A court in the Maldives has ordered a public flogging for a 16-year-old girl who confessed to having pre-marital sex, in a ruling that Tuesday triggered widespread criticism from rights groups.
The unnamed teenager was convicted on her confession under sharia law after her family complained she had sex with a 29-year-old man in July.
The man was given 10 years in jail during a court hearing on the remote Raa atoll on Sunday.
A court official said the girl could refuse the flogging and would then instead be subjected only to eight months house arrest. Should she agree, the lashing will be carried out when she reaches the age of 18.
"In most cases, the offenders would accept the lashing as part of penance," the official, who declined to be named, said.
The ruling came 10 months after UN human rights chief Navi Pillay urged the Maldives to stop publicly flogging women for having extra-marital or pre-marital sex.
Pillay noted during a visit that the Maldives had progressed in safeguarding the rights of its 330,000 Sunni Muslims, but more needed to be done to protect women.
Flogging, carried out with a cane, is normally handed down as a punishment by village chiefs who also act as local judges.
Rights activists slammed the judgement and called for it to be overturned.
"Degrading and inhuman punishments should find no place in a democracy," said Aruna Kashyap, women's rights researcher for Asia at Human Rights Watch.
"Maldives should immediately halt the execution of the punishment and take action to amend its discriminatory laws."