Double Bind: Motherhood Celebrated, Mothers Discriminated
Fatima Bawazir

In the Yemeni labour market, women face various forms of discrimination, with married women experiencing double the prejudice. 

In Yemen, marriage and motherhood are more than just social roles; they are considered essential obligations. Rejecting marriage often results in shock, confusion, bullying, or even violence.   

However, marriage also exposes women to discrimination. Employers in Yemen's private sector frequently deny married women job opportunities, fearing they may become pregnant and need to focus on childcare.   
A.B., now a local government employee, faced dismissal from a private school she worked with in the past, after announcing her engagement. Many of her colleagues encountered similar treatment, as employers assume married women prioritize family and household duties, leading to decreased productivity. This bias does not extend to men, who are not expected to invest time and effort in family care. 

Balance in household
responsibilities supports
equity at work. 

Such biased thinking limits equal job opportunities for women, hindering their potential and Yemen's overall economic and social development. To achieve comprehensive growth and gender equality in Yemen's job market, society must change cultural patterns and challenge biased perceptions, starting from households and extending to institutions and the government. A more balanced division of household and caregiving responsibilities between men and women can foster equal workplace participation. 

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women

According to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, adopted on 18 December 1979 and ratified by Yemen in 1984, "in order to prevent discrimination against women on the grounds of marriage or maternity and to ensure their effective right to work, States Parties shall take appropriate measures:  
(a) To prohibit, subject to the imposition of sanctions, dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy or of maternity leave and discrimination in dismissals on the basis of marital status; 
(b) To introduce maternity leave with pay or with comparable social benefits without loss of former employment, seniority or social allowances; (c) To encourage the provision of the necessary supporting social services to enable parents to combine family obligations with work responsibilities and participation in public life, in particular through promoting the establishment and development of a network of childcare facilities; 

(d) To provide special protection to women during pregnancy in types of work proved to be harmful to them."  


Discrimination against married and pregnant women is also prevalent in government contracts, where there is often an absence of rights or paid leave for women who are pregnant, have recently given birth, or have lost their husbands while working. 

According to R.B., a decision-making official in Hadramout, women under such government contracts face discrimination.

She cites the example of one woman forced to return to work only 18 days after giving birth, despite Yemeni Labor Law No. 5 of 1995, Article 45, prohibiting such actions. According to R.B., a decision-making official in Hadramout, women under such government contracts face discrimination. 

Although Yemeni law bans gender discrimination in the workplace and provides shorter working hours for pregnant or nursing women, enforcement remains inadequate. Pregnant employees are legally entitled to a 60-day fully paid maternity leave, with an additional 20 days for difficult deliveries or twins. These provisions show the state's intent to provide fair opportunities for women in the labour market.

            To combat discrimination against married and pregnant women in Yemen, a balanced division of household and caregiving responsibilities is necessary, alongside better enforcement of existing laws, paid leave, and benefits for women during pregnancy and after childbirth. Yemen must recognize and support the vital role of working mothers in the labour market. 

            Photo: © Yemeni Women's Voices Platform - through Midjourney 

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