A pair of Maldivian stepsisters, aged 11 and 13, who ran away from home in India to flee their abusive father, arrived in Male’ last night, according to the girls’ relatives. The girls lived with the 11-year-old’s father and the 13-year-old’s mother in Trivandrum; they ran away after being severely beaten by the father last week, and were directed to the Maldivian consulate.
“An 11-year-old wouldn’t run away without something terrible having happened to her,” the girl’s aunt told Minivan News today. The aunt said that the man was physically abusing his daughter, and sexually abusing his stepdaughter. She said the girls ran away with Rf3,000 (US$234) and their passports.
The mother of the 11-year old, who lives in Male’, received a telephone call on Wednesday morning from a friend saying that the girls had run away. She later got a call from the consulate who said they were talking to the gender ministry and foreign ministry to arrange to send the girls back. “I felt a shock,” said the aunt. “I didn’t know what to do.”
She said she thought of contacting community organization, NOOR, because she had heard about them recently. NOOR was a leading group in organising a rally protesting child abuse two weeks ago. NOOR member Fathimath Thanzeela (Thanzy) alerted the ministry of health and family. Thanzy told Minivan News the aunt and mother reported the case to the police in Male’ and India. Before the 11-year-old was sent to Male’, she said, it was necessary to prove that she should no longer be in the custody of the father.
The aunt spent Sunday at the ministry, arranging for the girls’ return. “While I was there I saw all the work they were doing,’’ she said. “They were sending letters, talking to the MPs about the custody situation. They were doing everything they could.” she said.
Despite the aunt’s reassurance, Thanzy expressed concern the ministry knew about the girls since Wednesday, but did not consult a lawyer until Sunday.
Minivan News report in full