Human Rights organizations call for timely implementation of amendment criminalizing marital rape

Anti-rape protest in front of Gender Ministry headquarters on June 29, 2020 | Photo: Fayaz Moosa

Malé, Maldives – Eight organizations have welcomed the amendments to the Sexual Offences Act (No. 17/2014) by including marital rape as a punishable offense.

Uthema, Family Legal Clinic, Equality Now, RiseUp Maldives, Women and Democracy, Transparency Maldives, Hope for Women and Fem Health released a joint statement applauding the amendment to the law.

The organizations stated that while Maldives ratified the Sexual Offences Act (No. 17/2014) in 2014, various limitations had restricted justice of sexual abuse.

In their statement they welcomed the definition of various forms of sexual offenses, including marital rape among sexual offenses, and detailing accountability measures for various authorities.

This amendment [passed with unanimous votes by the Maldives parliament] opens the path to justice for victims of sexual offenses.

Human Rights Organizations

The organizations called for timely ratification and efficient implementation of the newly passed amendment as justice for victims are withheld even at present.

A similar amendment was passed by the parliament in January 2014. Former Maldivian President Yameen Abdul Gayyoom refused to ratify a law that would partially criminalize marital rape, calling it “un-Islamic.”

In an unprecedented move, the Maldives High Court in October 2020, sentenced Ibrahim Shah to three years in prison over the death of his separated wife Ziyadha Naeem in 2015. Ziyadha reported to the hospital of sexual assault by Shah before her passing.

The High Court referenced the Holy Qu’ran and Islamic Shariah, which detail a spouse’s right to deny consent in the guilty verdict.