A 23-year-old woman found dead in a narrow lane in Malé on January 7 was strangled to death, a postmortem examination conducted in India has revealed.
The police said today that Hawwa Zuha was murdered by a foreign man in a vacant room in a house called Laaluge in the Henveiru ward of the capital. The suspect is now in custody.
Two men aged 28 and 50 were arrested a day after Zuha’s body was found on the Dhoohimerimagu street in Galolhu.
The victim was from the island of Gan in Laamu atoll. She was reportedly in Malé during a break from a drug rehabilitation programme.
Zuha’s death was the first murder of 2016. Some 32 people were killed in violent crimes during the past five years.
The police have also received a preliminary autopsy report of a 37-year-old woman from the island of Thinadhoo who is said to have died of life-threatening injuries from marital rape in late December.
The postmortem examination, also conducted in India earlier this month, found signs of injuries on her forearms and head. The postmortem also found internal bleeding and established brain haemorrhaging as the cause of death.
The police are investigating the case as a homicide. A complete postmortem report is expected with a toxicology report and analysis of samples, the police said.
The woman, identified as Ziyadha Naeem, was hospitalised in Malé last month. Her husband was arrested in mid-December and remains under police custody.
Her death shocked the nation and sparked debate about the implementation of the 2012 Domestic Violence Act. The human rights watchdog, women’s rights groups, and opposition parties meanwhile called on the authorities to ensure justice for the victim.
The victim’s family had told local media that her condition worsened because she had kept the injuries secret. The family also accused the husband of sexually assaulting the victim with a sharp object.
The husband’s family have since denied the allegations.
According to the police, the victim did not report the rape and had sought treatment at the Thinadhoo regional hospital days after the incident.
Doctors recommended she travel to the capital immediately. In Malé, she sought help from a doctor at a private practice, who took her to IGMH, whereupon the Family Protection Authority was alerted to the case.
A police spokesman previously told The Maldives Independent that investigating officers were unable to question the victim as she was in critical condition.
An autopsy is important to determine “what her entire body had been put through during the assault, which cannot be determined just by doctor’s tests,” the spokesperson explained.
Some 338 cases of domestic violence were reported to the police in 2015, a significant increase from the 186 cases reported the previous year. Sexual offences also increased from 476 cases in 2014 to 531 cases last year.
A 2007 study by the gender ministry – the first comprehensive nationwide survey of domestic violence in the Maldives – had found that one in three Maldivian women between the ages of 15-49 had been a victim of sexual or physical abuse.