A parliamentary committee report has disclosed that over 2,000 cases of sexual violence have been reported to authorities in the past six years, underscoring the need for urgent systemic reforms.

In 2021, Adam Shareef Umar, then-MP for Maduvvari, submitted a resolution to Parliament concerning the rise in rape and other forms of sexual violence. Shareef, now serving as the local government minister, saw his resolution reviewed by the Parliament’s Human Rights and Gender Committee.

On Monday, the committee’s chair, Hinnavaru MP Jeehan Mahmood, presented the inquiry report to Parliament. The report revealed a total of 2,169 cases of sexual violence reported to police between 2018 and October 2023. In 2018, there were 362 cases reported, increasing to 410 cases in 2019, and further to 487 cases in 2020. The number of cases then decreased to 342 in 2021, 334 in 2022, and 234 in 2023.

The committee’s findings highlighted severe shortcomings in the prosecution and conviction of these cases. Of the cases reported, the Prosecutor General’s Office filed charges in only 47 instances, resulting in just 10 convictions. Eight acquittals are currently under appeal.

Many cases involved elements of blackmail, and numerous islands lack facilities to conduct tests for collecting crucial evidence. Additionally, a shortage of mental health facilities is causing delays in conducting necessary psychological assessments of victims. The state has failed to provide rape evidence kits to many health facilities on the islands.

The committee has recommended several measures to address these issues. These include establishing an effective mechanism for inter-agency collaboration to support victims of sexual abuse, expediting investigations into sex crimes, and ensuring psychological services are available to victims. The report also calls for making rape kits mandatory and drafting necessary guidelines for their use. Additionally, it urges the drafting of guidelines required under the first amendment to the Sex Crimes Act and providing rape kits to all state health facilities by the end of 2024.

Despite a year-over-year decrease in reported cases, the committee expressed concern over the prolonged duration of cases in court and other processes. The report calls for immediate action to improve the handling and resolution of sexual violence cases.