Hundreds of Maldivians took to the streets in southern Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Thinadhoo Island after a woman from the island was hospitalized with life-threatening rape injuries.
Some 350 people with a group called “Heylama anhenun” or “Let’s wake up, women,” organized marched in Thinadhoo with placards calling for an end to violence against women.
The placards read: “Traditions and norms are not an excuse to abuse women,” “We will not hide it, we will not tolerate violence” and “Let’s join hands to stop violence against women.”
Fathiath Shiuna, who organized the march, said Thinadhoo residents were horrified by the injuries a woman was subjected to by her estranged husband. The mother of three was hospitalized at the Intensive Care Unit in Male.
“Although there a lot of such cases being reported, this is the first time we have heard about such a violent and horrific case,” she said.
The woman was hospitalised last week. According to the police, she did not report the rape to the police, but went to the doctor days after the incident to seek treatment. The doctor recommended she travel to Malé immediately.
Local media, citing members of her family, said the husband had used sharp objects and chemicals to harm her. The man has since been arrested and remanded for seven days.
According to a UNFPA study, one in five women in the Maldives is abused by their intimate partners.
“We need to inform to the women in our island on services available, such as the Family and Child Service Center, and the rights afforded to them under the Domestic Violence Act,“ she said.
“The Family Protection Authority was informed and they filed the case with the Police. We arrested her husband two days later, a 40 year old man around 11:20 am on December 11,” the police official said.
“He is charged with sexual abuse and domestic violence. The husband has a right to be with his wife but not in an inhumane way such as this,” he added.
The victim’s family said her health is improving, but declined to comment further.
The woman has an 11 year old daughter along with two sons aged 15 and 17.
The ministry of law and gender ministry condemned the incident in a tweet, and promised action against the perpetrator.
We strngly condemn da horrific act of violence agnst da woman. Assure working 2gether & making evry possible effort to bring this to jsutice
— Min.Law&Gender (@Min_LawGender) December 13, 2015
Humaidha Abdul Ghafoor, a gender rights advocate, called on the state to take all necessary steps to ensure justice, especially since many victims refuse to press charges for various reasons.
“Victims of violence often do not want to pursue these cases maybe because they depend on the perpetrator for a livelihood, or he is the father of their children, or they don’t want to bring disrepute to their family,” she said.
“We now have a Domestic Violence Act. The state must look to the law when it comes to cases like these, to make sure that the survivors of violence come back to some kind of normality after such a traumatic experience.
“It is very clear what they must do, in addition to spreading to awareness to cases like this to institutions involved, the law also states the state must provide support and a rehabilitation mechanism for perpetrators. But this has not been done so far,” she said.
She also called on the public to refrain from victim-blaming.
“They always blame the victim. Why did she go see him? She must have done something. We fail to understand that for her it will take years or in some cases a life time to get over such an attack, to deal with this kind of degradation and raw violence,” she said.
The Domestic Violence act of 2010 recognizes any kind of violence in a domestic relationship as a crime. However, the law does not recognize marital rape as an offence.