The UN human rights chief urged the Maldives yesterday to end the "degrading" practice of flogging women found to have had sex outside marriage.
"This practice constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women, and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told parliament.
"I strongly believe that a public debate is needed in Maldives on this issue of major concern," she said calling for law reforms against discrimination against women.
She told reporters later that she discussed with Maldives officials how to end the practice.
"At the very least, pending more permanent changes in the law, it should be possible for the government and the judiciary to engineer a practical moratorium on flogging," she said.
According to the law, 30 lashes are given to women found to have committed adultery. Court officials would not give numbers on how many women are flogged in the conservative Muslim nation, but the punishment is usually done in public.
Pillay also urged authorities to improve poor, exploitative conditions for migrant workers, especially those from Bangladesh.
"Migrant workers are often abused, exploited and cheated of their hard-earned income by traffickers and unscrupulous employers in the Maldives," she said.
She added it was the state's responsibility to protect workers who are vital to the tourism industry in the South Asian island nation known for picturesque beach resorts.
On her three-day visit to Maldives, Pillay has also expressed concern about rising religious intolerance. The country of 300,000 people forbids practicing religions other than Islam.
She now heads to Indonesia for meetings on human rights in Southeast Asian countries.