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Two-thirds of Maldivians back moratorium on flogging: survey

Maldives on 26 June 2013
Location : Maldives | Source : Minivan News Image Source: Minivan News

Nearly two-thirds of Maldivians support a moratorium on flogging, according to the results of a survey conducted by Asia Research Partners and social activism website Avaaz.org.

The survey, the first of its kind to be conducted in the Maldives, found an “overwhelming” 92 percent of Maldivians believe that laws and systems to protect women from sexual assault should be reformed.

Of those polled, 62 percent supported an outright moratorium on the practice of flogging, while 73 percent declared existing punishments for sexual crimes were unfair to women.

Moreover, only one in five of those surveyed said current systems and laws were “adequate or fair”, according to a statement issued by Avaaz.

“While honeymooners relax in paradise, a war against women is being waged in the Maldives which the government is refusing to stop. Over two million people from around the world want them to act and now 92 percent of Maldivians want laws against rape and sexual abuse. President Waheed can easily pass a law banning flogging but refuses to act to end this medieval practice,” said Avaaz Campaign Director, Alice Jay.

“The poll flies in the face of the country’s parliamentarians who have claimed it would be “political suicide” to outlaw flogging and have done nothing to stop the practice, but instead given in to hard-line Islamist calls for harsher Sharia punishments.”

The survey was conducted across Male’ and Hithadhoo in Seenu Atoll in May 2013 by Asia Research Partners, both over the phone and through face-to-face interviews. All respondents were aged over 18 years.

‘Horror in paradise’ petition

The survey comes months after a case in which a 15 year-old rape victim wassentenced to 100 lashes and eight months’ house arrest for a separate offence of fornication garnered substantial international attention and condemnation.

The 15 year-old’s case attracted worldwide media attention and was widely condemned by international organisations and other nation states. Media condemnation was particularly strong in the UK and Germany, two of the Maldives’ most significant tourism markets.

In March, an Avaaz petition calling for the repeal of the sentence and a moratorium on flogging in the Maldives collected more than two million signatures – a figure more than double the number of tourists who visit the country annually.

“Since the campaign launched four months ago, Avaaz has been in discussions with the Maldivian government officials who have so far refused to take action on this issue,” the organisation said in a statement.

“Despite promises from the Gender Ministry, the President’s Office, the Attorney General’s office and the Foreign Ministry, this 15-year old child still faces the flogging sentence and far from ending this practice, some Maldivian political parties are calling for even harsher punishments.

“As a result of their failure to act, Avaaz is now planning to run hard hitting targeted adverts urging President Waheed and several parliamentarians who own some of the major Maldivian resorts, to act,” the organisation declared.

Stalling

After the sentencing initially made international headlines, President Mohamed Waheed issued a statement expressing “deep concern” over the verdict and pledging an appeal.

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