2017 was seen as the tipping point for sexual assault and harassment, with more and more victims coming forward with their stories.
TIME’s magazine Person of the Year 2017 were the "The Silence Breakers,” and the cover was a representation of those women ‘who came forward with their stories about pervasive sexual harassment’.
Following Hollywood’s own sexual harassment scandal last year, its elite came out to raise their voices to the victims. These victims include their own, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, who continue to share their stories, in turn encouraging others to do.
The #MeToo movement on social media further encouraged women, and men, to share their personal stories of sexual assault.
In order to ensure that their stories are not forgotten with the start of a new year, Hollywood stars used their first major event of 2018 to bring attention to the issue, wearing black to stand in solidarity with victims of sexual assault and harassment.
While this is not the first time the issue has come up, it looks like Hollywood is finally listening to its victims, with more and more men listening this time, and getting engaged unlike ever before.
Sexual assault and harassment cases in the workplace are not unheard of in the Maldives either, and a social media campaign was launched in November 2017, called ‘Mi Verin Koba’ (which translates to Where Are These Leaders), which was aimed ‘to reverse the culture of protecting perpetrators at work and blaming the victims’. Their posts had well-documented cases of sexual assault committed by people in positions of power and authority, including media moguls.
According to a report by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives in 2013, over a fifth of the women surveyed had been sexually harassed in the workplace.
In Maldives, a woman will choose to ignore the harassment, with most keeping silent out of fear of losing their job and because of the stigma of being a victim. Or at times, the victim is unaware that what they are experiencing is sexual harassment, because it is the norm for powerful men to behave in a certain way towards women. These women are not even aware that they can take these cases to the employers or authorities.
But just like it was in Hollywood before, such cases are not taken as seriously. While the West has figured a way to say ‘Time’s Up’ to these powerful men, the Maldives is eons away from reaching there.
Moving away from sexual harassment in the workplace, let us have a look at some of the major rape cases to have made the headlines recently.
Earlier this month, rape allegations were made against a sibling of the parliamentary group leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). Prior to his arrest, Hassan Faiz, 33, denied the rape allegations to RaajjeMV, claiming that this was being done to ruin his reputation. His alleged victim, a 19-year-old, has spoken to media outlets and shared part of her story, saying that she was offered money to keep quiet. She also told reporters that when she threatened to report him, Faiz had said that ‘nothing will happen to [him]’.
The teen has since lawyered up, and says that her attorney has advised her against talking to the media any further.
Even former Presidents and political parties have had a say in the matter, of course because of the fact that the accused is related to a lawmaker, who has also called for a thorough investigation into the matter. Faiz has since been arrested.
Back in December 2016, a film star was accused of rape against two girls related to them, with the girls’ parents filing a case with the police, even reaching out to various media organizations to tell the story. The star’s identity was never revealed, and it is unclear on the status of the case. In a place such as small as Maldives, with the capital Male’ City obviously even smaller, it is difficult to hide such things, hence everyone ‘is quite certain’ on who the accused star is.
This case did not get as much attention as the previous one, and the said actor continues to make movies, win awards and ‘take the industry by storm’. He was never arrested.
There are no excuses for sexual assault and harassment, and those guilty should be brought to justice.
“Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on earth and it happens every few minutes. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there.” ― Kurt Cobain