Yemen is notovious known for being one of the poorest of the Arab countries and for a place at the bottom of most gender equality indexes. The country’s situation is extremely unstable, both politically and in the area of security. The instability is rooted in a historic division between a traditional North and an independence-seeking South along with tribal divisions, all of which cause regular clashes between different fractions and national security forces.
In 2011, Yemen witnessed demonstrations and public uprisings in the wave of the Arab Spring, leading to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh stepping down in 2012. During the transitional period that followed with a relatively loose control from a weakened state, militant Islamists seized the opportunity and established a stronghold for Al Qaeda bases.
Facing all of those severe challenges, Yemen is more or less on the verge of collapse, not able to maintain security, electricity and sufficient food supplies for the citizens.
However, despite the total absence of an enabling environment, Yemen is in the middle of a future-oriented, and to a certain degree quite inclusive (e.g. regarding women and youth), transitional process following a National Dialogue Conference that was concluded early 2014. In the process, a number of good intentions regarding women’s participation and representation and legal protection have been voiced – but the actions are yet to be seen. The intentions touch upon amendment of laws to end violence against women, awareness and advocacy to be put into practice on youth and women rights and participation and quotas for women’s political participation.
Only 28% of the Yemeni labor force is made up of women, even though the Yemeni government along with several NGOs is seeking to increase the country’s labor force by promoting an increased female presence in the workplace. Apart from the paid jobs that some women attend, women are typically forced to carry out manual labour duties at home such as collecting water and firewood, alongside raising the children, and are often involved in agricultural work such as tending to land and grazing animals on a daily basis.
The constitution proclaims equality between women and men but refers to women as ‘men’s sisters’. Women’s rights and obligations are determined by Sharia law, which forms the basis of all legislation. The Penal Code, the Personal Status Act, the Citizenship Act and the Criminal Code all contain provisions which discriminate against women. Inheritance is governed by Sharia, giving women a lesser share than male heirs.
The issue of marriage in particular contains heavy violations on women’s and girls’ integrity and justice. There is no legal minimum age for marriage, and women are not able to conclude their own marriage contracts; polygamy is legal; women are legally required to be obedient to their husbands; women have no legal rights to their children and can only obtain a divorce under a limited range of circumstances. And although rape is a criminal offence, this does not include spousal rape.
There is no legislation to address domestic violence and those reporting domestic violence are at risk of being taken into custody. So called honor related crimes receive lighter penalties. There is no law prohibiting female genital mutilation which is estimated at 90% prevalence. There is no law specifically addressing or prohibiting trafficking of persons.
Yemen has ratified the CEDAW convention in 1984, with reservations to Article 29(1) and not including the Optional Protocol.
KVINFO’s activities in Yemen
KVINFO has been working in Yemen since in 2009, in a partnership with Sana’a University. The project has been evolving around a master degree in gender and development at Sana’a University and an associated research library. In the near future, KVINFO will expand the program work in Yemen to cover other thematic areas.
KVINFO currently works in Yemen within these thematic areas:
KVINFO partners in Yemen are:
- Gender Development Research and Studies Center (GDRSC)
- Oxfarm GB in Yemen
- Awam Foundation for Cultural Development (AFDC)