Last Updated: Monday, 30 May 2016, 14:07 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010 - Maldives

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 1 July 2010
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010 - Maldives, 1 July 2010, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Islam is the state religion of the Maldives. The Constitution, ratified in 2008, prohibits citizens from practising other religions and precludes non-Muslims, including the Christian minority, from voting or holding public office. Non-Muslim foreigners must practise their religious beliefs in private, according to USCIRF 2009. The government failed in 2009 to act on a UN recommendation to grant religious freedom to the approximately 80,000 foreign workers in the country. The Constitution also states that the president, cabinet ministers, members of parliament and the judiciary must be Sunni Muslims. Atoll chiefs may practise other forms of Islam (an atoll is an island of coral that surrounds a lagoon). According to a report released in October 2009 by the UN, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir, expressed concern in May about an article of the Constitution that prevents non-Muslims from becoming citizens. Jahangir wrote in her statement, 'The implementation of this article ... could have a significant negative impact on human rights in the country, including those for individuals who have converted from Islam.' The UN received no response from the government.

Not satisfied with enshrining Islam as the official and compulsory religion, the government took steps in 2009 to oversee the way it is practised. On 4 January, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs announced its intention to prevent groups from holding Friday prayers at a time other than 12:35, which is the officially sanctioned prayer time, the US State Department reported. On 1 March, the government established a committee on religious issues, which promptly discussed a ban on discos in order to prevent 'un-Islamic conduct', according to a committee member. In April, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs started a programme to promote religious awareness in schools, but the programme ignored religions other than Islam, which it promoted, USCIRF 2009 said.

Some laws in the Maldives, which were drawn up according to perceived Islamic values, discriminate against women, and women from minorities suffer multiple forms of discrimination as a result. In matters relating to adultery, finance and inheritance, the testimony of one man is equal to that of two women. In regard to inheritance, male heirs are granted twice the share of female heirs. Women are prevented from marrying non-Muslim foreigners, but men are able to do so.

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