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Maldives Teen Faces 100 Lashes

March 6, 2013 by Open Doors in General

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A 15-year-old girl has been sentenced to eight months of house arrest and 100 lashes in the Maldives, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean made up of about 1,200 small islands, 200 of which are inhabited. Many in the international community are concerned about the use of Sharia law to inflict such punishment, in this case against a minor. While the girl is Muslim, there could also be troubling implications for anyone who secretly converts to Christianity, an act that is forbidden in the Maldives.

Hilary Whiteman of CNN reports that the girl confessed during a court hearing to charges of fornication, having engaged in consensual premarital sex. She is also the alleged victim of sexual abuse by her stepfather, an allegation legally unrelated to her case. The girl is currently staying in a children’s home according to Zaima Nasheed Abookbakur’s statement to CNN.

She has been given the choice of receiving the lashings now or it can be postponed until she turns 18, Abookbakur explained. Abookbakur downplayed the lashings as more “ceremonial” than painful or injurious, claiming that the lashings are relatively light. Masood Imad, a spokesman for the President’s Office, condemned the sentencing, but also deemphasized the physical effects of the lashing, referring to the punishment as “ceremonial.”

Imad told CNN that though the government considered the teenager to be a victim who should not be flogged, it was unable to intervene in the judicial process. “We cannot just send a memo to the judiciary and say, ‘Don’t lash anybody hereafter.’ It doesn’t happen that way anymore. We have to talk with them, get them to understand, get them to initiate the laws or we initiate the laws together and then pass it to the legislature,” Imad told CNN, adding that the Ministry of Gender and Family was engaged in talks with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to try to convince the judiciary that the law needs changing. “We have to engage with the judiciary and we’ve got to suggest to them that we need to change these laws to better identify victims and perpetrators,” Imad said.

However, Abbas Faiz, a researcher with Amnesty International, told CNN the government hasn’t been trying hard enough. “It is for the government to actually initiate a change and send a bill to parliament and then if at that level they don’t win, they can say we tried. But they haven’t at this stage even tried,” Faiz said. “They are not interested, they don’t show any interest in this,” he added. “Every time we talk about the judicial flaws that exist in the judicial system of the country they say we have nothing to do with that because we’re separate from the judiciary. Of course you’re separate to the judiciary but you’re the government,” he added.

It is unlikely that the girl will appeal the case, and authorities say she is doing fairly well. But questions remain about whether justice will be done in the case, and about the further implications of the ruling. According to Open Doors World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians suffer the most severe persecution for their faith, Maldives is the only country in the world that requires all citizens to be Muslim. Conversion to another faith is prohibited by law and converts face extreme persecution from family and society – often having to leave the country. The authorities exert extensive control on the people to punish any deviation from Islam. Religion is moving towards Deobandi Islam – the religion of the Taliban, whose mission is to cleanse Islam of all other influences. There are no church gatherings or buildings and very few indigenous Christians.

Source: CNN

Father, we lift up this girl in Maldives and ask that You would protect her, and even that through this trial You would reveal Yourself to her and draw her to faith in Christ. We pray for a more reasonable justice system and for the government to take initiative in working with the judicial arm of the government. And we lift up the handful of believers in Maldives who live under fear of the government and of their families and communities. Protect them, Father, and at the same time, cause Your church to grow in the midst of persecution. In the name of Jesus our protector and place of comfort. Amen.

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