The entire state must bear responsibility for the the disappearance of a 14-year-old boy while under state care, Minister of Gender, Family and Social Services Shidhatha Shareef told lawmakers on Monday.
The under-fire minister appeared in parliament for questioning over the disappearance of Shaim Abdulla, who ran away from the Kudakudhinge Hiyaa children’s home in the capital’s suburb Vilimalé on June 18. Police found him after nearly two weeks in a private residence in Malé.
“I believe the entire state should bear responsibility,” Shidhatha said in response to a question posed by independent MP Hussain Mohamed Latheef.
While her ministry should be largely held accountable, she said the protection of children under state care should be the responsibility of all state institutions.
Defending the response to the incident, Shidhatha said the nearest police station along with the police Family and Child Protection department were informed about Shaim’s disappearance as soon as it came to the ministry’s attention.
An employee at the children’s home was suspended and the gender ministry formed a subcommittee to investigate and compiling a report on the 14-year-old’s disappearance, she said.
Pressed by MPs about her decision to disclose the minor’s entire case history during a press conference, Shidhatha denied revealing any personal information about the child in question.
A lot of information that she did not share with the press was circulated by mainstream and social media, she insisted, adding that she had a legal obligation to address misinformation.
Asked whether children’s homes were equipped well enough, Shidhatha reiterated that “the responsibility to protect [these] children must be undertaken by the entire state.”
According to the gender minister, Kudakudhinge Hiyaa currently houses 42 children between 13 and 18 years of age. The centre was understaffed with only 29 employees to provide services, she added, stressing the lack of resources and staff.
New legislation was also needed for child protection, she continued, suggesting that the present law enacted in 1991 was outdated and need of revision.
Two people were arrested earlier this month in connection with Shaim’s disappearance. The boy is now under the care and protection of the gender ministry, Shidhatha said.
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