Violence against Women: Combining Practice with Legislation
Dr. Anjila Al-MAamari

This article speaks about the different forms of structural violence against women in Yemen. It further suggests a set of recommendations for the Yemeni authorities to effectively address violence against women at the local level.

'Marwa Al-Bayti, 22, died, leaving behind a shock that shook Hadrami Street and Yemen in general. Her husband burned her by using petrol in front of her children at their home in Al-Mukalla city, on November 24, 2020.”
'In April 2018, Samiha Al-Asadi gave her soul at the hands of her brother in the courtroom during the trial in a case she had filed against her father, who refused to let her marry after her divorce.”

Women are still suffering from the armed conflict, the harshness of customs and traditions, and prevailing social and religious norms varying by geographical region which affects the form of the gender' relations. In some areas and especially tribal areas, women are doing many tasks in the absence of men as receiving the guest and solving problems. In some districts in Yemen, we find women working in the valley doing multiple jobs that men don't do normally, as palm climbing or fetching the water and firewood, however, women aren't allowed to participate more widely in political life. They can't get married without their guardian’s consent, they don't have equal rights in divorce or inheritance or child custody, they don't have the right in education or going to work. After six years of armed conflict in Yemen and the degradation of the general humanitarian situation, the situation becomes worse and the risks of exacerbation and violence have been increased. In the political and decision-making areas, safeguards and protection of violations against women (violence cases, systematic discrimination, and marginalization) were weakened. It has included arrests of activists and women judiciaries, travel bans for women with the exception of women traveling with a male relative or companion, and attacks and accusations such as smear campaigns on women’s reputation and honor, cases of rape, and apostasy.  Women are also vulnerable because of their limited access to information and education and cultural and social restrictions on women's movement, and their financial dependence on male relatives. The lack of legal protection makes them more vulnerable to violence. Women's low level of education and social restrictions affect their mobility and dominance, in addition to their dependence on economic funding from male relatives, making them less resourceful and more vulnerable to violence, especially in the absence of legal protection.

It is estimated that 2.6 million women and girls are at risk of gender-based violence. Sheltering in displaced camps and the breakdown of protection mechanisms have significantly increased women's and girls' vulnerability to violence(1). More than 10.000 cases of rape, domestic violence, forced marriage, child marriage, physical and psychological abuse and trauma against women and girls were reported in 2016 alone. The true extent is likely to be higher because of social norms that discourage reporting(2).

Based on precedents we can say that violence against women is a flagrant violation of women's rights because of the dominance of customs and traditions, the imposition of masculine power, weak laws and protection mechanisms and their implementation on the ground to protect women.
Because of fighting, injury or death, the absence of male family members, who traditionally have responsibility for protecting women in their families, gender-based violence has exacerbated(3).

Furthermore, the increasing roles and responsibilities of Yemeni women have proved to be a double-edged sword. Although changing gender roles could provide an opportunity to alleviate the current situation of Yemeni women when they are provided with appropriate capabilities, it has made them increasingly vulnerable to violence. Existing literature has shown that societies, where strict gender norms prevail, are vulnerable and threatened by men when these roles are changed, which can lead to increased violence between domestic partners. While some women have reported a sense of empowerment as a result of increased economic obligations in the absence of men fighting in the conflict, many also felt burdened by the responsibilities laid on them(4).

Another form of violence is the exclusion of women from their different roles in society, including political participation, because of male domination. During the formation of the Yemeni government, it the percentage of women’s recommended by the quota was not respected. The new formation of the Yemeni government is the best sign of the exclusion of women from their role in decision-making positions, under the justification that the parties did not nominate women representatives and the idea that the timing is for men during war and conflict.
A 63% increase in incidents of gender-based violence has been reported since the beginning of the conflict(5). And according to a study by Oxfam and CARE International, the risk of kidnapping is more prominent in Abian (24.4%) and Aden (17%) the reason allegedly being the existence of religious and political groups. The risk of sexual violence against women and girls is regarded the highest in Taiz as a result of the large presence of marginalized groups, as it is reported that girls from marginalized groups are particularly at risk of violence, abduction and repeated harassment by armed groups at checkpoints. Marginalized groups are considered the poorest groups, where this group is considered at the view of the society to be low in cultural, social, economic and religious terms as well as easy to exploit(6).

Among the large number of women who experience violence, few report cases of violence and violations. This is due to the lack of trust in the legal authorities and the lack of protection mechanisms through which they can obtain their rights. The fear of social stigma forces them to remain silent and adapt negatively to these violations, by not reporting it and living with the pain. Another factor is the legislation that discriminates against women. Article 232 of the penal code provides that no husband who kills his wife or any other relative who kills a female relative for adultery shall be charged with murder. It is compounded by poor application, a lack of accountability, a fragile judiciary and law enforcement authorities. Often survivors of gender-based violence couldn't access support services, placing them at particular risk of death or physical complications, the infection of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy(7).

As women are among the most affected by the war, many international instruments and laws have issued special provisions for the protection of women in times of armed conflict, these include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Security Council Resolution 1325. In order to prepare of national strategic plans for protection mechanisms in times of armed conflict, the government has adopted the National Plan for the Implementation of Resolution 1325 in November 2019. However, the representation of the women's organizations involved in their formulation was limited and limited only to those in the southern regions. The plan lacked the required resources and implementation indicators.

From here we suggest some recommendations to the Yemeni authorities to address violence against women at the local level:
•    Any action taken by the United Nations should be based on a broader framework of addressing gender discrimination
•    A process of national legislative reform addressing long-term violations of human rights related to women, is also necessary
•    The Yemeni authorities must ensure and strengthen the protection of women from violence and discrimination within and outside their homes and in conformity with international laws
•    The State should apply the principle of due diligence by law enforcement and legal and social service providers to combat gender-based violence
•    The State should establish family courts to adjudicate various family disputes and provide protection for women and children
•    The State should establish shelter and psychological support centres provision of safe spaces for women and free legal aid at the level of all governorates, and activation of the role of the Ministry of Justice in providing free legal aid to women.

References

(1) Basharen, S. (2016). No Future for Yemen without Women and Girls (Policy Brief). CARE. Retrieved from: http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/CARE_No-Future-for-Yemenwithout-Woman-and-Girls_Oct-2016.pdf
(2) OCHA Yemen. (2016). 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview: Yemen. OCHA Yemen. Retrieved from: https://docs.unocha.org/sites/dms/Yemen/YEMEN%202017%20HNO_Final.pdf
(3) Gressmann, W. (2016). From the Ground Up: Gender and Conflict Analysis in Yemen. Oxfam. Retrieved from:  https://policy-practice.oxfam.org/resources/from-the-ground-up-gender-and-conflict-analysis-in-yemen-620112/
(4) Heinze, M-C. (2016). Literature review: Women’s Role in Peace and Security in Yemen. Safer world, CARPO, & YPC. Retrieved from:  http://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/viewresource/1095-womenas-role-in-peace-and-security-in-yemen
(5) Document of the Comprehensive National Dialogue, part IV: State-building, P. 94
(6) Al Naami, A., & Moodley, S. (2017). We won’t wait: As war ravages Yemen, its women strive to build peace. Oxfam International. Retrieved from:  http://policypractice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/we-wont-wait-as-war-ravages-yemen-its-women-strive-to-buildpeace-620182.
(7) CARE. (2015). CARE Rapid Gender Analysis: Yemen. CARE. Retrieved from: http://gender.care2share.wikispaces.net/file/view/Rapid+Gender+Analysis+-+Yemen+-+FINAL.pdf

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