The People’s Majlis has passed the report forwarded by its human rights and gender committee on investigations into the sexual assault case of a toddler, almost two years of age from Kanduhulhudhoo island in Gaaf Alif atoll.
63 members voted in favor of passing the investigative report.
The committee began investigating the committee after the case unfolded from the outlying island, on 15 January.
Officials from the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services, the Family and Child Protection Department of the Maldives Police Service (MPS) as well as the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) were summoned for questioning regarding the case. The president of Kanduhulhudhoo Council was also questioned through video conferencing, in regards to the case.
Submitting the report to the Majlis floor, committee chair and MP for Hinnavaru constituency, Jeehan Mahmood revealed that the report is based on five findings by the committee.
The first point is the authorities’ inability to exchange information due to lack of joint cooperation, both accused of sexually assaulting the child had a record of complaints against them and one of them is also charged under similar accusations. Due to this, the child was exposed to risk, which the authorities were aware of but didn’t take the required measures, in turn leading to the child being exposed to this cruel act.”
~ MP Jeehan
The committee chair added that they also found that island institutions had failed their duties and responsibility of identifying and keeping records of children exposed to risk as mandated under the law, despite having observed that there are such children exposed to risk in their families, or at risk of being exposed to danger.
As a third point, Jeehan noted that institutions have failed to update one another and share information through a collective data base that is required to be established in order for institutions to work together to tackle such issues.
What happened to the toddler was caused by a failed system, said Jeehan.
That includes compiling a criterion to identify high-risk families within 48 hours, which has since been done and forwarded to the parliament. The committee gave a seven-day period to compile a registry of at-risk children, which has since been completed. Further, we gave island institutions to seek out high-risk families and keep an updates registry. This is being done”
~ MP Jeehan
Although the gender ministry a 30-day period to complete a performance audit of departments that take on child protection cases, Jeehan stressed that they have not received such an audit yet.
Further, relevant bodies were also given a one-month period to resume the child protection database, and establish a National Standing Operations Procedure which will allow them to work jointly.
The MP highlighted that they have also observed visible change within institutions within the given period, going on to add that they will be able to seek out the reasons for such cases to emerge, after submissions by the gender ministry, based on recommendations from the new Gender Minister, Aishath Mohamed Didi who was appointed after Shidhatha Shareef’s resignation earlier in February.
With the emergence of a case involving sexual assault against a toddler one year and nine months of age on 15 January, the committee, on January 18th, instructed the relevant authorities to compile a registry of families who put their children at risk within seven days. The disturbing news wreaked chaos across the country and the people called for the resignation of Shidhatha Shareef, who they claimed was negligent in her work. Authorities have been facing backlash for inadequate measures taken to curb such cases from repeating.
The child's father, 33 was released from police custody on 18 February. While he was accused of negligence, the child’s paternal grandfather, 62 and great grandfather, 82 are accused of raping the toddler. Sources report that the parents are drug users and police confirmed that they have criminal records. The toddler's mother was in the capital due to "health issues" at the time of the incident.