The Maldives police has launched a probe of sexual harassment and assault allegations against the former foreign minister Dr Mohamed Asim, his successor told the press Thursday.
Asim faced multiple accusations of sexual harassment in the workplace, sources confirmed to the Maldives Independent in early November.
A highly-placed source from the foreign ministry confirmed that Asim was accused of sexual harassment by at least four women, all of whom are junior civil servants. The incidents were reported through the ministry’s internal mechanisms and senior officials were aware of the accusations, said the source.
Earlier this week, Asim denied the allegations on Twitter and deleted his account.
Responding to a question by the Maldives Independent, new Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid said police have informed the ministry that an investigation was under way.
“Very serious allegations were levelled inside this ministry and a committee formed under law [Sexual Harassment and Violence Prevention Act] is looking in to it,” he said.
“There are two parts to allegations like this. One part is the criminal element of it. Ministry of Foreign Affairs or any other workplace cannot conduct a criminal investigation. So the authority that has to conduct a criminal investigation in to such allegations is already investigating the case.”
A report was expected from the ministry’s committee that investigated the allegations, he added, pledging to take action in line with recommendations.
The ministry’s staff are 80 percent female, he noted.
“To ensure a safe work environment for all, we need to make it acceptable to openly talk about the issue. Everyone will talk about it [sexual harassment and creating safe work environments]. The staff need enough trust [in the system] so that they can say ‘No. That is unacceptable’ without hesitation,”
According to the Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Act, employers are responsible for investigating, taking action and protecting survivors in cases of sexual abuse.
Impunity for perpetrators is a big challenge faced by Maldivian women who have encountered workplace sexual harassment.
In 2015, Mohamed Fahmy Hassan – a Civil Service Commission member who was removed from the post by parliament for sexually harassing a staff member – was appointed as the Maldives high commissioner to Malaysia.
He remains in the post despite calls by women’s rights activists for his dismissal.