x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Maldives court quashes public flogging of 15-year-old rape victim

A Maldivian court has overturned a public flogging sentence for a 15-year-old rape victim whose conviction sparked international outrage and focused attention on the Indian Ocean nation's treatment of women.

MALE // A Maldivian court has overturned a public flogging sentence for a 15-year-old rape victim whose conviction sparked international outrage and focused attention on the Indian Ocean nation's treatment of women.

The High Court issued a statement yesterday saying the girl, whose stepfather is on trial for raping her, had been wrongly convicted by a juvenile court of having premarital sex with another man.

The court said the sentence was handed down based on a confession that the child made while she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, adding she had been "unfit for trial".

The Maldivian government appealed on behalf of the teenager following an international outcry over the February sentence to punish her with 100 lashes when she reached the age of 18.

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was charged after police investigating a complaint that she was raped by her stepfather found that she had also been having consensual sex with another man.

Premarital sex is illegal in the Maldives, a popular honeymoon destination in the Indian Ocean, which observes elements of Islamic Sharia law as well as English common law.

Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed was "overjoyed" with the High Court decision, his spokesman said.

"It is the government's policy to protect victims, but we had to do it within the framework of the law," spokesman Masood Imad said.

Mr Imad said the girl would remain in state care, adding that government authorities had done everything they could to ensure she received proper care and protection.

He also lashed out at the international outcry over the case, saying the government had been unfairly targeted.

"Since the new government came to power (in February 2012), not a single flogging has been carried out in this country," he said.

The London-based rights group Amnesty International, which campaigned to spare the victim, said she should never have been put on trial in the first place.

"Annulling this sentence was of course the right thing to do," Polly Truscott, Amnesty International's Deputy Asia-Pacific Director, said in a statement.

"We are relieved that the girl will be spared this inhumane 'punishment' based on an outrageous conviction," she said.