The criminal court on Monday fined a man MVR200 (US$13) for hitting his wife during a domestic dispute in March 2013.
Ali Zuhair, from the Henveiru Lakeside house in Malé, was convicted of assault based on the prosecution’s evidence and witness testimony. He was ordered to pay the fine to the court within seven days.
Zuhair was charged under the old penal code, which carries a penalty of either six months in prison, six months of house arrest, or a fine of MVR200 for assault.
The new penal code, which came into force in July last year, has a jail sentence of up to four years for assault depending on the severity of the case.
But the constitution prohibits imposing a more severe penalty than the one applicable at the time the offence was committed.
The old penal code was enacted in the 1960s. The fines in the outdated law were not adjusted for inflation.
Yesterday’s verdict has caused outrage on social media.
A similar case in May 2015 where a man was fined MVR200 for assaulting his wife and shoving her onto the deck of a fishing boat had also sparked outrage from the public and women’s rights advocates.
“We get a hefty MVR750 (US$49) just as a parking violation fine. With this sentence, beating a woman means less than a parking ticket,” opposition MP Rozaina Adam told the Maldives Independent at the time.
Such sentences “encourage similar abuses instead of acting as a deterrent,” she said.
Meanwhile, in January, the death of a marital rape victim from the island of Thinadhoo shocked the nation and prompted debate about the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act.
Ziyadha Naeem, 37, died of life-threatening injuries from marital rape. A postmortem examination conducted in India found signs of abuse.
Ibrahim Shah, her 40-year-old husband, was arrested in mid-December. His trial began last month but proceedings were closed to the public.
He was charged with marital rape under the sexual crimes law as well as manslaughter and negligent homicide under the new penal code.
If he is found guilty of manslaughter, Shah could be jailed for up to 15 years. The punishment for negligent homicide is a jail term of no more than four years.
Marital rape using a weapon carries a jail sentence of three to five years.
Some 338 cases of domestic violence were meanwhile reported to the police last year – a significant increase from the 186 cases reported the previous year. Sexual offences also increased from 476 cases in 2014 to 531 cases in 2015.
A 2007 study by the gender ministry – the first comprehensive nationwide survey of domestic violence in the Maldives – found that one in three Maldivian women between the ages of 15-49 was a victim of sexual or physical abuse.