Luxury tourist destination Maldives has been asked to stop forthwith public flogging of women found guilty of extra-marital sex.
Labelling the practice as most "inhumane and degrading form of violence against women", UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay told the country's Parliament (Majlis) that "this should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country", the island's Minivan news agency said.
While acknowledging efforts by the government to promote gender equality, Pillay said that discrimination against women and girls continued in the country of 330,000 Sunni Muslims.
"A powerful illustration of this trend is the flogging of women found guilty of extra-marital sex. This practice constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading form of violence against women," the UN Rights chief said, stressing that there should be no place for this in the democratic setup.
She told the Island-chain nation's parliamentarians to foster a national dialogue "on this issue of major concern".
Pillay also wanted parliament to pass legislation on domestic violence as well as other laws to ensure women's right.
Though no exact figures were available on the number of women flogged, the Maldivian news agency said of the 184 people sentenced to public flogging in 2006, 146 were females, making it nine times more likely for women to be punished.
Minivan said that following a news report in 2009 of an 18-year-old girl fainting after 100 lashes, Amnesty International had called for a moratorium on such punishments.