Women's Status under Yemeni Law
Monia Thabet
A general background on the situation of Yemeni women

The Yemeni constitution states in its Article (31), “Women are the sisters of men.” This article may carry the meaning of equality and social justice between males and females, but whoever knows the nature of Yemeni society will fully realize that this article does not promote equality. In reality, it shows the extent of the influence of a social and traditional culture that controls women, as it is a clear recognition by the legislator of the extent to which men (fathers - brothers - husbands) control the decisions and lives of women in general. The most obvious example is that the law allows women to ask for their legal inheritance, and in many cases a woman is prevented from taking her share under the pretext that she has no entitlement.

The problem lies not in laws but in customs and traditions of some tribes. Another example is that women are prevented from marrying a man outside their family, so that money is not seized from a person who has no connection or family relationship. The reason for this is the reluctance of the woman's family to allow marriage outside the family because they fear that the inheritance will be transferred to the husband after the wife's death.

This is what makes the woman either say that she will give up her share of the inheritance or remain without marriage. This reason is not due to the legal texts, but rather from the customs and traditions inherited in Yemen.
Because of this legislative text, Yemeni women have experienced, especially in the current war situation, many violations and negative discrimination, which affect their lives personally, practically, and socially. So, society’s view of women is still deficient and one needs to rethink the status of women in society. There needs to be community awareness raising about suffering from persecution in the male-dominated society. This is due to the societal formation in Yemen, in which the man is considered to be the dominant and the first responsible for all the actions and decisions of women.

What made matters worse is the presence of many women outside the educational process, who are illiterate, and they are exposed to exploitation to a large extent. For example, illiterate women in particular, are exposed to being deprived from their financial rights, whether it is inheritance or signing papers that waive their right on custody or financial dues. The reason for this is that women do not know how to read and write, which is a source of exploitation, in addition to the lack of knowledge on laws suffered by the majority of women or, more precisely, the majority of society members.

The view by which the society looks at Yemeni women contributed to make the Yemeni legislators to be unfair and unjust when drafting legal texts. It contributed to enshrine discriminatory principles without having a view on the extent of harm from which women may suffer in the near future. Rather, it was the cause that weakened women's rights. This situation has resulted in the emergence of legal loopholes in many laws that allow men to control women, for example in the crimes and penalties law, which provides permissibility of killing in honour crimes without resorting to the law, and preventing women from traveling in the absence of a man of her relatives.  What makes matters worse is the misfortune of not being able to obtain a passport in the absence of a father or brother to consent, this allowed a wide scope for exploitation by the male family.

Many legal texts have been characterized as discriminatory laws that inspire the person in charge of women to use all legal means and methods against them. So that they become preys, their rights are exhausted by legal means and officially approved by the constitution and law, while they are considered a disastrous source for a large number of women.Addressing the discriminatory laws
Although the Yemeni constitution is considered one of the best constitutions in the Arab world as it includes the social aspects that contribute to raising the status of the Yemeni citizen and his ownership of rights and freedoms, it has a narrow view regarding women’s rights. There are no less than (10) legal texts in this law that consider negative discrimination towards women. For example, the husband has the right to prevent his wife from traveling, to deny her the right to custody of the children after the divorce, as well as to stop her from working if he does not want her to continue. It is regrettable that the application of these texts result in wasting any right that women may enjoy, moreover they are considered basic rights that cannot be dismissed.

These include the right to choose a husband, determine the legal age for marriage, the woman’s right to marry, the right to travel, the right to work and to get out of the house, to get divorced from the husband. Women are entitled to these rights, but they don’t enjoy them. In addition, many legal texts systematically deny women from their rights. The reason for this is that men have control over these rights, and women cannot obtain them without their consent.The Evidence Law illustrates is related to matters of testimony before the court. The legislator has reduced the ability of a woman to testify, so she has no right to do so except in the case of another woman who reinforces her testimony on the same incident, but with the obligation to have a man to prove the testimony.

As for the Law of Crimes and Punishments, it had the lion's share of discriminatory legal texts, as there were at least 8 legal texts within it that were considered a source for permitting the commission of the crime of murder by the family (father, brother, uncle, grandfather, etc) in case a woman has committed a crime against public morals. This law contributed to open the door which potentially endangers the lives of many women under the pretext of moral crimes. The legislator has permitted a member of the family of the perpetrator of the act to take her soul just because of suspicion of the existence or commission of that crime.  In some cases, children may commit the act of killing, because as a minor, they are not considered responsible in front of the law.

How to improve these laws:
•    Collecting all proposals for amendments of discriminatory laws against women that were prepared and proposed by official authorities and civil society organizations during the past two decades and submit them to the competent authorities to complete the legal procedures for approval and issuance.
•    Forming a committee to harmonize national legislation with international conventions ratified by the Republic of Yemen in the Ministry of Human Rights.
•    Seizing the opportunity of the current Yemeni authorities’ will to amend laws in order to remove discriminatory legal amendments in legal texts against women.
•    Implementing seminars, workshops and trainings on discriminatory laws against women for the relevant authorities to motivate them to amend them.
•    Implementing community and official campaigns to clarify the principle of non-discrimination against women and to raise awareness of the seriousness of discrimination.

•    Adoption a law that considers discrimination against women to be gender-based violence.
•    Increase the number of Yemeni women legislators within the formed committees, whether in the parliament or the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
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