15 Yr.-Old Rape Victim Spared Lashes in Maldives

A 15-year-old girl, who was due to receive a punishment when she turned 18 years old of 100 lashes for having pre-marital sex, has had her sentence overturned after a global outpouring of outrage.

As reported by The Clarion Project, the girl had been repeatedly raped by her stepfather while growing up. The stepfather had also killed a baby born from raping his step daughter.

The sentence for the crime of “fornication,” given in February 2013, came after the girl admitted to having sex with another man, sparking anger from the country's opposition and women's rights groups.

A worldwide petition-signing campaign, spearheaded by the international human rights organization Avaaz, demanded that her sentence be commuted. It was signed by two million people worldwide.

Last week, the Maldivian High Court overturned the sentence, after claiming that the girl did not admit to having consensual sex.

The girl, who was under house arrest and in the care of the state, has since been freed. However, activists are now campaigning that she remain under the state’s jurisdiction so that she may finish her schooling and not be sent back to her abusive family.

Activists also said that the overturning of the sentence was for this case and called for a halt to all flogging sentences in the Maldives, which is under the Islamic government of President Mohammed Waheed Hassan.

The girl and her step-father were first arrested after the body of a baby to whom she had given birth was found buried outside their house in June 2012. Her stepfather, who had allegedly been abusing the girl for years, is reportedly facing 25 years in prison for rape and killing the baby conceived from it. The girl's mother has been charged with concealing a crime and murder.

Campaigners from Avaaz had launched a poster campaign designed to appeal to the more than half a million tourists travelling to the “paradise” island each year.

A survey conducted by the organization found out that nine out of 10 sentences for flogging in the Maldives in 2011 were given to women, while no one has been convicted of rape in the past three years. In addition, over a recent five year period, one in three women on the island between the ages of 15 and 49 suffered physical or sexual abuse.