Women in the Maldives
Maldivian women attending the 2012 International Women's Day March in Malé
General Statistics
Maternal mortality (per 100,000)60 (2010)
Women in parliament6.5% (2012)
Women over 25 with secondary education20.7% (2010)
Women in labour force55.7% (2011)
Gender Inequality Index[1]
Value0.348 (2021)
Rank83rd out of 191
Global Gender Gap Index[2]
Value0.648 (2022)
Rank117th out of 146

The status of Women in the Maldives was traditionally fairly high, as attested to in part by the existence of four Sultanas.[3]

Dress rules

Although the majority of Maldivian today women wear the veil,[4] this is a phenomenon experienced in the past two decades or so, possibly as a response to increased religious conservatism.[5]

There are no official laws in the Constitution of the Maldives that require women to cover their heads, but since the early 21st-century Maldivian women has commonly wore a hijab and niqab in public.

The Maldives became Muslim in the 12th-century but women did not veil: in 1337, the Muslim traveller Ibn Battuta expressed his dislike of the fact that the Muslim women of the Maldives did not veil [6] and only wore a skirt (called feyli) over the lower half of their bodies, and that he had no success in ordering them to cover up.[7] With the exception of a failed attempt to force women to veil in the 17th-century, veiling continued to be uncommon in the Maldives until the 20th-century.[8]

From the 1980s onward the veiling started to become more common in the Maldives due to growing Islamic conservatism, and in the early 21st-century women and girls was put under a growing social pressure to veil, resulting in hijab and black robes becoming common public wear by 2006.[9]

In 2007, the US Department of State's annual International Religious Freedom Report referenced one instance in which a female student was restricted from attending school for wearing a headscarf, despite civil servants wearing them at work without issue; [10][11] conversely, there are reports of women being pressured into covering themselves by close relatives;[12] of unveiled women being harassed, and of school girls being pressured to veil by their teachers.[13]

Women are not strictly secluded, but special sections are reserved for women in public places in some events.[3] However, those women who refuse to wear a veil or decide to remove it face social stigma[4] from both their families and members of the public.[14]

Sexual rights

Polygamy in the Maldives is legal, but very rare. Prostitution in the Maldives and. Homosexuality is illegal.[citation needed]

Women do not adopt their husbands' names after marriage but maintain their maiden names.[3] Inheritance of property is through both males and females.[3] With one of the highest divorce rates in the world, women in general have enjoyed marriage and divorce rights throughout history. Both divorced men and women face no stigma, and historically women also have the right to initiate divorce.[citation needed]

Catcalling and sexual harassment are major problems in Maldives for Maldivian and foreign women alike. A total of 96% of women in the Maldives reported having been harassed in the streets at some point in their lives, with 60% facing harassment before turning 16 and 40% reporting being sexually harassed before they turned 10.[15] Men of all ages find catcalling perfectly acceptable in especially Male' city. Little to no action is taken against people who harass women and the number of sexual assaults and rapes are increasing.[16]

In 2013, a 15-year-old rape victim received a sentence of 100 lashes for fornication. The sentence was later overturned by the Maldivian High Court, following an international petition campaign led by Avaaz.[17] A disproportionate number of women face public flogging for extra-marital sex compared to men: the majority of men accused of extra-marital sex are acquitted.[18] (Maldivian law only enforces punishment to these actions only through admission. Even though the Maldives is a 100 percent Muslim country for nearly a thousand years, there is no record of stoning, or execution for murder unlike most other Islamic or Non-Islamic nations across the world.[citation needed])


The male female ratio of enrolment and completion of education to secondary school standards remains equivalent, with female students academically exceeding the results of male students in recent years.[citation needed] But on average they earn less than half the salaries of men in the workplace,[19] possibly as a consequence of a higher male education levels a few decades ago. However, with the increased number of females who pursue higher education, which is set to overtake males this is likely to change in the near future. This change is also seen positively in the birth rate, which currently sees the Maldives on a negative birth rate, due to prolonged educational periods and change in social norms.[citation needed]


In today's society some women hold positions in government and business but they are heavily under-represented. As of 2016 women only accounted for three out of 14 government ministers, five out of 85 lawmakers and six out of more than 180 judges.[20] However the vast majority of Civil Servants are female employees.


  1. ^ "Human Development Report 2021/2022" (PDF). HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORTS. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  2. ^ "Global Gender Gap Report 2022" (PDF). World Economic Forum. Retrieved 1 March 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d Ryavec, Karl E. (1995). "Maldives: Social Structure". In Metz, Helen Chapin (ed.). Indian Ocean: five island countries (3rd ed.). Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. pp. 266–267. ISBN 0-8444-0857-3. OCLC 32508646. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.((cite encyclopedia)): CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  4. ^ a b "MALDIVES 2016 INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT" (PDF). US Government. 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-08-15.
  5. ^ Emma Fulu Domestic Violence in Asia: Globalization, Gender and Islam in the Maldives, p. 101-103
  6. ^ Guity Nashat Becker, Guity Nashat, Judith E. Tucker: Women in the Middle East and North Africa: Restoring Women to History, s. 55
  7. ^ Emma Fulu Domestic Violence in Asia: Globalization, Gender and Islam in the Maldives, p. 101
  8. ^ Emma Fulu Domestic Violence in Asia: Globalization, Gender and Islam in the Maldives, p. 101
  9. ^ Emma Fulu Domestic Violence in Asia: Globalization, Gender and Islam in the Maldives, p. 101-103
  10. ^ "Maldives". U.S. Department of State.
  11. ^ "MALDIVES: Children's rights in the Special Procedures' reports | CRIN". www.crin.org. 31 August 2023.
  12. ^ "Hijab and the Maldives: stigma, shaming and the struggle to take it off". Maldives Independent. 17 January 2018. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  13. ^ Emma Fulu Domestic Violence in Asia: Globalization, Gender and Islam in the Maldives, p. 101-103
  14. ^ "Hijab and the Maldives: stigma, shaming and the struggle to take it off | Maldives Independent". maldivesindependent.com. 17 January 2018. Retrieved 2018-05-15.
  15. ^ "UNFPA Maldives | Maldivian Women say #MeToo". maldives.unfpa.org. Retrieved 2018-05-15.
  16. ^ "Women's group speaks out over sexual abuse | Maldives Independent". maldivesindependent.com. 22 January 2018. Retrieved 2018-05-15.
  17. ^ "Maldives rape victim spared the lash after global anger". The Independent. 2013-08-24.
  18. ^ "150 women face adultery flogging on Maldives". The Independent. 2009-07-22. Retrieved 2018-05-15.
  19. ^ "Maldives: Women's Representation in Political Processes —". aceproject.org. Retrieved 2018-05-15.
  20. ^ "Female candidates win majorities on four island councils | Maldives Independent". maldivesindependent.com. 14 May 2017. Retrieved 2018-05-15.