tries to apeal to me in the belief, that i am an idiotic eurocentric culture chauvinist like yourself.

          • Carla

            Moraka, clearly you are a troll. Your unintelligible rants make no sense; all the while insulting everyone you respond to. Time for you to go away. Bye-bye now little troll.

      • Carla

        AGREED. Islam is the ONLY current religion (I said CURRENT)…that has in it’s ‘holy’ book instructions to kill those who do not convert/believe in Islam. Islam needs to be wiped off the face of the earth. I said ISLAM (which is the religious belief)….NOT muslims.

        • moraka

          Wow you are really just an escaped mental patient. You cant even hide your real intentions behind any sensible lies. You try to hide it by stating that you are a nazi, but you disagree with nazism. Go back to your mental insitute

          • Carla

            Moraka, clearly you are a troll. Your unintelligible rants make no sense; all the while insulting everyone you respond to. Time for you to go away. Bye-bye now little troll.

          • moraka

            Really Carla? thats your best insult? You dont even seem to have the caperbility to adress my acusation of eurocentrism and not only do you yourself insult, you even lie. You yourself are a troll.

          • Carla

            No insult Moraka. Just the plain truth. Troll.

          • moraka

            Grow up little child

          • Carla

            Troll.

  • HonkyFronky

    Anybody travelling to the Maldives on holiday should have 100 lashes administered at the airport.

    Travel to this country and you support the filthy Islamic politic and deserve to be treated in the barbaric manner they treat their children.

    Islam has no place in a progressive western society.

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  • JemRose01

    People who are bashing Islam for this. It’s disgusting. The ones who have stood up for the girl and the tweets are all from Muslims – supporting and seeking help from others to help this girl out. Anything to bash Islam with, you people are disgusting.

    • Carla

      If you are supporting Islam in ANY way…YOU need
      to seek medical help IMMEDIATELY! Islam is the ONLY current religion (I
      said CURRENT)…that has
      in it’s ‘holy’ book instructions to kill those who do not
      convert/believe
      in Islam. And it is the only religion that makes women cover themselves
      because their men can’t take responsibility and control their perverted
      sexual selves. It is the ONLY religion that tries to become the ‘law of
      the land’ (politics) via Sharia law to MAKE women responsible for the evil, sexual
      acts of men. INSANE ‘religion’ and you’re insane if support such a backwards, uncivil, cruel and slave-inducing set of
      rules. Muslims who follow Islam to a tee (all the Koran’s teachings)…are terrorists. The Muslims who do not follow Islam’s teachings to a tee are not considered ‘true Muslims’ and are, sadly, sheeples following a sick founder, a nonexistent Allah ‘god’, and really…very lost people.

    • annette

      I was once told by a Turkish woman that nowhere in the Koran does it state that a woman must cover up…the Koran states that all men and women must dress modestly. Women in most Muslim countries are not allowed to study the Koran, so men can interpret the Koran in any way they see fit….and in a way that suits them. Until Muslim women are allowed to study the Koran too, and challenge these made up laws, they will continue to suffer at the hands of insecure men. I have nothing against any religion but I do object to the hypocracy, and the controlling nature of men!

  • Rosalyn Wilcher

    What happened to the worthless mother who allowed her hubby to rape and impregnate her daughter and muder her grandbaby? What happened to the the rapist stepdad who murdered his own child? The only was to get this child some justice is to not visit so they can feel it in their pocketbooks? This is the horrible world we live in today it makes me ill.

  • Williaan

    Christine, Civilized countries do not exist yet, only a few civilized people

  • junojas@gmail.com

    A young girls is to be punished for something that was not her fault & all this people can think about how it affects tourism!!! I feel bad for the people that rely on that source for income but that cannot justify this so called punishment & make it go away so that tourism will continue to flourish. Wake up this is a human being, a beautiful woman who had her whole life ahead of her. As much as I respect all religions, I do not tolerate harm & violence to any being. I will certainly not travel to the Maldives, and any plans I had for a retreat there are on hold…

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