A 13-year-old girl who was raped and impregnated by a suspected member of a religious extremist group has been taken into state care.
Seven children from the same family were removed from their home island, police spokeswoman Izmia Zahir said. “The police and ministry of gender, family and social services have taken seven children, including six children and the baby born to the 13-year-old girl, into state care to ensure a safe environment for them,” she said.
Action was being taken over negligence towards the children, she added.
The other children include two boys aged 11 and 16 and three girls of two, eight and nine years of age.
Ismail Hammad, a 26-year-old man from Raa atoll Maduvvari, was arrested on Saturday over the alleged rape. DNA testing confirmed him to be the baby’s father, Superintendent Hussain Haneef told the press on Sunday.
The girl’s family was already under investigation for depriving children of education and healthcare when the 13-year-old’s pregnancy was reported on February 14, Haneef said.
Authorities previously said that police intelligence first learned of the family in June 2018.
“One year ago, we were working the case from a child protection angle and see what we could do,” Haneef said. “At the time we noticed the family as a family with religious extremist views and were investigating it as a case of negligence. We later learned that the girl was pregnant and gave birth.”
He added: “When we learned of the 13 year-old girl’s pregnancy we had case conferences with the relevant institutions. As the child’s father was serving a jail sentence at the time and since there were five other children in the family, authorities felt that the girl’s mother was the best person to support the girl even then.”
An official from the gender ministry said that children are taken to state care only as a last resort. “After discussing with the stakeholders, We decided that at the time it was the best thing for the child,” said the official, who wished to remain anonymous.
“Children are taken into state care only when there is no other option to look after the child within the family. We discuss with all stakeholders and can decide what is the best option for physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of the child. We can’t take children in unless we see something that is causing blatant harm to the child from the parents like in an environment of crime.
“State care is not a real option for a child. Children are taken only when there is absolutely no mechanism to live within society. The government’s policy is fostering, The care a child can get within a family is different from what the state can provide in institutional care.”