The authorities in the Maldives are prosecuting four men for homosexuality and investigating dozens more, reports Human Rights Watch.
Police in the archipelagic nation are investigating numerous individuals and are planning to charge three men arrested on 28 July, including a police officer and the brother of a prominent politician, Mohamed Nasheed, who is a former president and current speaker of parliament.
It’s believed the crackdown was sparked by leaked videos and screengrabs that allegedly show the men having sex with a Bangladeshi man, who was earlier arrested on 12 July. If convicted, the four men face up to eight years in prison and 100 lashes.
In a media interview, the Commissioner of Police, Mohamed Hameed, claimed that 38 men had been identified as having had sex with the Bangladeshi man, and that they would all be prosecuted after investigation. The authorities have seized the passports of 18 people linked to these police investigations.
“The Maldives authorities should immediately drop the unjust and apparently politically motivated investigations, and instead abide by international standards on rights protections,” said Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.
“The government should repeal laws criminalising consensual same-sex relations, which discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens, migrants and tourists, and are a recipe for abuse.”
Under the Maldives penal code, section 411(a)(2) punishes “sexual intercourse with a person of the same sex” with up to eight years in prison, while section 411(d) stipulates an additional penalty of up to 100 lashes under Sharia law. Section 412 prohibits unlawful sexual conduct with a penalty of up to eight years. These provisions are applicable to both men and women.
“The arrest of four men for consensual same-sex conduct shows the arbitrary nature of these discriminatory laws,” Reid said. “The laws leave people open to blackmail and other abuse, and easily become a political tool in which those prosecuted bear the brunt of the abuse. The government should repeal the laws immediately.”