27 Feb 2013

Maldives girl facing 100 lashes for pre-marital sex

9:18 pm on 27 February 2013

A 15-year-old rape victim in the Maldives is facing a flogging of 100 lashes after being convicted of engaging in pre-marital sex.

The government and groups such as Amnesty International are criticising the court's decision, which was not directly related to the rape.

Behind the Maldives' image as a honeymoon paradise of coral islands lies a society whose people are often subjected to harsh laws. Women are overwhelmingly more likely than men to be sentenced to public flogging for fornication, the BBC reports.

The girl in the north of the country was raped last year by her step-father, who was also convicted of murdering the baby born as a result.

But during investigation, the 15-year-old was accused of having pre-marital sex with another man. She is now being sentenced to eight months of house arrest and to 100 lashes.

The Islamic Sharia punishment is to take place when she turns 18, but can happen earlier if she requests it.

A presidential spokesperson said the government saw the underage girl as a victim deserving of protection, not punishment.

He said there would be discussions with the Islamic Affairs Ministry to review this case and the law.

Human rights group Amnesty International and the United Nations' human rights chief have both denounced the Maldives' use of flogging, which they describe as inhumane and degrading.

Yet severe forms of punishment, said to be Sharia inspired, remain in place in the tiny country.