Two protests were held in the Maldives' capital on Labor Day, with participants raising concerns regarding the lack of ensured occupational health and safety at jobs in the country, and the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The protests took place in Male' City on Saturday evening, and late into the night. The first protest had been organized by supporters of worker's rights in the Maldives, and had taken place out at sea on a number of boats with fishermen, farmers, teachers, construction and healthcare workers present to highlight their concerns and share messages with relevant authorities.
The first protest, which had taken place in the market area of Male', had seen participants stress the importance of forming unions to attain better wages, safe work environments and job security. Specifically, protestors had called to stop making teachers and those working in the education sector work extra hours without overtime pay, and had highlighted issues faced by health sector workers such as low pay, especially amid the global Covid-19 pandemic. Protestors had also advocated for the rights of those working as fishermen, and had stated that the government had failed to secure their rights as workers.
Another Labour Day protest was held in Male' City shortly after the first one, with a number of youth protestors gathering at the Rasfannu area to protest the prevalence of sexual harassment in the Maldives on Saturday night. The protest had been organized by Rise Up MV. With updates from the protest being posted online, videos and images have been captured of Maldives Police Service officers moving in to disperse the protest shortly after it had begun. Conflicts between protestors and gathered police had escalated, with police officers seen using undue force and pepper spray in close quarters to harass protestors, who had been thrown to the ground and hand-cuffed.
Witnesses at the protest claimed that Police had become more aggressive in obstructing expression and assembly of protestors once they had begun speaking of allegations of sexual harassment raised against former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed, who left the country while on trial for seven counts of sexual violence, and the current Minister of Home Affairs, Sheikh Imran Abdulla.
Protestors that had gathered against sexual harassment in the workplace had expressed outrage at the impunity afforded to perpetrators of such crimes, and the lack of justice for those abused sexually within the work environment. While majority of the protestors were young, they had continued to call on the government to be accountable for their lapses, and for citizens to fulfil their civic duty in creating safe working environments in the Maldives. Those that had gathered at the Rasfannu area on Saturday night had also called to reform the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services and Maldives Police Services' Family and Child Protection Department, and had reminded the state that they would be answerable for negligence on their behalf.
On Sunday morning, the Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed revealed that an inquiry had been ordered into the policing of last night's protest. In a tweet, CP Hameed stated that he understood public concerns, and confirmed that an investigation into the circumstances and the actions of the officers concerned were being carried out by the Professional Standards Command and the Use of Force Review Committee.
The Maldives Journalist Association called on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Home Minister Imran to investigate brutality by police officers at Saturday's protest, and to ensure safe working environments for journalists while covering protests.
The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives also revealed on Sunday that they would be reviewing the actions of police officers in obstructing and dispersing the Labour Day protest held on Saturday night against sexual harassment in the workplace. A number of citizens have taken to social media in outrage after photos and videos surfaced from the protest where police officers were seen using undue force and pepper spray against young women at the protest.
Some protestors had been arrested on Saturday evening, but released shortly after. Photos and tweets shared by protestors who had been arrested reveal that they were arrested on the grounds of having obstructed functions of the state, with some visibly injured and treated from IGMH after the protest had been dispersed.