Britons urged to boycott Maldives over sexist laws

As 15-year-old rape victim faces 100 lashes, women's rights groups have urged David Cameron to intervene

David Cameron faces calls to intervene in the case of a 15-year-old female rape victim sentenced to 100 lashes in the Maldives as new figures showed the appalling state of women's rights in the Commonwealth country.

British couples are being asked to avoid the Maldives as a honeymoon destination to force the country's government to overturn the conviction of the girl, who was given the draconian sentence after being raped by her stepfather.

Many of the 500,000 tourists who holiday on the "paradise" islands every year are unaware of the country's appalling record on women's rights, with not one single conviction for rape in the past three years.

The Maldivian government's own figures show that 90 per cent of people sentenced to flogging are female, while one in three women between the ages of 15 and 49 have suffered physical or sexual abuse over the past five years.

A new poll of Maldivians for the global campaign group Avaaz reveals that 92 per cent of people think laws to protect girls and women from sexual assault should be reformed, while 79 per cent think current systems are not adequate or fair. The Asia Research partners poll also reveals that 73 per cent think punishments for sexual crimes are unfair to women, while 62 per cent want a reintroduction of the moratorium on flogging.

More than two million people worldwide have signed an online petition on calling for the country's President, Mohammed Waheed Hassan, who seized power in a coup last year, to do more to protect women and children in the country.

Eva Abdulla, a Maldivian MP in the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, said yesterday: "Britain is an emerging tourist market for the Maldivian tourism industry. We need the British and all other tourists to be aware of just where they are going to when they book that ticket to the Maldives. Following the coup of 7 February 2012, everyone, including all the women, have been disenfranchised, robbed of their vote.

"Visiting tourists also need to be aware of the institutional discrimination against women within the judicial system. Consider the statistics on flogging: that 90 per cent of the cases are women. Consider the statistics on rape charges: 0 per cent success rate of prosecution, with the latest being the release of four men accused of raping a 16-year-old, on the grounds that there wasn't enough evidence.

"The British Prime Minister should highlight the issue. The increasing religious fundamentalism followed by the attempts to subjugate women, both politically and otherwise, should be cause for alarm. This is a country of traditionally very strong women. However, increasingly, the Adhaalath Party, a self-claimed religious party which is in alliance with the current government, uses the religious card to scare off women. We women MPs are often threatened whenever we speak against the party."

The girl's sentence is due to be carried out when she turns 18. She is currently living in a state-run care home. Avaaz has concerns about her well-being as they were denied access to the girl and have been given very little information about the level and quality of social care.

Ms Abdulla said women have been subjected to beatings, sexual harassment and imprisonment by the police, and many are being prosecuted on charges ranging from "obstruction of police duty" to using foul language at the police.

At the time of the sentencing in March, Sir Richard Branson wrote to President Waheed, who responded by saying he would review the case. Bianca Jagger, the human rights campaigner, said last night: "It shocks me to see the unconscionable levels of discrimination and violence that women and girls are facing in the Maldives. I call on those in power to address the systemic problems of gender discrimination, violence against women and girls and the culture of impunity. Gender equality is not only possible, but necessary."

Despite promises from the Maldives government, the 15-year-old girl still faces being flogged. Alice Jay, campaign director at Avaaz, said: "While honeymooners relax in paradise, a war against women is being waged in the Maldives, which the government is refusing to stop. Over two million people from around the world want them to act, and now 92 per cent of Maldivians want laws against rape and sexual abuse. President Waheed can easily pass a law banning flogging but refuses to act to end this medieval practice."

A Foreign Office spokesman said that following the girl's sentencing in March, officials at the British High Commission in Colombo, which covers the Maldives, spoke to the Maldivian Deputy Foreign Minister to convey Britain's "deep concern" at the decision. At the time, Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said he was "appalled" by the sentence, adding: "It is self-evident that a child subjected to such abuse should be treated as a victim, and given the appropriate counselling and legal help, and not be treated as a criminal."

Harmonious honeymoons

Maldives An appalling record on women's rights could keep honeymooners away. Barbados, with its excellence in literacy, education and sterling effort to protect citizens against climate change, is a great alternative.

Sri Lanka Widespread allegations of human rights abuses during and since the civil war will deter newlyweds. Samoa offers tranquillity in an island paradise while being a role model in the Pacific region for welfare and social cohesion.

Belize Human trafficking problems and laws that make it the only country in Central America to criminalise homosexuality make it off-putting as a honeymoon and tourism destination. Uruguay, however, has human rights laws that include the most liberal LG BT rights in South America.

Mexico Drug killings, narco-terrorism and general chaos should be sufficient to persuade those embarking on married life to divert to Costa Rica, ranked the No 1 Happiest Country in the Happy Planet Index.

South Africa Violence against women and children mar this popular honeymoon destination. But neighbouring Botswana also has attractive game reserves as well as a strong human rights record.

Kashmira Gander

people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
Life and Style

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

Technical Sales Manager

£45000 - £53000 Per Annum plus bonus plus package: The Green Recruitment Compa...

Humanities Teacher

£110 - £135 per day + Competitive Rates: Randstad Education Maidstone: Outstan...

SQL DBA/Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Data Warehousi...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor