Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, but does not criminalize spousal rape because a woman may not legally refuse sexual relations with her husband. The government did not effectively enforce the law against rape. According to a local NGO, there were 16 rape cases as of September, seven of which involved women. The punishment for rape is imprisonment for up to 25 years, but in August the courts sentenced two men to death after convicting them of raping a 13-year-old boy in Sana’a. In June the courts sentenced a rapist to 20 years in prison and fined him 12 million rials ($56,000).
There were no reliable rape statistics, because the social stigma and fear of retaliation sharply limited willingness to report the crime.
Most rape victims did not report the crime due to fear of shaming the family, incurring violent retaliation, or being prosecuted. By law authorities can prosecute rape victims on charges of fornication if a perpetrator is not charged. There were no such reports during the year. According to law without the perpetrator’s confession, the victim must provide four male witnesses to the crime.
The law states that a man should be executed if convicted of killing a woman. The law provides women with protection against domestic violence except spousal rape under the general rubric of protecting persons against violence, but authorities did not enforce this provision effectively. Spousal abuse generally was undocumented, but women’s groups asserted that physical, emotional, and sexual abuse within marriage was widespread.
Observers largely viewed courts as corrupt or inefficient. Criminal sanction for spousal violence was rare. The tribal arbitration process rather than criminal courts usually adjudicated cases of violence against women. Spousal abuse generally was undocumented, but women’s groups considered it a major problem. Authorities considered violence against women a family affair, and it was more likely to be handled through tribal arbitration than to be reported to police. Local female tribal experts argued that tribal arbitration is fairer for women and that victims often preferred it to the courts for that reason. Due to social pressures, authorities expected an abused woman to take her complaint to a male relative, rather than to authorities, to intercede on her behalf or provide sanctuary. For these social reasons, as well as the corruption and inefficiency of the justice system, criminal proceedings in cases of domestic abuse were rare.
Small shelters for battered women in Sana’a and Aden assisted victims, and telephone hotlines operated with moderate success in major cities. The large majority of women in rural areas had little access to shelters or other assistance.
Women’s rights activists and the media continued to investigate and report on violations of women’s rights. During the year NGOs and the Ministry of Human Rights sponsored several women’s rights conferences dealing with violence against women, increasing the political representation of women, and economic empowerment. In July the Yemeni Women Union, in collaboration with the Foundation for Peace, sponsored a seminar in Aden to discuss the rights of women following the NDC and the role of civil society in support of women’s rights.
The MOI’s Women and Children Office trained police to improve their response to abuses, including rape. It also maintained a telephone number dedicated to reporting abuses. The number reportedly received dozens of calls per month, and the office claimed it would investigate all cases. The Ministry of Information broadcast programs on official television and radio stations promoting women’s rights, but it did not cover some sensitive topics, such as forced marriage and illiteracy. The NDC included gender problems in several of its working groups and in its final outcomes.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not prohibit female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), although a 2001 ministerial directive banned the practice in all government and private health facilities. According to a current estimate by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 23 percent of women have undergone FGM/C. In some coastal areas influenced by cultural practices from the Horn of Africa, such as Mahara and Hodeidah, up to 90 percent of women reportedly have been subjected to FGM/C. UNICEF reported 97 percent of FGM/C procedures took place in the home, and found Type 2--partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with and without excision of the labia majora--in 83 percent of studied cases. The Women’s National Committee and the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Guidance provided a manual for religious leaders on women’s health problems, including the negative health consequences of FGM/C. The UNICEF report concluded that, despite an awareness campaign, the country still lagged in addressing the problem.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The penal code allows leniency for persons guilty of committing an honor crime or violently assaulting or killing a woman for perceived “immodest” or “defiant” behavior. The law does not address other types of honor crimes, including beatings, forced isolation, imprisonment, and forced early marriage. The law also allows for a substantially reduced sentence when a husband kills his wife and a man he believes to be her lover.
Sexual Harassment: No specific laws prohibit sexual harassment. The extent of sexual harassment was difficult to determine, although direct observation and very infrequent media reports suggested it occurred in the workplace and in the streets. There were anecdotal reports of men accused of sexual harassment being transferred to other offices to prevent further incidents. Sexual harassment in the streets was a major problem for women. A 2010 report by the Athar Foundation for Development found that 98.8 percent of women faced sexual harassment in the streets. The website of Safe Streets, an NGO focusing on sexual harassment, contained many anecdotal reports of harassment, and there was anecdotal evidence that young girls refused to attend school to avoid harassment en route.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of government interference in the right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of children, to have the information and means to do so, and to attain the highest standard of reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Social pressure, women’s lack of knowledge about reproduction, and the young age of marriage for many girls, however, meant many women had little or no real control over reproduction. Access to contraceptives and procedures involving reproductive and fertility treatments required the consent of both husband and wife. It was technically illegal for single women to buy and use contraception, but if a particular contraceptive (such as the birth control pill) had another medical use, a woman could procure it. The information and means to make decisions on reproduction were available in cities, although contraception and skilled pre-, post-natal, and obstetric care, were too costly for much of the population. International NGOs reported that in areas controlled by Houthi forces, authorities forbade birth control devices and other forms of contraception. Women relied on the black market to obtain them.
The UN Population Division estimated that 28 percent of married women used a modern method of contraception during the year. Most women gave birth at home attended by traditional midwives and did not see a doctor during their pregnancies or after delivery. According to UN sources, the maternal mortality ratio was 270 deaths per 100,000 live births; there were an estimated 2,100 maternal deaths during the year. Major factors contributing to the high maternal mortality rate included lack of access to skilled health care including emergency obstetric care, adolescent pregnancy, and lack of awareness and education on reproductive health.
Discrimination: Women faced deeply entrenched discrimination in both law and practice in all aspects of their lives. Women cannot marry without permission of their male guardians; do not have equal rights in inheritance, divorce, or child custody; and have little legal protection. Women do not enjoy the same legal status as men in family law, property law, inheritance law, and the judicial system. They experienced discrimination in areas such as employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses, education, and housing (see section 7.d.). The 48.5 percent female literacy rate, compared with 82.1 percent for men, accentuated this discrimination. Women accounted for 30.5 percent of university students countrywide. The NDC adopted a 30 percent quota for admission of women to institutions of higher education and recommended a 30 percent quota for women in all government agencies be included in the new constitution.
Under family law and inheritance law, courts awarded custody of children over a specified age (seven years for boys and nine years for girls) to the divorced husband or the deceased husband’s family. In numerous cases former husbands prevented divorced noncitizen women from visiting their children. Under sharia inheritance laws, which assume that women receive support from their male relatives, daughters receive half the inheritance and accidental death or injury compensation awarded to their brothers.
Women also faced unequal treatment in courts, where the testimony of one man equals that of two women. Female parties in court proceedings such as divorce and other family law cases normally deputized male relatives to speak on their behalf, although they have the option to speak for themselves.
A husband may divorce a wife without justifying the action in court. In the formal legal system, a woman must provide justification. Under tribal customary law, however, a woman may divorce without justification.
Some local interpretations of sharia prohibit a Muslim woman from marrying a non-Muslim man, others permit marrying a Christian or Jewish man. All interpretations allow a Muslim man to marry a Christian or Jewish woman. The foreign wife of a male citizen must remain in the country for two years to obtain a residency permit.
Any citizen who wishes to marry a foreigner must obtain the permission of the MOI (see section 1.f.). A woman wishing to marry a foreigner must present proof of her parents’ approval. A foreign woman who wishes to marry a male citizen must prove to the ministry that she is “of good conduct and behavior.”
Women experienced economic discrimination (see section 7.d.).
Government mechanisms to enforce equal protection were weak, although the Ministry of Human Rights launched several programs promoting equal rights for women in business and established a structure to investigate complaints of discrimination against women.
According to the Ministry of Social and Labor Affairs, more than 170 NGOs worked for women’s advancement. The Arab Sisters Forum for Human Rights worked with other NGOs, the government, and donor countries to strengthen women’s political participation. The Yemeni Women’s Union and Women’s National Committee, with support from the Ministry of Human Rights, conducted workshops on women’s rights.