Travel publisher calls for action against Maldives

ETN publisher and Pacific Asia Travel Association board member, Juergen Thomas Steinmetz, has thrown his support behind campaigns to boycott the Maldives' tourism industry.

He said his publication, ETurboNews, would not accept advertising or press releases from any Maldives government agency until the government ends human rights abuses against women.

ETN's online news called for tourism industry support for an outright boycott of Maldives' tourism until the country's leaders end the practice of flogging as a form of punishment as well as those that criminalise "fornication."

In the ETN report, Steinmetz slammed the country's human rights abuses: "I am outraged on hearing that a 15-year-old girl, who has survived rape by her stepfather and a resultant pregnancy, has now been found guilty of "fornication" and sentenced to flogging and house arrest.

"I am an active member of the UNWTO World Tourism Network on Child Protection, and as a world citizen, I cannot be silenced about this. No civilised country should get away with such a nightmare system of justice."

eTN readers are being urged to sign a campaign by world citizens' group, Avaaz, which has more than 20 million members in 194 countries. The petition can be found at:

Avaaz states on its website: "Tourism is the big earner for the Maldives elite, including government ministers. With a million-strong petition to President Waheed, we'll threaten the islands' reputation through hard-hitting ads in travel magazines and online until he abolishes this outrageous law," the site declares.

"The girl's stepfather raped her for years and then murdered the baby she bore. Now the court is punishing her for "sex outside marriage".

Former secretary general of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI), Mohamed Ibrahim Sim, said he doubted a tourism boycott would "change the government's position on religious issues".

"The religious faction [in the government] is stronger than ever before. It will not affect government policy in any way - it will just attract negative publicity," he said.

Sim observed: "[Tourists] have no idea what is going on in the real Maldives, and they probably don't want to know," he said.

"They come here for a relaxing, stress-free holiday."

The 15-year-old from the island of Feydhoo in Shaviyani Atoll appeared in the Juvenile Court on February 26 and was convicted for premarital sex, and sentenced to 100 lashes and eight months of house arrest.

"The little girl will not be flogged for another two years, so we must look at what can be done [in the meantime]," Sim said.

The local Haveeru newspaper quoted an unnamed official from the prosecutor's office saying that the fornication charge was unrelated to the rape which had been separately dealt with.

Women, including minors, having consensual sex outside marriage can be charged in the Maldives, where convicts can be publicly flogged. Minors receive the punishment when they reach 18, the age of majority.

Source: eTN and TTR Daily

Tuesday, March 26, 2013