Aid history
About Maldives
Effects of Tsunami
About Maldives: society

The 2000 census finds the Maldives population at 270,101, with 74,000 in Male’. Islam is the national religion and no other religions are permitted, the Maldives observes a liberal form of Islam derived from Sunni doctrines rather than the Shi’ia.

The position of women within Maldivian society is varied greatly over past centuries. Early records tell of female rulers and inheritance of power through female line. The present day society, however, is dominated by male clerics and an adapted Islamic code of conduct. Women still enjoy many freedoms compared to women in many other Islamic countries like equal rights to education and freedom in selecting and divorcing spouses.
Historically there were numerous female rulers up to the 16th century. Succession to the throne was perhaps originally to the younger brothers of the king, and in absence of brothers, to a daughter and her sister like in Sri Lankan dynasties. The issue of succession appears uncertain; fierce rivalry and seizures of power were not uncommon. The strongest Sultana, Khadeeja, succeeded her father to the throne. Twice she was deposed by a husband, but both times she was able to overthrow and kill the husband, and finally her sister succeeded her.

Incomes in the Maldives are low, coupled with both high mortality and fertility rates the result is severe congestion in the capital of Male’. Child mortality rates are much higher on the more remote islands, in some places perhaps only half the children reach adulthood. The growing affluence of the Maldives from tourism has helped rise the literacy levels to 93% although few have the opportunity to attend secondary school.

Marriage and divorce are treated quite uniquely in the Maldives; both are considered comparatively casual arrangements. Less than 1% of Maldivian women over 30 never marry and the average is four marriages in a lifetime. Divorce carries no stigma and serial marriage is considered by many to be the norm, polygamy is legal although it is not common practice to have more than one wife.

Book: Lonely Planet ‘Maldives.’ 5th ed, (2003)