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650,000 sign petition against Maldives rape victim flogging

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

More than half a million people have signed an online petition condemning the Maldives over the sentencing of a 15-year-old rape victim to 100 lashes for pre-marital sex with another man.

The petition, started two days ago by New York-based campaign group avaarz.org, calls on Maldives President Mohamed Waheed to intervene and had been signed by 650,000 users on Friday afternoon.

"Let's build a million-strong petition... then threaten the islands' reputation through hard-hitting ads in travel magazines and online until he steps in to save her and abolish this outrageous law," Avaaz said on its website.

Last month the unidentified Maldivian girl was sentenced to a public flogging after police investigating a complaint that she was raped by her stepfather found that she had also been having consensual sex with another man.

President Waheed had expressed shock and asked the state attorney general to appeal the conviction amid an international outcry and condemnation from rights groups such as Amnesty International.

Under law in the Maldives, a low-lying archipelago of coral-fringed islands populated by 330,000 Sunni Muslims, the flogging will be carried out when the girl reaches the age of 18.

Premarital sex is illegal in the popular honeymoon destination, which observes elements of Islamic Sharia law as well as English common law. The fornication law is not known to have been applied to foreign tourists.

The child's stepfather is accused of rape and the murder of a baby born to his stepdaughter as a result. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

In September, a court in the Maldives ordered the public flogging of a 16-year-old who confessed to premarital sex. Her lover was jailed for 10 years.

The Avaaz.org petition can be seen at: http://www.avaaz.org/en/maldives_global/?wSxzsdb

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130322/650000-sign-petition-against-maldives-rape-victim-flogging