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Paradise For Honeymooners, Island Of Broken Marriages; Why Everyone In Maldives Is Getting Divorced?

in Lifestyle by

The Maldives- almost invisible on the world map, often ignored in world statistics for its tiny size in the vast Indian Ocean- has made it to the map, unfortunately for highest divorce rate!

Courtesy: The Telegraph

The Sunni Muslim island with just 3,45,023 population has the divorce rate of 10.97 per year per 1,000 inhabitants followed by Russia at the second spot with less than half the number of divorces as Maldives, according to a report by The Telegraph.

The number makes the Maldives enter the Guinness World Records, and according to United Nations, an average Maldivian woman has been divorced three times by the age of 30.

“The island of a thousand honeymoons. And … a thousand divorces,” writes journalist Shannon Sims calling it ‘the paradise where everyone is divorced’.

The reason, most arguably, points out to Islam, Sharia laws, stigma around sex, and sexuality of a woman.

Divorce- No Taboo!

Photo Courtesy: Kurumba

J J Robbinson, the former editor of the Maldives Independent, in his first investigative account of the everyday lives of Maldivians, writes that the country has exploited Islamic sentiments for subordinating women in the country by criminalising pre-marital sex or extramarital sex leading to higher divorce rate. “Tourists on romantic resort getaways blissfully sun themselves on beaches a few hundred feet from ‘local’ islands where Maldivian women are routinely sentenced to 100 lashes for the crime of extramarital sex,” he writes.

He cites observations made by famous Islamic explorer Ibn Battuta where he argues that in the Maldivian culture where people do not fix dowry makes it easier for them to married.

“It is easy to marry in these islands because of the smallness of the dowries and the pleasures of society which the women offer,” Battuta wrote in the 14th century. “Most people do not even fix any dowry. When the ships put in, the crew marry; when they intend to leave, they divorce their wives. This is a kind of temporary marriage (muta). I have seen nowhere in the world women whose society was more pleasant.”

And for getting divorced, a man has to say ‘I divorce you’ three times under the triple talaq Islamic law. Women, though, has to go through a legal process but interestingly there is no stigma around getting divorced, unlike pre-marital sex. “I recall one recently married fisherman boasting that his new wife had been married six times; this, he explained with a sly wink, meant she was experienced. The figure was about average for a woman in her forties,” Robbinson writes.

Patriarchy, Like Everywhere, Rules The Marriage

Photo Courtesy: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Besides, the religious-cultural nexus to higher divorce rate, the much universal patriarchal mindset and the resulting sexual and domestic violence are also the reasons for the overwhelming trend.

Nearly 33 per cent women in the country are reportedly victims of sexual of physical violence and of them, nearly 20 per cent are perpetrated by their partners, and to most Maldivians it is quite acceptable or even desirable for a husband to beat his wife, or have physical or sexual supremacy.

A 29-year-old, who felt obliged to marry her boyfriend after having sex with him at the age of 15; who later became a victim of his violent nature, says as quoted by Maldives Independent,

Maldives may rank highest in the world for divorces, but at least the ease in getting a divorce ensures women or men do not stay in abusive or unhappy relationships

In December last year, the Maldives had a meltdown when a 35-year-old woman from Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo died after fighting a long battle in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Male. She was brutally raped by her husband.

Her death was followed by marches, social media activism but proved that a little has been changed since the government passed Domestic Violence Prevention Act in 2012.

Polygamy- Men’s Duty To Keep Women On Right Path

divorceIn March this year, during gender equality debate in the People’s Majlis, MP Ahmed Saleem held women responsible for infidelity and suggested that it was a man’s duty to keep them on right path.

Saleem said, ” Women drive men to mental illnesses and crime because of their infidelity. Women are fragile like glass. They can become anything if we do not know how to look after them. The prophet said if a women turns evil, she is worse than a lion… We try to guard them to reform our societies,” he continued giving example of a fellow MP who has three wives, “There is none better than Riyaz Rasheed. Look, he looks after three women to ensure that they do not stray from the right path. This is our duty.”

The PPM dominated 85-member Majlis, where there are just 5 women MPs, threw out the proposal for reserving quotas for women 36 votes that day.

Equal Pay For Equal Work, But Is It Enough?

Later in August, Social Committee of the Parliament passed the gender equality bill prohibiting gender discrimination in employment fields assuring equal pay for equal work but no effort was put in reforming social fabric of the fundamentals of Islamic ruling where death for infidelity, covert abortions to hide the “illegal” out-of-wedlock child & polygamy are rampant.

Former State Minister for Gender and Family, Haala Hameed speculates that more women entering workforce is also one of the reasons for higher divorce- as there is no basic childcare facility and working women are often seen negatively causing tension withing families leading to higher divorce rate.

UN Young Leader Safaath Ahmed Is Winning The Internet And Here’s Why

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Donning a burqa, when Safaath Ahmed Zahir- UN Young Leader for Sustainable Development Goals from the Maldives- spoke about women empowerment in New York, she won the internet.

Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ ‏@UNYouthEnvoy
Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ ‏@UNYouthEnvoy

The Queen’s Young leader said more number of women in Parliament and more women Presidents will take the world closure to global goals.

More women in Parliament, in policy-making, as Ministers, and more women Presidents- that’s my vision, Safaath said while addressing the Social Good Summit in New York.

The women’s activist and a proclaimed feminist from the small Indian Ocean archipelago, Safaath is among the 17 people appointed as the inaugural class of UN Young Leaders for Sustainable Development Goals.

Safaath, who has emerged as one of the youngest face in the Maldives, quickly got attention over her vision and best wishes started pouring in.

Safaath also spoke about the ongoing international issue of migrants and refugees along with her fellow young leaders.

The 25-year-old could not contain her excitement over meeting the celebrities, social and political leaders who were also present at the event for the good cause, including actors Mark Ruffalo and Preity Zinta.

Selected from over 18,000 nominations from 186 countries, Safaath has been recognised for her leadership and contribution to the achievement of the 17 Global Goals, also known as Sustainable Development Goals- to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the young leaders and said,

“These 17 young change-makers are a testament to the ingenuity of youth and I congratulate them for their exceptional leadership and demonstrated commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The flagship initiative of the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth comes against a backdrop of increasing efforts by the UN to engage young people in the implementation of SDGs.

2 Years Of Ahmed Rilwan’s Abduction; Suspects Freed; An Epitaph Of Govt’s Failure

in News by

It’s been more than 700 days. It will be two years on August 8 since the time Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan is missing. On the 713th day, two suspects- who were arrested in connection with the abduction- were freed stirring anguish among people at a time when the country is already reeling under international denunciation of clampdown on press.

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The demand to find Rilwan has gained momentum once again after the release under the hashtag #FindMoyameehaa

Meanwhile, a Twitter user even asked ex-President and PPM leader Mumooon Gayoom to help find Rilwan amid the power play with his half-brother Yameen.

Two Suspects Freed, Mastermind Absconded!

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Criminal Court released the two suspects held in Rilwan’s Abduction on Wednesday while the mastermind abducted long back for which the family members of Rilwan held police responsible for discrepancies in investigation.
Two suspects- Ahmed Aalif Rauf and Mohamed Nooruddin- were arrested on April 5 by police for allegedly abducting Rilwan in September 2014.

29-year-old Aalif, a resident of H. Hilton, Male’ and 31-year-old Noordaddin, a resident of Karankaage, G. Dh. Vaadhoo were allegedly abducted Rilwan in a red car on the orders of Mohamed Suaid- who fled the country after being released by criminal court in November 2014.

Both the suspects were on remand of the police and were also transferred to house arrest for a brief period of 10 days.

Police Investigation


Police after investigating the case in April this year established that Railwan was abducted at knife point and said that members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang were involved.

The gang followed Rilwan for over two hours in the red car- owned by Aarif- that was brought to Hulhumalé on August 1 and brought back to Malé in mid-August that year.

Police also confirmed that the abduction was well planned in advance but declined any political connection to which Rilwan’s family, friends and supporters strongly objected.

What Really Happened That Night?

On August 8, 2014, around 12.44 am Rilwan was seen taking a ferry at Hulhumalé terminal. He reached suburb island after 25 minutes upon which he did not take a bus according to a eye witness who was a fellow passenger with Rilwan on the ferry.

It was between 1.30 am and 2.00 am when Rilwan’s neighbours saw someone forcing Rilwan in a car at knife point in front of his apartment. The abductors dropped the knife that night which was later recovered by police, Rilwan’s friend claims which police declined.

Rilwan was 28 years old when he was abducted on that chilling night and was a target of many religious and extremists group for his reports. “Rilwan had received numerous death threats for his criticism of religious extremist groups and had reported being followed by a man suspected of involvement in a near-fatal attack on a blogger in 2012,” one of his friends claimed.

“We believe he was abducted but we’ve not got any leads,” The Independent quoted his brother, Moosa Rilwan as saying. “We believe he was abducted by people to stop his freedom of speech; to stop him writing about politics and radicals.”

UN’s Intervention & Govt’s Indifference

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance (WGEID), taking cognizance of Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) request to intervene in the case, summoned government to respond to the case filed regarding Rilwan’s abduction and government’s involvement in the case.

The government, however, rejected any such claims and said “rejected any suggestion that it is responsible for the disappearance of Rilwan or that it has had any involvement as alleged or at all.” and claimed that it was police’s “highest priority” to investigate his case and the perpetrators will be brought to “justice”.

The government also stated that the “initial delay” of the crucial first five days in the reporting of the disappearance and certain other challenges affected “prompt investigation into such a complex matter”.

But, soon after government’s claims, Zaheena Rashid, the editor of Maldives Independent lashed out government for telling “lies” to the UN and claimed that his Rilwan’s neighbours reported the abduction minutes after the incident.

The Possible Nexus Between Rilwan’s Abduction, Dr Afraasheem Murder & Humam’s Hanging

This is Shamoon ‘Lucas’ Jaleel, a close friend of Rilwan, who has alleged several times that he was killed as he knew the finest details of murder of religious leader and a member of Progressive Party of Maldives Dr Afraasheem.

Dr Afraasheem was the possible threat to President Yameen’s candidature in 2013 Presidential elections, conspiracy theories claim as some allege that he was killed by a contract killer 24-year-old Hussain Humam Ahmed on the promised amount of MVR 1.6 crore.

Interestingly, Humam is almost on the death bed and will become the first Maldivian in 60 years to receive President Yameen endorsed death penalty if he is sentenced as ruled by the Supreme Court.

Like Rilwan, Humam is also under international body scanner for not receiving fair trial as he even after confessing the murder, retracted it saying that he was pressurised to take the responsibility of the murder.

The rights body questioned that why no investigation on the “mastermind” who asked Humam to murder Afraasheem was done and why Humam’s mental condition- which his father claimed was not stable- taken into consideration.

In Pics: The Struggle To Find Rilwan

Close to two years and no sign of Rilwan yet his friends and family members are hopeful of his return and pray for his safety and security while they also share some pictures as part of their memories with Rilwan.


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Tourists’ Paradise, Maldivians’ Inferno: Chilling Truth Of Sex, Divorces And Covert Abortions In Maldives

in News/Politics by

The Indian Ocean archipelago, a paradise for tourists, overshadowed by its continuing political turmoil also has heart wrenching ground realities. Maldives, the same paradise island when opens the door to the regular people living in the congested capital Male, the inferno awaits.

In a report published by Vice from the first hand investigative account of the JJ Robinson, the first editor of Maldives’ first independent English language news service, spill the counter narrative of ruthless conditions in which Maldivians are surviving.

According to the JJ Robinson’s book ‘‘Maldives: Islamic Republic, Tropical Autocracy’, Maldives which offers zero intrusion in the private affairs of its tourists, has drug abuse, Islamic radicalisation and violent crimes ladled out for its own citizens.

The capital city Male, which is also the political centre of the island, has more than more than half the population residing with banned alcohol and limited entertainment. However, a bottle of vodka, costing up to $140 USD in the black market and brown sugar heroin reaches ‘faster than a pizza’, Robinson writes in the book.

Islamic Nationalism, Sex Crimes And Divorces

The country’s constitution which mandates 100 per cent population to be Muslim is enforced by not only by the authorities but also due to the threat of social ostracism. “Tourists on romantic resort getaways blissfully sun themselves on beaches a few hundred feet from ‘local’ islands where Maldivian women are routinely sentenced to 100 lashes for the crime of extramarital sex,” he writes.

He also highlights the how the country exploiting Islamic nationalism and sentiments of defending Islam from other religions are paving way for inhuman practices like criminalisation of extramarital sex leading to higher divorce rate.

Citing the observation by the famous Islamic explorer Ibn Battuta, the book underlines the complex issue owing to conservative ideas and culture being adapted by the people. “It is easy to marry in these islands because of the smallness of the dowries and the pleasures of society which the women offer,” Battuta wrote in the 14th century.

“Most people do not even fix any dowry. When the ships put in, the crew marry; when they intend to leave, they divorce their wives. This is a kind of temporary marriage (muta). I have seen nowhere in the world women whose society was more pleasant.”

The weddings are done in few minutes by just exchanging rings and a token dowry while the divorce owes to patriarchal laws allowing mean to follow triple talaq Islamic law (I divorce you- three times), but a woman has to go through court proceedings. Interestingly, there’s no social taboo associated with a divorced woman. “I recall one recently married fisherman boasting that his new wife had been married six times; this, he explained with a sly wink, meant she was experienced. The figure was about average for a woman in her forties,” Robbinson writes.

Clothing Shops to Sex Shops

While, in normal societal terms, a woman is under pressure to wear headscarf also gets the liberty to wear rather revealing western cloths, easily available in clothing shops in the capital, however not for long.

“16-year-old girl who bought and actually wore one of these in 2013 was swiftly taken into custody under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act.” He explains how the girl was not only directed her how to dress but also involved her parents.

And, even when Male had a sex shop, the trouble was in the name ‘G-spot’. The Ministry of Economic Development kept insisting how the G stood for Girl eventually leading to a ruling by civil court alleging the name “inappropriate for viewing by women and children,” while Nizam, the owner of the shop kept defending that the G-Spot did not exist.

The Not So Curious Case of Covert Abortions

According to the report, Maldives has highest number of unprotected sex and high promiscuity. The problem becomes complex when stigma surrounding divorce is negligible but an out-of-wedlock child is a symbol of shame. “As long as the illusion of Islamic conservatism was maintained, as long as the boat wasn’t rocked, as long as nothing was stated, written down, admitted, or confessed to, as long as you weren’t caught—ordinary people could be surprisingly accepting,” Robinson states.

He also complies several incidents of barbaric abortions in which either a mother ends up throwing the foetus in a swimming pool, bushes or a bucket. These abortions are often covert because getting caught may lead to even death sentence.

“Abortion was an issue that should concern all Maldivians, the party (Adhaalath Party) declared, and people should be “very afraid” given the “rising popularity of fornication.

Afraid they were. Most often the mothers were caught, quickly confessing under police interrogation,” Robinson writes.

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