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Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed on Tuesday said that the country is a young democracy working to balance religious faith with new democratic values, as an online petition against the recent sentencing of a rape victim for 100 lashes received two million signatures today.
A Maldivian Juvinile Court had last month sentenced a 15-year-old rape victim to eight months under house arrest and 100 lashes after being convicted for pre-marital sex in another case.
Prosecutors maintain that the teenage girl, who gave birth and buried the baby in Shaviyani Atoll Feydhoo, was charged with adultery over another case which came to light during the investigation of the buried baby.
A Juvenile Court official had said the girl would be lashed when she turns 18 but added the sentence would be carried out immediately if she so wishes
President Mohamed Waheed said he is saddened by the sentence of flogging.
The conviction had sparked an international outcry and condemnation from rights groups such as Amnesty International.
An online petition condemning Maldives over the sentencing has received over two million signatures. The petition, started by New York-based campaign group avaaz.Org, calls on President Waheed to intervene and has been signed by over two million users.
“We appreciate the international compassion for this young woman and ask for your patience as this case moves through the judicial system,” Waheed said in a statement.
“Currently the case is being appealed and I have urged the judiciary to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.
“This case should never have been presented in the courts and we are working to ensure that cases like this are never brought to the courts again”, he said.
In the statement, President Waheed assured that the young woman remains under the care of the Gender Ministry and is receiving the appropriate physical and psychological counseling at this time.
“As both the President and as a father, I am fully committed to protecting and advancing the rights of women and girls in the Maldives and throughout the world and share your deep concern about this young victim”.
President stressed that the Maldives is a young democracy working to balance religious faith with new democratic values and asked the international community to support as partners as the country works through this challenge.
“A boycott on tourism will only serve as a setback to the economic opportunities and rights we are all striving to uphold for women, girls and the hardworking Maldivian people in general,” Waheed stressed.