In the eyes of every tourist or foreigner, Maldives is considered to be the paradise of the world. A destination with white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and blue skies. Filled with majestic marine life. A destination beaming with happiness and joy.
How many actually know that several children in the Maldives are living in constant fear of some creepy uncle, neighbor or in some cases, their own parents, in a corner of a room, begging to spare them from a life of excruciating misery? A voice masked with silence, their suffering and pain unheard to most or blatantly ignored.
Child abuse comes in many forms. It can be referred as physical, emotional, sexual, witness to domestic violence, neglection, etc. It is traumatic in every way and lasts for a lifetime. Every adult is morally obliged to be a guardian or protector of children. It is a responsibility of every individual to save children from any kind of abuse. Not just religiously, but ethically and morally too. To be a protector for people without the ability to protect themselves. A voice for the voiceless.
However, it seems that in Maldives, it is the complete opposite. People often ignore child abuse if it is coming from the legal guardian of the child, falsely assuming that stopping this would be interfering in someone’s life or their messed-up way of raising a child. Furthermore, the victim of these cases is often shunned by the community. How is any of this fair? Why do the victim has to suffer for something he or she did not consent?
Despite all the campaigns conducted by authorities like Gender Ministry and organizations such as ARC or UNICEF, the number of child abuse cases in the Maldives is still relevant and is reported daily. A recent report shows that at least 4 cases of child abuse are reported daily. Imagine how many cases are not being reported because the child does not have a way to report this or the community is simply ignoring?
The statistics of the recent years is almost unbearable. We as a country should be ashamed that we have let this horrifying issue persist for this long. The life of more than hundreds of children are destroyed by their protectors each year. Their innocence taken and subject to a life full of trauma and tragedy.
A report published by the National Bureau of Statistics of Maldives in 2017 shows that 1,412 children were abused in the year, of which sexual abuse outnumbered all other kind of abuse cases by an astonishing 412 cases. It was also reported that 165 children under state care were also abused. The actual authority to protect these children. A place that should be safe for them is not quite safe. A breeding ground for the worst type of abuses.
A research published in 2017 shows that 15% of adolescents were abused at least one point in their lives. The reported cases of 2018 stood at 1309, which is fewer than previous year, however even 1 case is too many. This is a daunting picture and one that needs to change. A child’s innocence should not be stripped away by their supposed protectors. We need to do better. Government needs to do better. Organizations needs to do better.
In the year 2019, a 9 years old girl was raped by her two brothers, and there were about 22 cases of neglection by parents due to which the children were sent to state care centers. Many children were also exposed to some type of domestic violence. 1200 cases of child abuse were reported in 2019 and most of these cases were reported in April.
According to the statistics of 2020, over 889 child abuse cases were reported. One which notably shook the whole country to its core. A 2 years old girl was raped by her grandfather and great grandfather. This vicious crime was done by her own relatives. Her supposed protectors. Allegedly, the girl was given to these people for ransom by her own father, which is the most extreme level of cruelty, as the man who was supposed to protect her was the reason why her life was destroyed. People took to streets to protest and called for justice. It is a rare case that highlighted the severity of the situation in Maldives. One that needed addressing.
ARC, Gender Ministry and some others have been raising awareness about this grave issue on a broader scale. UNICEF has been working at several fronts to eliminate exploitation of children through raising awareness, and educating public about this matter. In addition, Maldives first ever child abuse protection campaign was held nationwide, under the name ‘AHAN……LISTEN TO US’ in the year 2015. These campaigns are held to raise awareness regarding the rights of children and their protection. The statistics of the recent years show that the reported child abuse cases have been falling, which indicates that the campaigns are successful to some extent. However, this does not really clarify the actual picture. How many cases are not being reported? Do these children feel safe in the environment they grow?
It is not only the duty of these associations to prevent child abuse, rather it is a collective effort and responsibility of every citizen to protect the children of this nation. We need to provide these children an environment where they can grow with joy and feel safe. No childhood should be lost. No child should feel threatened or violated. We cannot let this go on.