Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, but it does not criminalize spousal rape because the law states that a woman may not refuse sexual relations with her husband. The government did not enforce the law against rape effectively. The punishment for rape is imprisonment for up to 25 years.
There were no reliable rape statistics, principally because of social stigma, fear of familial and societal retaliation, and a legal system largely stacked against survivors, which limited their willingness to report the crime. The situation was compounded by the breakdown of rule of law following the start of the conflict. Most rape victims did not report the crime due to fear of shaming the family, incurring violent retaliation by the perpetrator or a family member, or facing prosecution. By law authorities can prosecute rape victims on charges of fornication if authorities do not charge a perpetrator. There were no known cases during the year. According to law, without the perpetrator’s confession, the rape survivor must provide four male witnesses to the crime.
The law states that authorities should execute a man if convicted of killing a woman. The penal code, however, allows leniency for persons guilty of committing an “honor” killing or violently assaulting or killing a woman for perceived “immodest” or “defiant” behavior. The law also allows for a substantially reduced sentence when a husband kills his wife and a man he believes to be involved in an extramarital affair with her. The law does not address other types of gender-based violence, such as beatings, forced isolation, imprisonment, and early and forced marriage.
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. Victims rarely reported domestic abuse to police. Spousal abuse generally was undocumented, but women’s groups asserted that physical, emotional, and sexual abuse within marriage was widespread.
The tribal arbitration process rather than criminal courts usually adjudicated cases of violence against women due to the widespread perception, shared by authorities, that violence against women was a private, family matter. Some local female tribal experts argued that tribal arbitration is fairer for women, and 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.
As of 2014 the Ministry of Public Health and Population and the Ministry of Human Rights maintained hotlines for complainants, although they had little capacity to act on complaints. The Ministry of Human Rights referred callers to various civil society organizations or foundations for assistance. It also referred complainants to the nongovernmental National Women’s Union for assistance. The National Women’s Union, which had chapters across the country, had at least one shelter. The general director of the Family Protection Unit reported that the unit rarely received complaints of violence against women. No information was available on the availability of hotlines or shelters during the year.
The continuing conflict and humanitarian crisis hampered media coverage, advocacy of women’s rights, and investigations of violations of women’s rights.
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 government institutions and medical facilities, according to HRW. The 2013 Demographic and Health Survey, administered by the Ministry of Public Health and Population, found that 19 percent of all women between the ages of 15 and 49 had undergone some form of FGM/C. A 2016 report of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) cited the same statistic. In some coastal areas influenced by cultural practices from the Horn of Africa, such as Mahara and Hudaydah, FGM/C practitioners had reportedly subjected up to 90 percent of women to FGM/C. UNICEF reported in 2012 that 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. A 2012 UNICEF report concluded that, despite an awareness campaign, the country still lagged in addressing the problem.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Cases of “honor” killing, the murder of a daughter or sister who “shamed” the family, occurred, particularly in rural areas. Most cases of honor killing went unreported, and authorities investigated very few instances. There were reports that family members murdered both male and female victims of rape or sexual abuse who reported the crime to protect the family’s honor.
Sexual Harassment: No laws specifically prohibit sexual harassment, although the penal code criminalizes “shameful” or “immoral” acts. Authorities, however, rarely enforced the law. Sexual harassment in the streets was a major problem for women. A 2010 report by the Athar Foundation for Development, the most recent data available, found that 98.8 percent of women faced sexual harassment in the streets. The extent of sexual harassment was difficult to determine, and data was not available after the start of the conflict, although anecdotal reports, direct observation, and infrequent media reports suggested it also occurred in the workplace. There were anecdotal reports of employers transferring men accused of sexual harassment to other offices to prevent further abuse, although no further information was available.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of interference by the government in the right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of children, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence.
According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), 3.4 million women and girls of reproductive age were in need of humanitarian assistance, including 400,800 pregnant women. The conflict led to a breakdown of the health-care system, and women and girls did not have access to essential reproductive health services. UNFPA reported that access to maternal health care was also limited due to poverty, lack of health services, and low education on reproductive health and rights. According to UN estimates, the maternal mortality ratio was 385 deaths per 100,000 live births; there were 3,300 maternal deaths in 2015 and the lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 60. The majority of births took place at home, and only 45 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel, according to 2016 UNFPA estimates. According to UNFPA, only 29 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 were using a modern method of contraceptives and 27 percent of women had an unmet need for family planning. Cultural taboos and misconceptions affected the contraceptive prevalence rate. Access to medications and pharmaceutical products also decreased due to the conflict. The adolescent birth rate remained high at 67 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 49, according to 2016 UNFPA estimates.
Discrimination: Women faced deeply entrenched discrimination in both law and practice in all aspects of their lives. Mechanisms to enforce equal protection were weak, and the government could not implement them effectively.
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 estimated 55 percent female literacy rate, compared with 85 percent for men, accentuated this discrimination. Prior to the conflict, women accounted for 30.5 percent of university students countrywide, and the NDC had adopted a 30 percent quota for admission of women to institutions of higher education; information was not available on whether this was implemented during the year.
A male relative’s consent was often required before a woman could be admitted to a hospital, creating significant problems in a humanitarian context in which the men of the household were absent or had been killed.
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 a woman equals half that of a man’s. 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 Ministry of Interior (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.”
Yemeni women may confer citizenship on children born of a foreign-born father if the child is born in the country. If the child is not born in the country, in rare cases the ministry may permit a woman to transmit citizenship to the child if the father dies or abandons the child (see section 6, Children).
Women experienced economic discrimination (see section 7.d.). Within the country’s limited professional sphere, women had low rates of representation in a range of fields, including the security sector.
Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from a child’s parents. A child of a Yemeni father is a citizen. Yemeni women may confer citizenship on children born of a foreign-born father if the child is born in the country. If the child is not born in the country, in rare cases the Ministry of Interior may permit a woman to transmit citizenship to the child if the father dies or abandons the child.
There was no universal birth registration, and parents, especially in rural areas, never registered many children or registered them several years after birth. The requirement that children have birth certificates to register for school was not universally enforced, and there were no reports of authorities denying educational or health care services and benefits to children based on lack of registration.
Education: The law provides for universal, compulsory, and tuition-free education from ages six to 15. Public schooling was free to children through the secondary school level, but many children, especially girls, did not have easy access. According to a May Humanitarian Situation Report from UNICEF, around 30 percent (2.2 million) of school-age children in the country did not have access to education. The World Bank estimated more than three million children were out of school, in part due to the 1,600 schools that remained closed because of lack of security, physical damage, or their use as shelters for displaced persons.
Although attendance prior to the outbreak of the conflict was nominally mandatory through the ninth grade, only 79 percent of boys and 60 percent of girls attended primary school. The gender gap was larger for secondary and postsecondary schooling, with 34 percent of girls attending secondary school and only 6 percent continuing to postsecondary education. The lack of private toilet facilities for girls and reports of sexual harassment on the school commute contributed to the drop in girls’ attendance after puberty.
School damage and destruction was particularly severe in the governorates of Hajjah, Marib, Sa’ada, Sana’a, and Ta’iz, where the conflict was particularly intense. According to a May Humanitarian Situation Report from UNICEF, nearly 530 schools remained closed in Ta’iz and Sa’ada. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarians Affairs, as of June, some 1,600 schools remained closed due to conflict-related damages.
Medical Care: Due to social discrimination, male children received preferential medical treatment.
Child Abuse: The law does not define or prohibit child abuse, and there was no reliable data on its extent. Authorities considered violence against children a family affair, and tribal arbitration was more likely to handle it than reporting it to police.
Early and Forced Marriage: Early and forced marriage was a significant, widespread problem. The conflict likely exacerbated the situation, and representatives from local and international NGOs reported an increase in forced marriage and child marriage for financial reasons due to economic insecurity. There is no minimum age for marriage, and girls married as young as eight years of age, which traditionalists claimed served to assure they were virgins at the time of marriage. UNICEF’s 2013 data estimated that 12 percent of females married by the age of 15 and 32 percent by the age of 18. The law forbids sex with underage brides until they are “suitable for sexual intercourse,” an age that is undefined. An assessment undertaken by Intersos in Ta’iz in July 2015 found that 27 IDP and 10 host community families openly practiced early marriage, caused mostly by security concerns and local traditions.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Information is provided in the women’s section above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law does not define statutory rape and does not impose an age limit for consensual sex. The law prohibits pornography, including child pornography, although there was no information available on whether the legal prohibitions were comprehensive. Article 161 of the Child Rights Law criminalizes the prostitution of children.
Prior to the outbreak of conflict, observers reported the practice of foreigners visiting the country to enter into short-term marriages with young women and underage girls. In 2014 the Ministry of Interior attempted to stop the use of “temporary marriage” provisions of Islamic law as a vehicle for sex tourism (see section 1.f.). There were reports that elements within the government security forces exacted bribes and fees for facilitating temporary marriages. No information was available about related practices during the year.
Child Soldiers: See section 1.g., Child Soldiers.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
Approximately 50 Jews remained in the country; according to media reports, most residing in a closed compound in Sana’a after the Israeli Jewish Agency succeeded in transporting 19 Jews to Israel in March. The continuing conflict further weakened law enforcement and put the Jewish community at risk, and many fled the country as a result. Prior to the outbreak of conflict, the transitional government continued to protect the Sa’ada Jewish community in Sana’a and provided secure housing and a living stipend.
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
Anti-Semitic material was rare. Prior to the conflict, many Yemenis were proud to sustain a small Jewish community, with some charities reportedly donating food and gifts during Jewish holidays. Media coverage of the country’s Jews was generally positive. The Houthi movement, however, adopted anti-Semitic slogans, including, “death to Israel, a curse on the Jews,” and anti-Israeli rhetoric at times blurred into anti-Semitic utterances. Houthis continued to propagate such materials and slogans throughout the year, including adding anti-Israeli slogans and extremist rhetoric into elementary education curriculum and books.
Members of the Jewish community are not eligible to serve in the military or federal government. Authorities forbid them from carrying the ceremonial Yemeni dagger.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
Several laws mandate the rights and care of persons with disabilities, but the government was unable to enforce them. The law permits persons with disabilities to exercise the same rights as persons without disabilities, but this did not happen in practice. Prior to the outbreak of conflict, social stigma and official indifference were obstacles to implementation.
The law reserves 5 percent of government jobs for persons with disabilities and mandates the acceptance of persons with disabilities in universities, exempts them from paying tuition, and requires that schools be made more accessible to persons with disabilities. The extent to which any authority implemented these laws was unclear.
Children with disabilities may attend public schools, although schools make no special accommodations for them. There were some private educational institutions for persons with disabilities in large cities. Many parents refused to send their children with disabilities to public schools, due to concern about potential harassment. The conflict likely further reduced access to schools.
Although the law mandates that new buildings have access for persons with disabilities, compliance was poor. Most persons with disabilities relied on their extended family for support.
Information about patterns of abuse of persons with disabilities in educational and mental health institutions was not publicly available.
Prior to the outbreak of conflict, authorities imprisoned persons with mental disabilities with criminals without providing adequate medical care and in some instances without legal charge. At that time, the Ministry of Interior reported that family members sometimes brought relatives with mental disabilities to ministry-run prisons and asked officers to imprison them. Ministry-run prisons in Sana’a, Aden, and Ta’iz operated semiautonomous units for prisoners with mental disabilities in cooperation with the Red Crescent Society. Conditions in these units reportedly were deficient in cleanliness and professional care.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The government-in-exile could not continue collaboration with the World Bank to administer a social development fund; the ministry was also unable to oversee the Fund for the Care and Rehabilitation of the Disabled, which provided limited basic services and supported more than 60 NGOs assisting persons with disabilities.
Although racial discrimination is illegal, some groups, such as the Muhamasheen or Akhdam community, and the Muwaladeen (Yemenis born to foreign parents), faced social and institutional discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and social status. The Muhamasheen, who traditionally provided low-prestige services such as street sweeping, generally lived in poverty and endured persistent societal discrimination. Muhamasheen women were particularly vulnerable to rape and other abuse because of the general impunity for attackers due to the women’s low-caste status. In 2013 the NDC’s Rights and Freedoms Working group announced agreement on measures to protect the rights of the Muhamasheen and to ban discrimination against them, but it was not known whether any of these measures were implemented.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons faced discrimination and could face the death penalty, although there were no known executions of LGBTI persons in more than a decade. The penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct, with the death penalty as a sanction under the country’s interpretation of Islamic law.
Due to the illegality of and possible severe punishment for consensual same-sex sexual conduct, there were no LGBTI organizations. Because the law does not prohibit discrimination, the government did not consider LGBTI problems “relevant” for official reporting, and few LGBTI persons were open about their sexual orientation or gender identity. The government blocked access to LGBTI internet sites.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
While there were no reports of social violence against persons with HIV/AIDS, the topic was socially sensitive and infrequently discussed. Discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS is a criminal offense, and information was not available on whether there were reports of incidents of discrimination occurring during the year.