The residents of the Maldives are electing a new president this week to tackle imperative issues of climate induced island disappearance to the controversial flogging of women.
The islands boast white sand, giant palms and clear turquoise waters, but the chain of around 1,200 islands will not last forever. Scientist predicted rising water levels would submerge the islands by the turn of the century. Former president, Mohamed Nasheed, highlighted the issues faced if greenhouse gasses are not reduced. His case was presented in Copenhagen at the 2009 UN climate change conference. Nasheed’s solutions included relocating the 350,000 inhabitants to other countries. A recent observation by New Zealand scientists found that there could be hope for some of the islands, including the nation’s capital, Male.
The new leader voted in will face climate issues plus condemned human rights violations befallen upon the archipelago.
This is the third attempt for voters in the Maldives to elect a new president. In 2012, Nasheed left office after public uproar over his arrest order for a senior judge he claimed was corrupt. The military distanced themselves from the former president, which prompted inspection of a coup. The country has been in turmoil since his departure. Before Nasheed was elected in 2008, the country was under a 30-year autocratic rule.
The police interfered in the voting process causing international controversy. The UK and US warned that the reputation of the Maldives is at stake and could affect tourism if political uncertainty continues.
In the 2013 report from the World Economic Forum, the Maldives rank 97 out of 136 countries for gender gap measurement. According to findings, while the women of the Maldives are educated and have high standards of health, they still remain outside political and economic sectors.
Currently, 100 or more women face flogging for crimes of adultery while around 50 men are charged also. Abbas Faiz, the Amnesty International specialist on the Maldives, referred to flogging as “a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment” and highlighted how it “is banned by international human rights law.” He then declared it was a form of torture since “the practice is humiliating and leads to psychological as well as physical scars for those subjected to it for years.”
The particular issue of flogging has come up in political debates after a teenager was flogged in front of a crowd of cheering men. The women had to be taken to the hospital for treatment.
Judge Abdulla Mohamed, told the island’s Minivan News that flogging was meant to deter and not supposed to inflict injury. It is a practice to inform the public that a member of their society had “done thing.” When asked why fewer men receive flogging he said that “a man, after making this problem, will go away and maybe the woman will have relations with more than one man and won’t know who was responsible. Or the man denies it.”
Results of the vote have not been announced yet. The new presidential agenda will have to include solutions to tackle the Maldives disappearing islands, growing gender gap and controversial flogging.
By Cayce Manesiotis