March 3, 2013

Progress in India Stagnated by Flogging in the Maldives

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In the wake of the Delhi bus rape tragedy, women’s issues have been pushed to the forefront of global politics.

In the wake of the Delhi bus rape tragedy, women’s issues have been pushed to the forefront of global politics. In January 2013, a 23-year-old medical student was gang raped on a public bus in New Delhi. The ruthlessness of the attack—the perpetrators violated her with an iron rod so brutally that the rod perforated her intestine—became infamous. Tragically, the girl eventually succumbed to her horrific injuries and passed away.

The public reaction was unprecedented. Thousands of protestors rioted in front of the India Gate and gathered in various other locations across the country. Women’s rights, a topic that was previously ignored, was suddenly at the forefront of Asian politics.

Unfortunately, there still is a long way to go. Just days ago in the Maldives, a 15-year-old girl has been sentenced to 100 lashes and up to eight months of house arrest as punishment for engaging in premarital sex.

The case is complicated. The girl’s stepfather sexually molested her on numerous occasions and allegedly murdered the baby that resulted from this rape.

Authorities in the Maldives claim that the girl is being punished for a separate sexual relationship with another man, which she confessed to having earlier that week. The man in question, however, has not been identified, located or charged with a crime.

The Maldives operates under a set of strict Sharia (Islam) laws that terms premarital fornication a crime. Masmood Imad, spokesman for the Maldivian administration, purports that the lashes are “not a painful process.” Instead, he maintained that the punishment is “ceremonial” and a “token exercise.”

Yet, it is nearly impossible to substantiate these statements.

A local political party, the Adhaalath Party, believes that the girl “deserves” the flogging, because that is the appropriate punishment dictated under Sharia law. The party issued a public statement asserting that no attention should be paid to advocacy groups who do not understand Islamic law.

One advocacy group that has spoken out against the flogging is Amnesty International, a human rights watchdog organization. Amnesty International is arguing that the physical pain is only half of what everyone should be concerned about. The floggings will only add to the psychological trauma that the girl has already experienced due to repeated sexual abuse by her father. In short, the physical punishment will lead to undue mental and emotional harm for the victim of sexual assault.

The government claims that administrators are attempting to overturn the court’s ruling in regard to the flogging. However, it is unclear if this claim is simply being used to appease human right groups and the international community.

This vicious punishment will likely diminish the legitimacy of the Maldivian government overseas. The administration is currently “pushing for re-election to the UN human rights council,” and the court’s ruling will almost certainly have devastating consequences with regard to the chances of the Maldives being reappointed to the council.

The United Nations issued a statement arguing that the girl’s sentence “amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or even to torture.” In a similar vein, Amnesty International stated that flogging violates the UN resolution outlawing torture.

Furthermore, the international outrage may have a negative effect on tourism, a vital part of the small island nation’s economy.

Hopefully the international media attention will force the government of the Maldives to reassess the brutality of its judicial system.

The law has already failed to protect this child. Let’s hope she is protected now.

Original Author: Monica Sharma

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