Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor has been appointed as Acting Minister of Gender, Family and Human Rights, the President’s Office has announced.
Shukoor’s appointment comes at a time when the government has committed itself to review laws it has previously claimed discriminate against – and in some cases criminalise – women and minors believed to be the victims of sexual abuse.
President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad declined to speculate on the reason for reappointing the role of acting gender minister, stating only that there was “not much time” and limited resources at the government’s disposal to “get its house in order”.
Masood told Minivan News last month that the Maldives had experienced a number of similar criminal cases of late where young women had been victimised and punished by authorities – a situation he said the government was looking to prevent.
“We are reviewing this right now and if we have to go to the extent of changing existing laws then we would look to do this,” he said.
The Gender Ministry and the Ministry of Islamic Affairs were among the state bodies requested to be part of any potential review, Masood has previously claimed.
Such commitments were made as authorities come under intense scrutiny from local and international civil society organisations following global media coverage of the trial and conviction of a 15 year-old girl on the island of Feydhoo in Shaviyani Atoll for fornication.
In a separate criminal case, the same 15 year-old girl has been identified as a victim of child abuse after giving birth to a baby later discovered last year buried in the outdoor shower area of her home.
Her stepfather was later charged with child sexual abuse, possession of pornographic materials and committing premeditated murder.
Azima Shukoor was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
The acting gender minister position has previously been filled by Minister of Environment and Energy Dr Mariyam Shakeela.
Dr Shakeela was appointed as acting minister on November 21 last year as a replacement for Dhiyana Saeed, who was dismissed from the role for acting in a manner the President’s Office has previously said was not suited for a minister.
Dhiyana had strongly criticised President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik and his government over the arrest of her husband, Kaashidhoo MP Abdullah Jabir, who was arrested under suspicion of drinking alcohol.
Jabir re-joined the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) following the arrest.