COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Maldives authorities have called on the country's Islamic ministry and judiciary to stop the public flogging of a teenaged girl for having sex outside marriage, a government official said Friday.
A court in the tiny island of Feydhoo last week sentenced the 15-year-old to 100 lashes after she admitted to having consensual sex, a court official said on condition of anonymity because he had no formal approval to speak to the media.
The official said details of the consensual sex emerged when police investigated her complaint against her stepfather and another man of sexually abusing her.
He said the sentence includes an option for the flogging to be carried out when the girl turns 18.
Her partner has not been identified and it was not clear how hard the police tried to identify him, he said.
Government spokesman Masood Imad said the government considered her a victim of sexual abuse and wants the sentence revoked.
He said President Mohammed Waheed Hassan has started talks with the Islamic ministry, judiciary, attorney general, human rights commission and gender ministry in order to stop "victims becoming victims of the law."
"The government fully understands she is a victim. Since this is an Islamic affair we don't want to unilaterally say things," Imad said.
The practice of flogging for sex outside marriage has been widely condemned and it is often the woman who is singled out for punishment.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in 2011 urged Maldives to end the "degrading" practice.
"This practice constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women, and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country," she said speaking at the Maldives Parliament.
She urged the authorities to change the law that allows flogging.
Maldives is an Indian Ocean archipelago of 300,000 people, all of whom are Sunni Muslims. Practicing or preaching any other religion is illegal.