The body of a marital rape victim who died of life-threatening injuries last week has been sent to India for a postmortem examination.
The 37-year-old woman from the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaal atoll was hospitalised in Malé last month. Her husband was arrested in mid-December and remains under police custody.
A police spokesman previously told The Maldives Independent that investigating officers were unable to question the victim as she was in critical condition at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.
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.
The autopsy or postmortem will be conducted today, the police said, after which the victim’s body will be brought back to the Maldives for burial.
The police have also said that the serious and organised crime department together with the family and child protection department are investigating the death as a murder case.
The marital rape victim’s death shocked the nation and sparked debate about the implementation of the 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 kept the injuries secret. The family accused the husband of sexually assaulting the victim with a sharp object.
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.
However, the husband’s family has denied the allegations of marital rape, claiming in a statement on Friday that she died of kidney failure caused by pneumonia.
The deceased had told her sister-in-law that she was suffering from infected hemorrhoids, the husband’s family said.
But the IGMH media official told The Maldives Independent that she died “due to brain haemorrhaging.” The victim was unconsciousness and breathing through a ventilator at the intensive care unit.
The husband’s family also criticised the media for what they called biased and irresponsible reporting. The husband has a constitutional right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, the family said.
However, the gender ministry had said that the Thinadhoo woman was a victim of domestic violence and pledged to work with the FPA and the police to seek justice.
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.