Hodjanernes Blog

31 januar 2008

Fredens religion står stærkt på Maldiverne.

Fire “mænd” som voldtog en 12-årig blev hårdt straffet : de fik to års ophold på en naboø.

A gang of four men cleared previously of raping a twelve-year old girl were sentenced to two years’ banishment for “forceful sexual assault” in a high court appeal case today.

But in defiance of previous government pledges, the court has not imposed any prison sentence.

The state had appealed following a ruling last July that the men were guilty of “consensual sex before marriage”, claiming the girl had agreed to have sex because she didn’t “scream out” after the men broke into her house.

The men were then sentenced to eight months’ exile from their home island, Lhaviyani atoll Kurendhoo, the minimum possible for sex outside marriage.

The High Court has now overruled the previous verdict, stating that sex was not necessarily consensual, and has increased the punishment.

But the victim’s father said he is concerned the men will be free to reoffend – echoing previous comments by local women’s and children’s organisations.

Banishment

The four men were sentenced to a total of two years’ banishment and fifteen lashings each. But the gang have already served part of their banishment sentence so face only eighteen months more in exile.

However the ruling directly contradicts a government commitment to the UN that child sex offenders would be imprisoned rather than banished.

The government had also pledged to change the law, which allows sex offenders to live and work among children on any island outside their own atoll.

The father of the victim, who has four children, said: “The government should not allow the criminal to have access to other children on other islands. No parent would want it.”

The Attack

The twelve-year-old was attacked on January 31 2007 when the group of four men, aged between 19 and 25, used an axe to smash the window of the her bedroom before taking her from her bed and having sex with her.

The father also alleged that, although the defendants were said to have been under house arrest in Male’ in the run-up to the trial, one of them, Ahmed Jaleel, had broken into a shop during that time.

He also told Minivan News that his daughter was “psychologically affected” by what had happened and has still not recovered.

In July, the judge noted “the girl had reached puberty” and found “she was a willing partner,” because she had not screamed, struggled or told her sister-in-law or stepmother about the event.

But on Tuesday, High Court Judge Ali Hamid said that the explanation given for the decision that sex was consensual was inconsistent with Maldivian legislation and Shari’ah law.

State Attorney Hussein Shameem said he believed the new sentence was “probably about average” for such a crime.

During the prosecution case, Shameem argued the minor could not give consent for something that was harmful to her. He also said that just because the girl did not struggle, it did not mean she had consented.

Defence Lawyer Mr Shaheem refused to comment on the case.

“Protect Our Children”

A number of high profile sexual offence cases in recent years have increased pressure on the government to confront the issue and reform the law.

Local NGO Rights for All launched a campaign last year to raise awareness.

And the lack of harsh sentencing has led to an online petition calling for legal reform.

With about 200 signatories, it demands that current gender minister Aishath Mohamed Didi “protect our children” by condemning lenient sentencing.

“How can four men, who raped a twelve year old, be sent to an island – possibly four separate islands – where there will be other vulnerable young females?” Aishath Velezinee, of women’s rights NGO Hama Jamiyya, said after the previous hearing.

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