Since President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih assumed office, there has been a tenfold increase in the number of brothels in Male', the capital of Maldives, escalating concerns over a burgeoning sex trade. While this sharp increase has led to widespread criticism of the government's inability to curb prostitution, several new trends have emerged that require immediate attention.
A recent report revealed that the number of massage parlours, often a guise for brothels, has now surpassed the number of mosques in Male'. Despite this alarming fact, the Maldives Police Service reports indicate a decrease in arrests related to these activities under President Solih's administration, raising questions about the authorities' resolve to address the issue.
In a press conference, Home Minister Imran Abdullah attributed the surge in prostitution to the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw an influx of foreign workers into the Maldives. However, critics argue that this explanation overlooks the government's shortcomings in effectively regulating and monitoring these 'massage parlours'.
Adding to the complexity of the issue is the new trend of openly advertising sex services via social media platforms. Providers have taken to Facebook to offer women who are willing to engage in sexual acts within clients' homes, eliminating the risk of being seen entering a brothel or massage parlour. The rise of this new 'home service' model suggests an effort to circumvent police scrutiny and maintain discretion.
Homosexual orgies, which require paid entrance, have also been reported in Male' city, representing another facet of the expanding sex trade.
Many remember Imran Abdullah's vocal stance against such activities during former President Mohamed Nasheed's administration when only a few massage parlours had opened. Critics are pointing to what they perceive as hypocrisy, considering the dramatic increase in sex trade activities under his watch.
This surge in illicit sexual activity has underscored the urgent need for the government to review its approach towards regulating the sex trade. As the situation continues to evolve, Maldivians are demanding stronger enforcement and more proactive measures to curb these activities.
The government's handling of the issue in the coming months will undoubtedly be closely watched by both the public and international human rights organizations. Whether it can deliver remains a pressing question in the minds of the people of the Maldives.