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Aneh Dhivehin: The Other Maldivians

May 3, 2010

I remember the first dawn of The Other Maldives where we, in all our euphoria, gathered at Raalhugandu to celebrate the coming of the democratic dawn. In what seemed almost like a dream we sat, we cried and we sang. The atmosphere was electric and it was one of those cliché moments where ‘you’d have to be there to know how it was’. We sang songs of hope, one of which goes

‘Hama yaa insaafun, libidheyne Haqqun, Ulfalun fureyhen, Hithah furaalaa……dhamaa hey emmen eku ekee, Aneh Raajeh ah!’

Roughly translated as ‘With equality and justice, with the rights that we shall attain, fill your hearts with happiness. Let us, together, reach the Other Maldives’.

A year and a half into Aneh Dhivehi Raaje and I’m already feeling left behind. The ‘rights that we shall attain’ seem to be rights for one half of Aneh Dhivehi Raaje only. Parliamentarians, HEP and team, Courts, Police, Human Rights Commission, everyone and anyone who was and is still very positive about the idea of ‘Human Rights’ (perhaps perceived as freedom from torture by the state) is confused and quiet when it comes to women’s rights. Most people are sympathetic when it comes to prison inmates being tortured. Most people are against police brutality and support the idea that prisoners should not be given degrading punishments. But the understanding of human rights and freedom from torture stops when it comes to women’s issues. For example, flogging is considered humane enough, even when statistics repeatedly, year after year show that the incidence (more than 80%) of this punishment falls on women. And this for a crime (fornication and adultery), that by definition, cannot be committed by a woman on her own!

The logic behind this and how we compartmentalize our brains into thinking, I will leave for another article. But this particular example shows that the limit or Hadd for applying Human Rights is the point of which it is applied to the female ‘ criminal’.

The youthful optimism that led most people there to believe that a change in head of state can bring about social change has been somewhat dampened. As the then human rights activist turned from ‘Anni to HEP’ and faced the massive task of delivering on his ‘five promises’ , HEP has had to make compromises. And as NYT columnist said ‘women’s rights have been the bargaining chip’.

The parliament, very willing to sign documents regarding women’s rights, has yet to take up women’s issue on a serious platform. The judiciary , I will leave, for another post.

As we move forward to Aneh Dhivehi Raaje (the other Maldives), slowly but surely we women or the Other Maldivians are being left behind. In this hasty transition process from an autocratic yet liberal government to a democratic more conservative government, women’s issues are often not given the priority that it should be given. In a coalition with Adhaalath whose very vocal anti-women stance is chilling, whose links to such Islamist NGOs such as Jamiyatul Salaf, Islamic Foundation etc is publicly admitted, who is using its position as the Islamic Ministry to gain free air time from state run TV channels and use state funds to publish party propaganda, the onus is on MDP to show its commitment to women’s issues. Lip service is not enough. The women of this country weren’t born yesterday. We need solid positive action both reactive and proactive. Reactive to those negativities that Adhaalath-Salaf-IF is propagating and proactive to make sure that the women of this country have the tools necessary to combat misogyny.

If I knew what I know now, I would have slightly changed the Aneh Dhivehi Raaje song as follows

‘Umeedhun Furigen mithibee, Anhehun, Hissaa vaan kerigen mithibee, Anhenun! Dhaanamey beybe menaa ekee, Aneh Raaje ah?’

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