UN rights official urges Maldives to stop flogging

By the Associated Press | November 24, 2011 | 8:50 AM EST

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The U.N. human rights chief urged the Maldives on Thursday to end the "degrading" practice of flogging women found to have had sex outside marriage.

"This practice constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women, and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told Parliament.

"I strongly believe that a public debate is needed in Maldives on this issue of major concern," she said calling for law reforms against discrimination against women.

She also urged authorities to improve poor, exploitative conditions for migrant workers.

Maldives is a Muslim country of 300,000 people where practicing other religions is forbidden. According to the nation's laws, 30 lashes are given to women found to have committed adultery.

Court officials would not give numbers on how many women are flogged, but the punishment is usually done in public.

On her three-day visit to Maldives, Pillay has also expressed concern about rising religious intolerance in the South Asian island nation. She now heads to Indonesia for meetings on human rights in Southeast Asian countries.