WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A British tourist was arrested for wearing a swimsuit that was deemed ‘inappropriate’ by policemen, on a public beach on the island of Maafushi.
- A video of her arrest that showed her being roughly seized by several men and dragged from the beach while attempting to handcuff her triggered outrage from social media.
- The Maldives Police issued a public apology to the tourist while reminding other visitors to respect the communities by observing local regulations regarding dress codes.
Local authorities in the Maldives issued an apology to a British woman after being violently manhandled by policemen who arrested her on Thursday for being “indecently” dressed at a public beach.
Reports say the tourist, whose name was withheld, was walking on the main road of the inhabited island of Maafushi in the Kaafu Atoll clad in a black and white bikini at around 6 p.m. when three police officers apprehended her and roughly forced her into custody.
Video footage of the arrest shared on social media showed the woman resisting the officers as three of them dragged her from the beach while a fourth one tried covering her with a sarong. In the midst of this, the woman was repeatedly heard screaming, “You’re sexually assaulting me!”
After the video sparked criticism on social media, Maldives police service commissioner, Mohamed Hameed, acknowledged that the incident was handled badly and that investigations were launched.
He also extended his apologies to the woman and to the public over the incident saying, “I apologize to the tourist & the public for this. The challenge I have taken up is to professionalize the police service & we are working on that.”
The Maldives used to limit tourists to visiting only resort islets that are away from the local Muslim residents. But in recent years, it has allowed foreigners to stay on the inhabited islands. But while tourists are generally allowed to wear bikinis in the resorts, they are required to observe local dress codes elsewhere.
In a statement on Friday, the Maldives Police Service stated that locals from the beach first reported the woman for being “inappropriately” dressed. They said that when the three officers approached the woman and asked her to comply with local regulations, she refused and was then detained. But authorities said she was also released that same day around 7 p.m.
The statement also added a reminder to tourists who will be visiting the country to be more familiar with local sensitivities and to dress “modest outside of tourist resorts as a sign of respect to the community.”
A Maafushi tourism website states that only the discreetly hidden and private tourist beaches on the island of Maafushi allow tourists to sunbathe in bikinis while all other beaches do not allow swimwear as per Maldivian law.
The Maldives is an Islamic nation in the Indian Ocean consisting of 1,200 islands, 200 of which are inhabited by locals.