Yemeni women face violence and discrimination

Amnesty International Press release
25 November 2009

Women in Yemen face systemic discrimination and endemic violence with devastating consequences for their lives, Amnesty International said in a campaign report on Wednesday.

Their rights are routinely violated because Yemeni laws as well as tribal and customary practices treat them as second class citizens.

Women are not free to marry who they want and some are forced to marry when they are children, sometimes as young as eight.

The practice was highlighted last Friday, 20 November, by the UN Committee against Torture, which expressed its concern at the “legality” of early marriages of girls, calling it “inhuman and degrading treatment”.

Once married, a woman must obey her husband and obtain his permission just to leave the house.

Women are valued as half the worth of men when they testify in court or when their families are compensated if they are murdered.

They are also denied equal treatment when it comes to inheritance and are often denied it completely.

Women are dealt with more harshly than men when accused of “immoral” acts, and men are treated leniently when they murder female relatives in “honour killings”.

Such discriminatory laws and practices encourage and facilitate violence against women, which is rife in the home and in society at large.

Despite this, recent years have seen some positive developments for women’s rights, such as the creation of the quasigovernmental National Women’s Committee (NWC) in 1996 and the appointment in 2001 of a minister of state for human rights, which was upgraded to ministerial level in 2003.

The government has also engaged with intergovernmental bodies and reported to the UN committee overseeing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to which Yemen is a party.

Most significantly, women themselves have helped to create a vibrant civil society, and women’s non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have achieved some success in some campaigns for reforms. In 2009, for example, the government repealed Article 3(1) of the 1990 Nationality Law to allow children born to a Yemeni mother and a non-Yemeni father to qualify for Yemeni nationality.

However, other reforms are urgently needed. Amnesty International is calling for an end to discriminatory laws and violence against women, adding its voice to the demand of women in Yemen for full and equal access to their human rights.

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