UN rights chief calls on Maldives to remove Muslim-only citizenship provision

Ali Naafiz, Haveeru Online
Nov 25, 2011 - 01:47 25 comments
  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay speaks to journalists at the UN Building in Maldivian capital Male on November 24, 2011 before concluding her four-day visit to the island nation. PHOTO/ HUSSEIN SINAN

  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay speaks to journalists at the UN Building in Maldivian capital Male on November 24, 2011 before concluding her four-day visit to the island nation. PHOTO/ HUSSEIN SINAN

The UN human rights chief yesterday called on Maldivian authorities to remove the "discriminatory" constitutional provision that requires every citizen to be a Muslim.

Speaking to journalists at the United Nations Building here in Male before concluding her four-day visit to the island nation, Navi Pillay said the provision is discriminatory and does not comply with the international standards.

"I would again urge a debate on that to open up the benefits of the constitution to all and to remove that discriminatory provision," she said.

Pillay further reiterated her previous remarks at the parliament about flogging, saying that the practice of flogging women found guilty of extra-marital sex is against the international treaties that the Maldives has ratified.

"The fact that people, especially women, are still flogged in the Maldives is a serious blot on the country’s otherwise increasingly positive and progressive image overseas. There should be no place for flogging anywhere in the 21st century, and by continuing to carry out floggings – albeit only occasionally – the Maldives is in breach of its obligations under several international treaties," she said.

She noted that she held discussions with President Mohamed Nasheed, ministers and the judiciary on how to end the practice of flogging in the Maldives.

"At the very least, pending more permanent changes in the law, it should be possible for the government and the judiciary to engineer a practical moratorium on flogging," she proposed.

In her address to the parliament yesterday, the UN human rights chief told parliamentarians that flogging is one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women and called for a much "needed" public debate in the Maldives on the issue.

Asked why she made her remarks about flogging when it violates the Maldivian constitution, Pillay said that "I don't believe you have a constitution" but quickly corrected her statement by saying that "you have a constitution" which "conforms in many respects to universally accepted human rights".

"And let me assure you that these human rights conform with the Islam," she said.

During her visit to the Maldives as part of a weeklong visit to Asia, Pillay met with President Mohamed Nasheed, opposition politicians and officials of the independent state bodies and the civil society and discussed issues related to human rights.

Pillay's visit is the first such visit to the Maldives by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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