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Wondering why it became a news item!

From a political ralley. Women play a lead role and our dress is our choice.

The most recent controversy here in the Maldives has been the placing of a 16 year old girl in police custody “for her protection” (not arrested mind you!).

Apparently she was wearing very skimpy clothing, which is generally not socially acceptable in our community. More importantly it is against our general belief about how a Muslim woman should be covered.

Our scripture, the Holy Quran, instructs women to cover our bodies.
Quran (33:59) (narrated in "TheReligionofPeace)" -
"Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them..."

There are other verses too with similar messages.

There are differences in how these verses are interpreted though. Some people define the verses to mean admonishments to dress modestly. Others believe, it specifically instructs to cover the full body, while yet others have meanings that lie in between these two spectrum. Elsewhere in Quran and in Hadhees there are instructions for women that it’s chaste to cover every part of the body except the palms and face, and the men to cover at least from waist down to the knees (and these are the mainstream beliefs about what should be covered).

So yes, as a Muslim many of us take heed of this general observance. Many cover from head to toe, except for the palms and face. But the fashions vary, with many wearing very trendy and hip outfits. There are others who believe anything except black and very loose dresses are unacceptable.

Now all of that is beside the point.

The Maldives is a 100% Muslim country. We all follow the same religion and generally we are all happy with it. We are born into the religion and we embrace it and go with the flow. But as things stand, Maldives is a very modern and to the most part an affluent country. We follow hip culture and many are fashion savvy. It’s not new to see girls wearing brief dresses, very short sleeves, deep cleavages, short skirts, or very tight fitting tops and jeans. Most of our wedding parties are on par with Western fashion show catwalks.

Yesterday’s news headline and newspapers were spattered with this "news" about a girl being taken into police custody for something akin to public nudity. I agree, the dress was not acceptable for the societal values and standards. But I cannot help ask “so what?”

Oh wait! Maybe it made news, because most people have this question. Why she? Why not everyone else parading on the road in a brief top and shorts or tight jeans? Maybe that's what it is.

We see our celebrities going on their award functions dressed as skimpily as this girl; nobody takes them into custody. We watch our local film productions with 'stars' wearing just that – Police do not censor those productions. We watch Bollywood movies and Hollywood movies in almost all of our sitting rooms – and we very obviously watch people wearing much skimpier clothes. Police do not censor those channels. And our men go on public shows like the body building championship with the briefest of briefs. What happened to the waist to knee dress-code? Or else, anyone living in Male’ city will just have to walk up to the football stadium in Maafannu to witness hordes and hordes of men playing, wearing short-shorts; or walk up to the swimming track and there are so many men there in their mini boxers.
That’s why I cannot help ask "so what?"

What is the big deal? What is the acceptable dress code? If she is to be ostracized for her skimpy dress, there are many others who should be treated the same. If we are to go by our religious preachings, all of our women need to be forced to cover our full body and all of our men need to conform to theirs too.
But since we don't, how and why was this girl targeted? If one can wear jeans and top, why not a cocktail dress?
I would personally raise my brows if I come across that girl; my belief in my religion and what is ingrained in my mind as society accepted norms will make me question her reasons for dressing like THAT.

But my point is - are these the kind of things that can be enforced by police? Will an effective solution come out of it by forcing a certain kind of dress code? Of course I believe in modesty. But I also believe in civic education and freedom of choice.

P.S. Image sources:
and from other sites. These images are used to show my readers how differently our women dress and we all accept it.

The last image is from the local newspaper Haveeru showing the girl in question.

Politically active women. An arrest from last year.
Award night. Niuma (our best actress) dressed as a mermaid - everyone was amused
Niuma, our most prominant female celebirity from the film industry
The 16 year old girl in the skimpy dress


nilima's picture

This is really complicated

This is really complicated world. Why all the rules are for women, why so many limitations and restrictions? We need to wait long to see these things being changed.

Thank you Aminah for posting this, its an interesting writing.

Aminah's picture

Exactly my sentiments

Yes Nilima.

It really is a complicated world. There are so many restrictions and limitations on us. But I believe most of it are society constructed barriers and ideologies. Sure we have some differences given our biological uniqueness. But that does not warrant women to be sex objects in any way.
Mentality needs to be changed and I believe it will. It might take some time. But it will :)


Debra K Adams MA's picture

targeting women

it is discrimination, as you have pointed out - to use the language "for her protection" is euphemism for 'we want to control this young person!' In the USA, we call it "Big Brother" or paternalism. I believe that governments should not interfere in personal freedoms - I am sure our governments have bigger problems than this one young woman and how she dresses. To make 'an example' of her is unfair and discriminatory.

well, sorry for my western privilege - can't help myself, I feel safe to do so here. If I offended anyone, I do apologize.

"Be the change you want in the world." Gandhi

Debra K. Adams, MA
See my vizify bio!
Survivors In Service: Self Empowerment Strategies (SiSSeS)
Consultant/Speaker/Author & Owner/Founder

Aminah's picture


True. These days we are witnessing police giving "protection" to people they want off the road.
The other day, some news reporters were taken into "protection" when they were attacked for news reporting.
The people who attacked were left as they were - maybe because they belonged to a certain political party.

This being election year, and especially with an alleged coup government, things are expected to get worse before it gets better.

Anyways, I agree with you. To make an example of her is very unfair. At one level I am glad this incident was covered by the media. Hopefully the Police will refrain from being thought police in the future.


I am very concerned hearing about the 'moral policing'. I am not sure how much truth is in this. however, reading this post and other articles I am feel Maldives is going towards a very extreme ideology.

I am glad you have posted this here. Maldivian education system has failed us is many ways.

Take care

With love

We sure are going down the path where being a women is an offense. Many of our women these days must be doubting their role in society. On the one hand we are encouraged to empower ourselves, to gain an education, to participate in economy. But on the other hand our society is bombarded with information and admonishments that narrows down the place of women to that of the four walls of her home.
The sad state of the youth of the country is generally blamed on mothers - it seems it's a failure of mothers that there is a shortage of jobs, extreme inflation, and the increasing violence.

The Maldives Education system teaches people to be competitive. To excel in studies over the next person. That is good in its place. But living in harmony and respecting each other is what needs to be emphasized. Economizing and recycling needs to be emphasized. General understanding of societal norms and breaking free from unrealistic ones in a sensible manner also needs to be subtly incorporated in the educational curriculum.
What we see these days is rebellion. Rebellion in itself can be good if harnessed positively.


It s happneing here in Sudan too when police decide who is well dressed and who not based on their own personal perfrenace and missuse of their authority becouse the law allow them to do so.
Thank you for sharing this let us know what the laws look like in Maldive in this regards.

It is never too late to try make your way to your dream and left up your expectation.
Sudanes Women Building Peace

There in fact is no law that says how anyone should dress.
That's why I raise my question.

From a religious perspective it is different - as there are some defining guidelines. And yet there are differences in opinions and differences in how much one covers. So while there is no possible way of making a distinction, it is discriminatory to target that girl.


Sangita Thapa's picture

right to freedom!

Like you Aminah, I too believe in freedom of personal choice. It would be irrational and unjust to keep one under custody just because she/he dressed on her/his choice. And yes i agree with your logics that it cant be justified on moral grounds either. I still wonder if she was targeted fiercely by media. Did they made her public? I hope not. :(

Aminah's picture

right to freedom, I agree

It's a small community relatively - so the girl can be identifiable.
Media did not publish her full photo - the face was digitally masked.
But there were photos on the social media, photos taken by individual bystanders on their phone. Most were reflects of her inside a shop. But still, there were about 4 or 5 police officers to advice her. That is a large amount I believe, considering the "culprit" was a lanky girl of 16.


loretta's picture

Manners maketh a man!

I don't think any form of dress code define a person. It is how a person behaves that define them. A person can dress according to the "norm" or perscribed dress code and behave badly or be rude.

A person can dress just like the girl in question and still be well behave or badly behaved. Ow one carries oneself, defines who that person is. They may be expressing their inner desire to be free from the shackles of an enforced dress code.

I cannot say much, but I feel that people should be allowed to make their own choices, although there should be guidelines, especially by parents, but for a woman who's over 18, the responsibility lies with them. We can only advice and not enforce.


A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others throw at her. Author Unkown.

Totally agree with you Loretta.

It's who we are that matters. Our morality, our ethics, our honor, these are the kinds of things that defines us. Not the piece of cloth on our body.
Modesty is in one place. Forcing someone to be modest is another spectrum itself. And no good comes out of forcing people to do anything.

Just hoping people can accept this simple logic.


loretta's picture


Psychologists say you can modify a persons behaviour, but not their personality.

Therefore forcing people to comply doesn't change much.

Keep well my friend. Salaam.


A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others throw at her. Author Unkown.

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