Campaign to boycott the Maldives gathers pace after rape ruling

Campaign to boycott the Maldives gathers pace after rape ruling

Nearly two million people have signed a petition urging tourists to boycott the Maldives after its authorities sentenced a 15-year-old rape victim to 100 lashes for having sex outside marriage.

The girl, who told police she had been raped by her stepfather and abused by other local men, was sentenced last month to a public flogging for having premarital sex.

The online petition calls on the Maldivian president, Mohamed Waheed Hassan to change the law so that it protects the victims of rape.

Campaign group Avaaz, who is hosting the petition, says it aims to "threaten the islands' reputation through hard-hitting ads in travel magazines and online until he steps in to save her and abolish this outrageous law."

It goes on to say:"Let's put an end to this lunacy by hitting the Maldivian government where it hurts: the tourism industry."

The girl is due to have her punishment carried out when she reaches the age of 18.

According to local media reports, the child's stepfather is accused of rape and the murder a baby born to his stepdaughter as a result. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

Human rights groups including Amnesty International have condemned the country's policies and are calling for the reform of the country's judicial system.

Since the overthrow of the previous president last year, there have been repeated calls to stop visiting the islands because of reports of police brutality and human rights abuses.

So far, nearly 1.9 million have signed the petition, and last week, Sir Richard Branson added his voice to the campaign.

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