The Meraki Coffee Roasters in the capital was vandalised on Saturday night after a former employee faced online harassment for wearing a suit.
A report of bricks thrown at the café window was made around 11:13pm, police said. A pane of glass was smashed and a note was left with a threatening message that read: “Women [expletive] don’t be men! Men don’t be women!”
According to eyewitnesses, the men who threw the bricks came on four motorbikes. When they failed to break the window after throwing the first brick, they broke the glass with a second brick and stuck the post-it note on the window.
No arrests have been made so far.
The attack came after former employee Inas Ismail ‘Eena’ faced harassment for wearing a suit to the Maldives Film Awards last week. Inas, who has a background in film studies, was a member of the judge’s panel. Days after the event, a local tabloid accused her of committing a sin by cross-dressing, after which Inas was targeted for abuse and hate speech on social media.
The former barista was labeled as irreligious and accused of being a lesbian. Islam is the state religion of the Maldives and homosexual relations are criminalised in the country.
Following the accusations, Eena tweeted: “I was met with hatred but I don’t wish to respond in kind; though it’s cost me my safety and alienated me from my family, I stand firmly by my values, unafraid, hoping that no one has to face what I’ve endured.
She urged women who wished to show solidarity to post photos wearing suits with the hashtag #SuitsMe. “As far as I know, wearing a suit and looking damn good in one isn’t a crime,” she added.
Women across the country, including lawmakers and politicians, responded with photos and defended women’s right to wear clothing of their choice.
Meraki also faced harassment online ahead of the government’s decision to dissolve human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network. In October, several people called on the government to close or ban Meraki, claiming the café was a hangout for liberals and secularists.
Photo of Meraki from Raajje.mv