After years of struggle, the working class women of Maldives are succeeding in earning the seats they deserve at the helm of the nation. Today we find independent, educated and successful women leading every industry, be it politics, tourism, business management, engineering, health or even education.
Women are rising through the discriminations and inequalities set in stone in our society and fighting against the daily exploitation. They are building-up careers which our mothers would not have even dared to dream of. But one lingering fear that haunts every working class women is the sexual harassment and sexual assaults they face from their work environment and from within the society as a whole.
In Maldives the first Anti-Harassment Act was established in year 2014. However, for many working class women in Maldives, the Act was no more than just a piece of paper as it has served no real purpose in facilitating justice for victims of such harassment. Let’s look into some of the recent high profile cases of sexual harassment within the government. But, let me warn you, in all these cases the victims were denied justice.
In November 2020, former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed was charged with seven criminal offense including one count of attempted rape, one count of sexual abuse, one count of indecent exposure, one count of sexual harassment and one count of attempted sexual harassment. He was also charged with two counts of solicitation of sexual favors. Though he was charged with all seven criminal offences, the disgraced former Minister was allowed to depart the country on 09th February 2021, on the grounds that he required urgent medical attention from abroad.
In early January 2021 reports were circulating in Media of a woman who was raped in a resort and the Indian national suspected of committing the heinous crime was allowed departed before the case was reported to Maldives Police Services.
Another recent case of sexual harassment which came into limelight is the allegations of sexual harassment against the Communication Director of Fisheries Ministry. The case was also closed with the Maldives Police Service citing that they could not produce any culpable evidence even though the victims repeatedly came forward with evidence of harassment.
Several protests were staged around the nation calling for justice for the victims of sexual harassment, rape and abuse.
In early February 2021 a Sexual Harassment case was filed against Deputy Managing Director of Maldives Gas. As per media reports being circulated, a female employee disclosed that Deputy Managing Director had been commenting on her appearance and clothing while at the workplace as well as sending explicit images and messages with attempts to acquire personal information. An investigation was initiated by the board of the State Trading Organization (STO) against Deputy Managing Director of Maldives Gas Pvt Ltd.
These are just but the few cases that had come into limelight due to the political connections surrounding these cases. My heart goes out to the thousands of women who are unable to report and unable to get justice for the fear of losing their jobs. For the fear of being demoted. For the fear of being transferred and being victim blamed.
But as with anything else, there is a silver lining. Our society is slowly opening up to addressing the sexual harassment that has gone unchecked since time immemorial. Today is a better day for us than yesterday. Surely, if we support each other in this fight, and hold our heads high just as our mothers did, then tomorrow would be a better day for our daughters.