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THREAD: Understanding the pervasive nature of domestic violence in the Maldives, the Domestic Violence Act of 2012, role of state institutions, the movements on the ground, and the need to realign and shifting focus for holistic solutions.

PS: Thread is quite long.
The ratification of the Domestic Violence Act (Act Number 3/2012) #DVAct, on 23rd of April 2012 was seen as a major step towards addressing the gaps in existence when it comes to establishing a results-oriented approach in domestic violence; esp. violence against women.
A study in 2007 carried out in the Maldives showed that statistics of violence against women follows pattern echoed largely across the globe; i.e. 1 in 3 women aged 15-49 have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives. Don't think much has changed.
23rd April 2019 will mark seven years since the ratification of the #DVAct, which brought along with it hopes of a better future for the many who continue to suffer in silence. There is a pervasiveness in society when it comes to violence against women that is yet to be addressed
We are yet to see the regulations that are required under Article 66 of #DVAct come into force. Article 66 mandates regulations should be formulated by Family Protection Authority for everything else, with the exception of the work assigned to the Police & courts under the Act.
Aside from the regulation published by @PoliceMv in 2014 (Regulation No: 224/2014), the other institutional setups have yet to live up to their responsibility. With this legal vacuum in place, it is no wonder that we are unable to tackle the issue of #DV in a comprehensive manner
#DVAct defines domestic violence to include a range of criminal behaviour; from physical, sexual, psychological abuse to intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property, and goes onto include causing a minor to witness or hear an act of such violence.
The barriers in existence when addressing DV issues are multiple.
- Sociocultural issues stemming from 1) role of women in society, 2) patriarchal nature of society, 3) dependency on husband/ex for financial support,
4) stigmatization of victims, 5) use of religion to justify DV, 6) social exclusion of small island communities, 7) fear of facing worse consequences, & 8) lack of awareness of issues/rights all contribute.
- Institutional setup issues include 1) lack of involvement of women in monitoring & implementation of DV, 2) lack of females from different socioeconomic backgrounds in decision making roles,
3) weak support base for victims – legal counsel, emotional support, means of income, self-reliance, 4) gaps in awareness of rights, & 5) lack of integrated/sharing of information.
- Implementation gaps include: 1) services mandated by law lacking a sense of urgency, 2) professionals (cross-sectoral) lacking required awareness, 3) poor availability of services outside of capital, 4) lack of collaboration between stakeholders,
5) lack of established safe houses for victims, 6) issues with confidentiality, 7) difficulty in accessing “Protection Orders”, 8) inefficiency of the court systems, & 9) lack of restorative justice and rehabilitation for perpetrators.
In the huge vacuum left behind owing to all of the issues/gaps identified, society has taken to a form of “vigilante” justice, where members of the public, especially social media users tend to play judge, jury, and executioner on cases that are brought to light.
While role of society is important in getting voices of the victims heard, to make institutions accountable, to create awareness to shift cultural attitudes; the lack of proper execution of duties of law enforcement officials exacerbates the issues on the ground a thousand fold.
When society is forced to fill in the role of the state, problems that emerge are akin to what is currently happening. In the lead up to the parliamentary elections, allegations of #DV have reached a new crescendo, leaving those most vocal at crossroads with one another.
Couple of things I've noticed, narrative largely driven by the most vocal on social media. There is no space for alternative opinions/insights. Those who voice them are met with ridicule, scorn, & tweet threads that read like pages out of a textbook; i.e. to educate the ignorant.
1) “Always, always, always believe the victim” – who defines the victim is left unsaid. With victims often being women, there is tendency to pass judgement, but this sense of mob justice can do more harm than good. Law enforcement’s weakness & resultant public distrust is evident
For instance – Hoara Ibbe’s case which remains highly controversial owing to many reasons. Labelled as a paedophile (when actual definition of paedophilia differs largely from what happened), the “victim” in this case deviated from the norm in a large way.
Having gotten married to the perpetrator in 2013, victim was vocal in campaigning for Ibbe's release. Most did not believe her opinion was important. Her say was trivialized under guise that the victim doesn’t often realize the depravity of the situation she was subjected to.
2) Throwing labels: While Hoara Ibbe remains labelled as a paedophile, likes of Mughnee’s case seem “clear” enough; however, MDP’s blunder in handling the case, lack of proper mechanisms within party to handle such cases etc. have led to difficulties in establishment of facts.
Case like Hisaan’s have proven to be even murkier. There is a tendency for society not to see women as perpetrators, unless it is someone like Ibthihaal’s mother. Society cannot see a woman who commits such depravity as a victim, even though she too was at first a victim of DV.
The furor over Hisaan’s case lacks the same drive that has been forceful in guiding the narrative on Ibbe’s and Mughnee’s cases. Interestingly enough, Formea’s case has brought to light a “new” narrative – let us not throw around labels too hastily. Gaps here are multiple.
3) Perpetuating cycle of victim blaming: In every other case, talking about proper investigations & due process has been met with ridicule, understandable, esp. when it was only recently Ziyadha’s husband walked away, Criminal Court citing the lack of evidence in freeing him.
With no media presence allowed in DV hearings, this gives public right to question what happens. While need for confidentiality is understood, there is also a need for institutions to fill in huge information gap left in wake of such verdicts to build public trust in the system.
There is also a lack of accountability of the officials of the institutional setup governing #DVAct & the Prosecutor General when it comes to DV cases, that makes it easy for the courts, already riddled with inefficiency and corruptive influences, to let perpetrators walk free.
It is once again Formea’s case that has seen a "turnaround" in the concept of victim blaming. The need for victims to go on the record and file a case with the police has emerged, so that the facts can be established.
Readiness of law enforcement & supporting institutions as per #DVAct to handle this is again questionable, with huge gaps already in existence on what should be happening, and what is actually happening on the ground. The lack of urgency on part of institutions is sorely felt.
We have made progress in terms of civil society movements on the ground. However, there is much that needs to doing, with proper support of state institutions to address the pervasive nature of DV in the country. Civil society too needs better focus for results.
As long as we allow certain predatory groups of people in our circles to get away with their appalling behavior & treatment of the opposite sex, we will never get where we want to go.
We have a tendency to turn a blind eye when that predatory behavior has not affected anyone close to us. When the bullet strikes too close to home, that is when reality hits, and the rage which we then project on others for not seeing what we see is rather pointless.
With debates centered around consent, age gaps, grooming, marital rape etc. the lack of involvement of religious scholars to shed light on the issue is also a huge gap. This needs to change, if we are to bring about holistic solutions on the ground.
Some of the movements are facing a huge backlash today because of their lack of respect towards those who hold views in contradiction to theirs. Their agenda of divisiveness have come back to haunt them. In the end, it all circles back to respect. Give respect to get respect.
"System" that has warped into place in the lack of state solutions to address DV is imperfect & driven largely by anger & "popularity" than geared towards context relevant solutions. We need to work together, all contributing members of society, to tackle DV more comprehensively.
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