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Maldivian women #OccupyReygandu to demand safe public spaces

Female-only events took place Friday night.



Maldivian women demanded safe public spaces on this year’s International Women’s Day by congregating for female-only events across the country.

Occupy Reygandu (Night) gathering took place Friday night in the capital Malé and the two southern cities of Fuvahmulah and Addu as well as in Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

“It was great to see such energetic, involved and aware young women. Horrified to hear the stories and hope much more can be done for safe public spaces,” said former foreign minister Dunya Maumoon, who attended the get-together in Colombo.

The events served as a platform to share stories of street harassment and abuse faced by women in their daily lives, especially during night-time.

“Occupy Reygandu was great. I didn’t have to be alert, I could just be in public. I almost didn’t want to leave. The only creepy thing that happened tonight was seeing dudes stand right outside just watching as if to remind us ‘the patriarchy is still waiting’,” an attendee tweeted.

In Malé, women gathered at the Sultan Park, where security was maintained by female police officers. There were music performances from female artists as women danced and enjoyed the night.

“Thank you for allowing my identity a safe space with all of you, to exist firstly, and to speak, unapologetically, as I am and no less,” one woman tweeted.

“Imagine being able to wear anything you wanted and not feel objectified. Dance without worrying about someone coming and groping you. Being able to talk openly without worrying about anything. What a good feeling,” echoed another woman.

According to a 2015 survey, 96 percent of Maldivian women face street harassment, with 60 percent experiencing it before the age of 14 and 40 percent before the age of 10.

Most street harassment victims – 89 percent – said they did not report incidents to the police. 

Street harassment includes unwanted whistling, leering, persistent requests for someone’s name, number or destination after they’ve said no, sexual names, comments and demands, flashing and groping.