News of a two year old child being raped by her father, grandfather and great grandfather broke this morning, riling up the entire nation.
It was initially reported on mainstream media that the unnamed toddler was raped by an elderly, in a southern island of the Maldives. Police confirmed that the case was filed to the authority on Thursday and refused to divulge further information of the location, including the island and atoll where the incident took place.
However, social media took the news by a storm and information on the details quickly came forward, naming and shaming the perpetrators of the heinous act. We have compiled a timeline of how the events and news of the matter unfolded.
Initial reports on social media
The news first surfaced on social media when an individual who goes by the name “Rash Serein” posted about it on facebook.
Serein detailed that the child lives with her drug addict parents and that the mother was taken to Male’ for medical reasons pertaining to her addiction on the 13th of December. She further wrote that the aunt of the child offered to look after the child, but that the father insisted on keeping the child with him where no other women live at.
It was reported that it was the aunt who discovered the horrific injuries sustained to the genital areas of the child, when changing her diaper. The child reportedly complained of pain and named the father as the person who hurt her.
The child was then rushed to the hospital where the extent of the injuries were described in the post as “injuries that would never heal.”
Serein accused the grandfather and great grandfather of being involved in the rape, further mentioning that the child had been taken into state custody and transferred to Male’ on Wednesday night. Serein mentioned that the child was to be handed over to relatives who have sworn to take care of her.
Other media reports confirmed that after 6 hours of examination, that the doctors were able to confirm that the child had been raped by more than one man.
News reported on mainstream media
Serein’s post quickly started going viral and had gotten more than 2800 shares by Friday evening. Main stream media was quick to catch on to the news and by Friday morning, all major local news agencies were reporting updates of the story every few minutes.
The reporting was fueled by the statements of several key figures of the government, politicians and social media activists all demanding that the perpetrators be punished to the full extent of the law, including the former President of Maldives Maumoon Abdul Qayyoom who took to twitter to describe his shock, stating that it is “difficult to believe and an act of animals.”
Many expressed the need for the Minister of Gender, Family and Social Services, Shidhatha Shareef to resign or be removed from office citing previous cases involving other children and of the child in question due to the negligence of the ministry during her tenure.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, Ahmed Mahloof jumped to defend his colleague on twitter, stating that while the perpetrators, who are animals in the guise of humans need to be punished to the full extent of the law, there is no room for Minister Shidhatha to be blamed for the rape of a child by her father, grandfather and great grandfather, as they are in the most responsible position to look after her.
Maldivian tweeters quickly shot back at him questioning how the ministry could let the child be in the sole care of a drug addict father. Others reflected on previous cases of neglect on the ministry’s side where children were put in harm’s way due to the failure of the ministry in providing safety, including those in state care. The case of Ibthihal, a boy who was murdered by his mother after being severely abused, despite the knowledge of the ministry was highlighted by many, as Ibthihal’s murderer has still not been brought to justice. Minister Shidhatha was a state minister of the Gender Ministry back then.
Findings of Maldivian social media detectives
Although the Police did not reveal any information on the case other than that a case of child rape is under investigation, Maldivian social media was quick to uncover details of the matter, including the identities of the rapists.
Major local news outlets revealed the names, age, address and island of the perpetrators along with photos. However, the Times of Addu will not be publishing any details on the perpetrators until confirmed by the authorities.
According to social media posts, the islanders were aware of the sexual predators and so were the authorities. Social media reports claim that the grandfather and the great grandfather have been questioned in relation to several other cases of sexual violence against children even as recent as 10 days back.
A video then surfaced on social media, taken by a child of of the same island, which shows and a child running screaming for her mother, after what sounds like an old man invites her to his room after offering her money, which she denied to accept. The child was playing with her friends on the road.
Local news outlet “Mihaaru” reported that the mother of the child who recorded the video confirmed that the man in the video was in fact, the great grand father of the child who was raped. The mother is also reported to have confirmed that this is the third time the man approached her child, inviting her to take part in sexual activity with him. “Mihaaru” reported that the video was taken as recent as last week and that the mother has since submitted the video to the Police.
According to the article, the man first approached the child in 2017, after which the mother immediately reported it to the authorities. However, the man then went on to abuse a three year old child of the same family, which was filed to court, however, to have not seen the light of justice.
It further reported that the man lives in front of the house of the child who took the video and that when the incident was reported to the police, they came in to question him, after which they told the mother that the man has been advised not to do so and that she was reassured it would not happen again.
The distraught mother, however has no trust in any authorities despite the Gender ministry visiting the island after the video went viral on social media, as the ministry failed to take proper action during the previous three times as well.
The grandfather of the child, who is reportedly an imam of a mosque in the island has also been arrested twice previously in relation to sexual violence against children, according to the article.
Police finally make arrests
At approximately 15:05 on Friday, police arrested a 62 year old male from GA. Kan’duhulhudhoo, who is reported to be the grandfather of the child in question. Later at around 15:25, police made another arrest from the same island, this time an 81 year old male, the great grandfather. Videos of both arrests were shared on Twitter and Facebook by the people of the island.
While no details were revealed by the police with regards to the identities of the perpetrators, speculators confirmed that they were in fact, the grandfather and great grandfather of the child.
Kan’duhulhudhoo Magistrate suspended over alleged sexual abuse
The two pedophiles arrested for raping their grand and great grandchild respectively, were taken to the GA. Kan’duhulhudhoo court for remand hearing. However, it was soon revealed that the Magistrate of the court, Hassan Didi has been suspended as authorities investigate a sexual abuse allegation against him.
Police spokes person, Izmia Zahir confirmed the suspension of the magistrate and that the Family and Child Protection Department of the Maldives Police Service is investigating a matter against the Magistrate. No further details were revealed to the press.
Ministry finally makes a statement
After much delay and much pressure on social media, the ministry finally released a statement sometime during the afternoon of Friday.
“On 15th January 2020, upon receiving a complaint to the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services, that a child belonging to an island of south Maldives has sustained physical injury, work done with relevant authorities have found that the injury sustained by the child is of sexual nature.
Therefore, in order to provide the necessary health care as well as to ensure the safety of the child, the child has been removed from the family and transferred to a safe location, after discussions with relevant authorities.
The Ministry is working with Maldives Police Service with regards to this case.”
Protests in Male’ and social media outbursts continue
As more and more people became involved in the conversation, discussions soon began on Twitter to formulate a protest and within minutes, posters came out, with a full fledged protest organized within a matter of a couple of hours. The post went viral and hundreds took to the roads of Male’ in front of the Gender Ministry to voice out against the negligence of the ministry in ensuring the safety of the child, despite the risk factors.
A video of the Minister walking among the crowd emerged in social media, which then took a turn for the worse for the Minister and she answered questions of reporters. One reporter asked why the Minister walked quite a distance (before stopping to answer the questions), to which the Minister replied, “It is my Friday, so (I) should walk about a bit”.
Minister Shidhatha’s cool response to a much delicate and critical matter made her the center of even more criticism, strengthening the belief of those who demand that she be removed from office due to incompetency. As expected, this added fuel to an already very hot fire on social media.
While those who could attend the protest did so, social media advocacy continued on demanding justice for the child and punishment to the perpetrators. Many called out for the capital punishment as stated in the Islamic Shari’ah while some suggested that it would only be ideal with a proper judiciary.
Minister responds to resignation demands
As pressure build up on the Minister with demands for resignation, she addressed it while speaking to the press at the protest in front of the Ministry on Friday evening.
The Minister highlighted that the responsibility of the Ministry is to safeguard children and to work with the abused, and not arresting and investigating people. She also highlighted that in order to do so, they are working with the relevant investigative authorities.
Responding to a question on whether she believes that she should resign from office, the Minister stated that “I will only resign if given the guarantee that there would be no more sexual abuse cases against children after my resignation.”
She further mentioned that the work of the ministry is improving day by day and that the ultimate goal is to end all violence against children, for which a lot of work is being done by the ministry.
“I can challenge and say that more work is being done proactively by the Gender Ministry on creating awareness during this administration than any other before.”
Shedding light on to the case, the Minister stated that the child in question has been transferred to a safe location and that it (the safety of the child) would be ensured prior to handing the child over to her relatives.
Local news outlet “Sun” reported that the minister proceeded to speak with the protestors after speaking with the press.
Arresting the father
While the grandfather and the great grandfather accused of raping the child were arrested from their native islands, the father of the child, who is also accused of being party to the abuse towards by the islanders had reportedly fled.
However, his location was soon revealed and many gathered near the China flat number 108 of Hulhumale’ where the father was reportedly staying at. A glass window of the flat was shattered during an altercation that took place during the gathering while a police officer was left injured.
Police officers attended the scene in riot gear armed with shields, after a while which a 33 year old male was extracted from the flat 108. Police have confirmed that the individual has been arrested and transferred to Dhoonidhoo.
Videos taken from the area at that time published on social media show angry mobs of people shouting and harming a man as police struggled to keep him safe while leading him out of the area. While many believed the man lead by the officers was the perpetrator, others were not so quick to believe so.
Another video rotating on social media from the area at that time showed the police taking away a man wearing a helmet. The videos were captioned stating that the actual perpetrator was taken away in police uniform with a helmet on while police decoyed an officer initially.
Several civilians were reportedly arrested and police are reported to have used pepper spray at the angry protestors in that area.
Response from other authorities
The Prosecutor General of Maldives, Hussain Shameem stressed on the importance of expediting the investigation on cases involving child abuse. He revealed that the PG office is working closely with the Police to do so. The PG Office has also called on to the Police to investigate the case of the old man inviting a child for sexual activity caught on video.
The Human Rights and Gender Committee of the Parliament of the Maldives has also decided to investigate the matter. A meeting was held at 20:30 on Friday night to investigate the matter further. The meeting concluded that all concerned authorities shall be brought before the committee for questioning, including the Family and Child Protection Department of Police, Criminal Court, Gender Ministry and the Kan’duhulhudhoo Council along with the Prosecutor General’s Office during tomorrow night’s committee meeting at 21:00.
The committee chair, MP of Hinnavaru Constituency stated that the grandfather accused in this case already has a prior pending case of over one year, with regards to sexual violence towards another child and that it is of concern that cases such as this take so much time to close.
MP of Addu Meedhoo Constituency highlighted that such cases are not new cases and that children’s right to safety is being compromised due to the negligence in investigating such matters. “If we act fast, more children can be saved from such issues.” Rozaina stated. She also highlighted that two uniformed officers of the MNDF are still on active duty, without any repercussions despite having allegations of child rape against them.
MP of Holhudhoo constituency called for an “overhaul” of the Gender Ministry to bring an end to such issues.
Minister of Home Affairs, Imran Abdullah also addressed the issue via tweet, saying that “No authority of this administration will take the matters of sexual violence against children lightly. Although information might not be revealed at a rate expected by the public in order to conceal the identity of the child and to prevent the re-victimization of the child, relevant measures are being taken.”
“With regards to the unfortunate incident that has taken place, the Police and the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services are taking all measures required. The child was taken into state custody within two hours of the incident being reported and the accused have been arrested.”
“Such issues can only be solved permanently and all vulnerable persons of the society can only be ensured safety, when the entire community does their part.” The minister stated via his tweets.
The Human Rights Commission of Maldives also released a statement with regards to the matter. The statement condemned the actions of the perpetrators and stated that an investigation is underway to identify all authorities in negligence or party to the issue. The Commission called for the pedophiles to be punished to the full extent of the law.
However, many on social media were infuriated by the statement which included personal details of the child including the island and accurate age of the child, which may compromise her identity. Those who spoke against it cited the Article 54 of ” Special Provisions Act to Deal with Child Sex Abuse Offenders”, which states that “It is not permissible by this law to publish or release any information pertaining to a child who is a victim of a crime stated in this law. All hearings of cases with regards to this law shall be closed to the public.”
Remand hearings of the grandfathers
Both grandfathers were ordered to be remanded for 15 days by the Gemanafushi Court. After the initial attempt at a remand hearding at Kan’duhulhudhoo magistrate court failed due to the suspension of the magistrate, the authorities then tried to take them to Villingili. However, the people of Villingili protested and did not allow the men to be taken onto their island, due to which they were taken to Gemanafushi, reported “Mihaaru”.
The people of Gdh. Thinadhoo gathered onto the harbour following rumours that the men would be held in custody of the Thinadhoo Police. However, the pedophiles have since been transported to Kaadedhhoo, confirmed “Sun”.
The men were trasferred to Kaadedhhoo at approximately 01:12 on Saturday morning and taken to the MNDF station via an MNDF vehicle.
“Sun” reported that the perpetrators are said to be transferred to Male’ soon.
Police request the public to refrain from sharing images of the victim
Many have grown curious over the identity of the victim, and taken it upon themselves to identify the child. Some have succeeded and have even started sharing the images of the child on various social media platforms. Police have reminded the public to refrain from any such activity as it would prove detrimental to the child and would contribute to the re-victimization of the child.
Editors note: “The Times of Addu” categorically condemns any and all forms of violence towards anyone, specially those who are vulnerable and depend on the society and state to keep them safe. We call upon all authorities to expedite the process of ensuring that the perpetrators see justice to the full extent of the law and prevent such incidents from taking place in the future. As a media, we assure the public that we will be doing our part in making the authorities accountable, while bringing you the most up to date news with regards to the case. The welfare of the child is our utmost priority in this matter and we will do everything under our control to ensure that we do not compromise the child in quesion.