An 80-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing an eight-year-old girl. The police said the suspect gave money to the girl and forced himself on the underage victim.
The elderly man was taken into custody by the upper north police division around 3:30pm yesterday based on information from a member of the public, the police said.
The police did not reveal either the identity of the suspect or the island from which he was arrested. A joint investigation by the police and the gender ministry is underway.
Earlier this month, 14 men and one woman were arrested on the island of Fuvahmulah on suspicion of forcing a 14-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl into prostitution.
Meanwhile, local NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) last week expressed concern with the “hidden epidemic of child abuse that continues unabated in the country”.
A total of 339 cases of child abuse were reported from January to June this year, ARC noted in a press release, which represented a significant increase compared to the previous year. A total of 423 cases were reported in 2014.
ARC noted that many cases of child abuse go unreported every year.
“ARC wishes to reiterate that it is a grave injustice to withhold information regarding cases of child abuse, and also a failure to fulfil a citizen’s legal responsibility,” the press release stated.
“ARC calls on the community to break the culture of silence and to report suspected abuse, in order to protect children from all forms of violence and abuse.”
The NGO also expressed concern over shortcomings in the child protection system and the legal framework currently in place.
“Vulnerable children still continue to be unprotected due to systematic flaws in the legal, judicial and social sectors tasked with the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in Maldives,” the NGO warned.
ARC urged the government to expedite the passage of new legislation on child protection, “while ensuring that provisions and principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child are fully reflected in the new Act.”
Meanwhile, following the arrests in the Fuvahmulah child prostitution case, opposition Jumhooree Party MP Abdulla Riyaz asked the parliament’s government oversight committee to investigate the failure to publicise a mandatory national registry of child sex offenders.
The former police commissioner noted that article 57 of the 2009 Child Sexual Abuse (Special Provisions) Act requires information about offenders to be made publicly available by the state agency responsible for the protection of children.
“In this regard, for the safety and protection of other citizens from offenders, and to eliminate possibilities for repetition of such offences, complete information about the offenders should be published in an internet website providing easy access to the information, and a mechanism should be established to identify offenders by their national identification numbers via short message service,” the provision states.