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.