Maldive women politicians angry over gender imbalance

 

Editorial

16 November 2007


Maldive politicians from all sides of the divide give the West the one finger salute figuratively all the time. A presidential appointee to the Maldive parliament and president of the republic Maumoon Gayoom’s niece seen here giving the literal one finger salute to the Maldive press. Faathin Hameed is a graduate of Waikato University here in New Zealand and a deputy minister in Mr Gayoom’s government. This picture appeared in the Maldive opposition web site Minivan News. It looks authentic but we cannot vouch for that totally. She was a member who disrupted parliamentary proceedings by taking part in the women members’ stand-in. Her husband is a member of our royal dynasty.

In a Third World Islamic dictatorship stricken with discrimination, the last thing one needs is more discrimination, albeit allegedly “positive”. That, however, was what Maldive women members of parliament wanted to incorporate into their new constitution, when they proposed an amendment to create ten seats for women. When they did not get their way, the incumbent women members staged a stand-in, disrupting parliamentary proceedings. The new woman attorney general, who moved the amendment, threw a tantrum and stormed out like some snotty school girl who had her ponytail pulled by the classroom smarty-pants.

Is that how mature politicians behave?

What amazed this writer was a reason given for creating the woman’s seats. A member who backed the amendment told reporters (Haveeru Online) that he and his colleagues were being mocked at in international forums because of the under-representation of women in Maldive parliamentary delegations. He cited the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Why were these people unable to come up with a better formula to guarantee gender representation? Did they think of a situation in which the number of men in parliament could become less than ten? Why did they not propose a mechanism to guarantee men’s representation as well?

The issue could easily have been addressed.

Let us say that the number of women elected to parliament in a general election was six. A run-off election could then be held across the republic to elect four women to bolster women’s representation to the minimum of ten. The same would apply if the number of men were to become less than ten; a run off election would be held to elect the number of men required to make up the shortfall. Under this scheme, the total number of members may exceed the number of constituency seats by between one and a maximum of ten.

From the recent immature behaviour of women members of the Maldive parliament it would seem that, in their opinion, the only gender imbalance in the Maldives is in the composition of parliament. They are too afraid to highlight other institutionalised discrimination against woman imposed by Islamic laws that override all other laws.

The Koran is emphatic that women are inferior to men. If Maldive women disobey their husbands, the latter have the right to beat them and beat they do with impunity (Koran 4:34). The Koran confirms that women have an advantage over men (Koran 2:228). Maldive women are denied equal rights to inheritance because of Islam (Koran 4:11-12). Islam allows Muslim men to marry up to four wives concurrently but it denies polyandrous marriage to women. Islam gives Maldive men an inalienable right to have sex with non-Muslim women captured in conflicts even if they were already married (Koran 4:24).

The chief prosecutor of the Maldive government may throw tantrums to the ends of the universe, but the Shariah decrees that her personal testimony may not be admitted in Maldive courts of law over certain issues unless it is accompanied by the testimony of a man (Koran 2:282). The Testimony of Women Act 1972 (Law number 14/72 javiyani) has codified this into Maldives statute books.

A little-known Shariah provision allows Islamic states to levy an inheritance tax on the estate of a deceased person if he or she leaves only female heirs. It is very seldom that anyone dies in these circumstances and so the Maldive courts are usually spared the embarrassment of imposing this tax. It was imposed as late as 29 November 2006 on the estate of a man who died on 14 February 1992, leaving a widow and two daughters, with no apparent male next of kin. A court document numbered 476/MC/2004 shows that the Maldives Civil Court seized 20.833% of the estate and paid it into an account in the Maldives Monetary Authority. This was a clear violation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women that the Maldives acceded to on 1 July 1993.

Are there any Maldive members of parliament staging stand-ins, sit-ins and tantrums in order to abolish these Islamic outrages against women? No. Are they embarrassed in international forums because of this? The answer is also no.

So the outcry over gender imbalance in parliament is purely rhetoric designed to impress the West. It is their hope that useful idiots in Europe, America and Australasia would no longer think that the Maldives is full of West-hating, Iran-loving, medrassa-trained fanatics secretly perfecting the art of making nail-bombs.

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