*Aishath Mohamed, a 25-year-old woman from the island of Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaal atoll, recalls her first visit to the capital. She was 12 years old, excited to compete in the national Quran recital competition. But on her first night in Malé, in a cramped room with four teenage boys and a girl, Aishath was woken up to the biggest shock of her young life.
“I get goosebumps when I recall the memory. Somebody was touching my leg so I woke up. Three of them were holding me down and the other one was trying to touch me,” she says.
With almost no sexual or reproductive health education, Aishath was at a loss and unsure of how to cope with her ordeal. But she knew what happened to her was wrong and resolved to speak to her mother after returning to her island.
“I was really surprised by the way she reacted,” she recalls.
“She said dirty things happen to slutty women who don’t know how to behave. She blamed me! Can you imagine that? I was blamed for being raped.”
Similar attitudes of blaming the victim are common in rape cases throughout the world. Oftentimes, family members and close relatives are the first to judge and blame, making it harder for victims like Aishath to muster enough courage to seek professional help or emotional support.
A research by the University of Southern California found that one-fourth of all online comments on news articles about sexual assault and rape include victim-blaming statements.
The Maldives is no exception. The reaction on social media platforms to a gang rape in Hulhumalé earlier this month exposed misogynistic sentiments and blaming-the-victim attitudes among Maldivian men.
“She must have been there for group sex. Young people these days really like to enjoy with a group,” one man commented on a Facebook post by a local media outlet about the gang rape.
“A woman living in Villimalé will only go to Hulhumalé on such an invitation so it must have happened with the consent of both parties,” another man concluded, referring to media reports that identified the victim as a resident of the capital’s suburb.
Read more at: http://maldivesindependent.com/feature-comment/victim-blaming-and-misogyny-in-maldives-129283
Maldives Independent, March 13, 2017