Yemen is ranked 83 out of 86 in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index.
The country was ranked 98 out of 102 in the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.
Yemen is ranked 154th (out of 187 countries) in the 2011 Human Development Index with a value of 0.462. The Gender Inequality Index score is 0.769 placing the country at 146 out of 146 countries with data. Yemen is ranked in 135th (last) place in the 2011 Global Gender Gap Index with a score of 0.4873.
Marriage, divorce and inheritance are governed by the 1992 Personal Status Law.
Marriage is virtually universal for women. Early marriage is considered to be a particularly serious issue in the country, according to a recent USAID report; JICA also identifies it as Yemen’s ‘biggest single development challenge’. According to JICA, there is currently no legal minimum age for marriage: until 1999, under Yemeni civil law, the minimum age of marriage was 15, but this was revoked in order to allow parents to decide when to marry off their children. According to data held by the United Nations, in 2004, 17.2% of girls aged 15-19 were married, divorced or widowed, compared to 3.1% of boys in the same age bracket. This would indicate that girls are being married off to men who are significantly older. Indeed, according to UNICEF, of women aged 20-24 who had been married before they turned 18, 78.7% reported that their husband was 10-14 years older. This inevitably impacts on power relations within such relationships, as well as, potentially, on women’s and girls’ right to bodily integrity in terms of domestic violence and negotiating sexual contact. In addition, it means that girls become pregnant and give birth before they are emotionally and physically ready, leading to high rates of maternal and infant mortality, as well as impacting on the care that children receive in early childhood. Data taken from a baseline survey included in a 2009 USAID report gives even higher figures: nearly half of all girls married by the age of 17, and 14% married by the age of 14. Reasons cited by those justifying the practice include the need to protect the girl’s honour, avoidance of dowry payments through the practice of bride exchange, and the need to transfer financial responsibility for the child onto someone else. Amnesty International reports that in 2008, eight-year old Nojoud Ali became the first child bride to file for divorce successfully. She also filed a successful case against her father, who had forced her to marry the 30 year-old man. Her case prompted a campaign led by women’s rights NGOs calling for changes to the law to make early marriages illegal. As of 2009, a draft law that would bring in a minimum age for marriage of 17 and require marriage contracts to be certified by a judge was awaiting presidential approval.
Women cannot conclude their own marriage contracts; rather the agreement is made between the woman’s guardian (always a male) and the groom. A marriage is not considered legal unless the bride has given her consent; however, if the woman or girl is a virgin, her silence is interpreted as consent. Human Rights Watch reports that there have been cases where women who have married against their parents’ will have subsequently been charged with adultery and imprisoned. Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-Muslim men unless they convert, while Muslim men are allowed to marry Jewish and Christian women.
Polygamy is legal following provisions in Sharia law, which allow Muslim men to take as many as four wives provided that they can support them financially. Up-to-date data is unavailable, but a 1997 Demographic and Maternal and Child Health Survey reported that 7% of women were in polygamous unions, while also showing that polygamy is more common in rural and mountainous areas than in urban and coastal regions.
Under article 40 of the Personal Status Code, wives are obliged to obey their husbands. Women in Yemen also face discrimination in regard to parental authority. Islamic law views fathers as the natural guardians of children; the mother is the physical custodian but has no legal rights. Men are able to repudiate (divorce unilaterally) their wives, while women can only obtain a divorce under a limited range of circumstances (e.g. desertion, impotence, or taking another wife without her consent). A woman can also obtain a ‘khula’ divorce, although in this case, has to forfeit her dowry. Since 2009, women have been able to confer citizenship to children borne to a non-Yemeni father.
Sharia law provides for detailed and complex calculations of inheritance shares. A woman may inherit from her father, mother, husband or children, and under certain conditions, from other family members. However, her share is generally smaller than a man’s entitlement. A daughter, for example, inherits half as much as a son. In rural areas, JICA reports that women are consistently denied their inheritance rights. In other cases, women may renounce their inheritance rights voluntarily in favour of the nearest male relative. Women who have married into a different tribe are also often prevented from inheriting property, in order to keep it under tribal ownership. In an attempt to protect family assets, wealthy families sometimes forbid their daughters to marry outside the family.
 JICA (2009) p.1  Rashad et al (2005) p.3  Freij (2009) p.1; JICA (2009) p.iv  JICA (2009) p.6  United Nations Population Division / DESA (2008)  UNICEF (2005a) p.9  Freij (2009) p.1  Freij (2009) p.1  Freij (2009) p.1  Freij (2009) p.1. Bride exchange involves a reciprocal exchange of spouses between two families to cancel out the dowries.  Amnesty International (2009) p.16  Amnesty International (2009) p.16  Amnesty International (2009) p.16  Amnesty International (2009) p.16  JICA (2009) p.9  ECOSOC (2003) p.162; JICA (2009) p.9  Human Rights Watch (2010). See also Manea (2010) p.554  ECOSOC (2003) p.163  ECOSOC (2003) p.162  See Central Statistical Organization of Yemen and Macro International (1998), chapter 2  ECOSOC (2003) p.162  Uhlman (2004)  ECOSOC (2003) p.162; JICA (2009) pp.9-10; Manea (2010) p.553  Manea (2010) p.553  Amnesty International (2010) p.357  UN-HABITAT (2005) p.11  UN-HABITAT (2005) p.11  UN-HABITAT (2005) p.11  UN-HABITAT (2005) p.11  JICA (2009) pp.iv, 24  FAO et al (2004) p.10  JICA (2009) p.24  JICA (2009) p.24; Manea (2010) p.558
At the time of drafting, there is no legislation in place in Yemen addressing domestic violence. Domestic violence is believed to be very common in Yemen, but accurate figures as to prevalence rates are not available. Few women report abuse, due to lack of confidence in the police and judicial processes, but also because many people in Yemen accept physical violence on the part of husbands as an acceptable way to enforce the duty of conjugal obedience. Human Rights Watch reports that in some cases, women who report domestic violence to the police are themselves incarcerated, and can only be released if a male relative comes to collect them. A new policy allows female relatives to collect women in such circumstances, but is not, apparently, consistently enforced. According to JICA, a pilot programme is currently underway to provide a shelter and hotline, and to raise awareness of domestic violence and train lawyers to handle cases sympathetically.
Rape is a criminal offence, but the law does not recognise the concept of spousal rape. As with domestic violence, it is impossible to ascertain how many women are affected by sexual violence in Yemen, as few women report attacks to the police.
So-called honour crimes do occur in Yemen, although they are rarely reported so it is impossible to know the extent of prevalence. Lighter penalties for crimes committed in rage following an unlawful act by the victim, which includes husbands murdering their wives if they discover that they have been unfaithful. Conversely, women can be – and are – imprisoned for socialising with men who are not their relatives.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is not illegal in Yemen; an attempt to introduce a law criminalising the practice in 2008 was rejected by the parliament. The government has banned the practice in state hospitals and clinics, but it continues to be carried out in private clinics. Indeed, UNICEF reports of the medicalisation of the procedure in recent years. It is believed to be most prevalent in urban areas and along the coast, where women’s rights groups report that prevalence may be as high as 90%. In contrast to trends in other countries where FGM is practised, there appears to be little correlation between rates of FGM and the mother’s level of education. Based on a survey conducted in 2003, the World Health Organization reports that 38 per cent of Yemeni women have undergone FGM. This figure is higher than that given in the most recent Demographic and Household Survey (DHS) in 1997 (as reported in a 2005 UNICEF report), which estimated that 23% of women had undergone the procedure. In the same survey, 21% of women questioned said they felt the practice should continue, and 20% had at least one daughter who had also undergone the procedure. According to UNICEF, the practice only emerged in Yemen in the course of the 20th century, following contact with communities from the Horn of Africa who practiced FGM. The government and women’s rights organisations have been involved in raising awareness of the issue, and its health impacts. As of early 2011, a Demographic and Household Survey was ongoing, which should reveal whether or not prevalence has decreased.
There is no law specifically addressing or prohibiting trafficking in persons in Yemen. The country is considered to be country of origin for children (mostly boys) trafficked for forced labour and begging; trafficking of male and female children within the country for the purposes of sexual exploitation has also been reported. JICA reports of women being trafficked into Yemen from Ethiopia to work as domestic servants, many of whom end up working in slave-like conditions, vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse at the hands of their employers, and denied freedom of movement.
While women have the right to use contraception in Yemen, Manea (writing in a 2010 report published by Freedom House) states that few women in Yemen are aware of this right, and fewer still are in a position to make free and independent choices about their reproductive health. In addition, women need permission from their husbands in order to obtain contraception. According to UNFPA, 29% of women questioned reported using some form of contraception, including so-called ‘traditional’ methods. JICA reports that in rural areas, provision of healthcare is very poor, inevitably impacting on women’s access to reproductive health services. One outcome of this is a very high rate of maternal mortality: maternal mortality is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age.
 ECOSOC (2003) p.164  ECOSOC (2003) p.164  ECOSOC (2003) p.164  Human Rights Watch (2010)  Human Rights Watch (2010)  JICA (2009) p.10  ECOSOC (2003) p.162; JICA (2009) p.10  JICA (2009) p.10  Manea (2010) p.555  ECOSOC (2003) p.162  JICA (2009) p.9  Freedom House (2010)  ECOSOC (2003) p.163; Manea (2010) p.569  UNICEF (2005c) pp.13-14  UNICEF (2005b) pp.3, 6; UNICEF (2005c) p.10; JICA (2009) p.21  UNICEF (2005c) p.9  World Health Organisation (n.d.)  ECOSOC (2003) p.164; UNICEF (2005b) p.4  UNICEF (2005c) p.19  UNICEF (2005b) p.7  Manea (2010) p.569  See http://www.measuredhs.com/countries/country_main.cfm?ctry_id=46&c=Yemen (accessed 15 March 2011)  US Department of State (2010)  US Department of State (2010)  JICA (2009) pp.28-29  Manea (2010) p.568  Manea (2010) p.568  UNFPA (2010) p.98. No data source provided.  JICA (2009) p.iii  JICA (2009) p.19
Under-five mortality rates are higher for boys than for girls. Up-to-date disaggregated data is not available, but according to the 1997 DHS, immunisation rates were overall low, but were higher for boys than for girls. Malnutrition rates in children under five were virtually equal for boys and girls. There is significant discrepancy between attendance rates at primary and secondary level for boys and girls. According to a 2007 report by UNICEF, gross primary school enrolment rates were 102% for boys and 72% for girls; at secondary level, this fell to 64% for boys and 31% for girls. Girls’ enrolment rates in rural areas are particularly low. Very few women go on to attend university: according to JICA, the gross enrolment rate for women at tertiary level is 5%.
The widespread practice of early marriage is one of the primary reasons for girls being denied access to education in Yemen. According to a 2009 USAID report, Investment in a girl’s education is seen as wasteful by many parents, given that she will marry and leave to join another household. In rural areas, this is exacerbated by inadequate provision of acceptable educational facilities for girls (such as lack of segregated classrooms, female teachers and girls’ toilets), and the long distances that girls have to travel to attend school.
The figures above would indicate some son preference in regard to early childhood care, and significant son preference in regard to access to education.
The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 1.03. Analysis of sex ratio data across age groups indicates that Yemen is a country of concern in relation to missing women, although there has been improvement in recent years.
 UNFPA (2010) p.104. No data source provided. Central Statistical Organization of Yemen and Macro International (1998) p.126  Central Statistical Organization of Yemen and Macro International (1998) p.146  UNICEF (2007) p.121  JICA (2009) p.14  JICA (2009) p.15  Freij (2009) p.1  Freij (2009) p.1  JICA (2009) p.15  Central Intelligence Agency (2012)
Women have the legal right to own land and property other than land. In addition, within marriage, women retain ownership and control over their own property and assets, which are not considered to be under joint ownership. But poverty, illiteracy, unawareness of economic rights and patriarchal traditions limit the ability of women to exercise these rights; in most cases, women hand over the administration of their property and positions to their husband or male relatives. It is considered socially unacceptable for women to register land in their own names in rural areas. This, and the high fees charged for land registration, serve as further de facto limits on women’s right to land.
Similarly, there are no legal restrictions on women’s right to enter into business contracts and activities, and no legal restrictions on women’s access to bank loans and credit could be found, but women encounter many limitations in this area. The common view in Yemeni society is that a woman’s place is in the home, and that financial matters should be managed by her husband, who may also control her income (either partially or completely). According to JICA, women make up the bulk of recipients of micro-credit, which suggests that they are unable to access other forms of credit.
 FAO et al (2004) p.50; JICA (2009) p.iv  FAO et al (2004) p.50  JICA (2009) p.24; Manea (2010) p.557  FAO et al (2004) p.10; JICA (2009) p.24  FAO et al (2004) p.10  Manea (2010) p.558  Manea (2010) p.558  JICA (2009) p.28
Women’s freedom of movement is subject to numerous legal and social limitations. Women are legally obliged to live with their husbands, who make the decision about where the family will reside. They generally need to ask for their husband’s (or guardian’s) permission to leave the family home or to apply for a passport. Once a passport is obtained, women are legally entitled to travel independently without permission, but in reality, it is very difficult for women to travel without a male escort. Although women have the right to pursue education and seek employment, some guardians also restrict these activities.
Freedom of expression is not respected in Yemen, and freedom of assembly is also often restricted. That said, Manea reports that civil society and the media are lively and outspoken. However, women’s rights organisations face considerable opposition from an influential religious lobby, which limits the extent to which they can advocate on behalf of women’s rights. This has included in regard to violence against women, seen as a ‘foreign’ concept that will destroy Yemeni society’s religious, social and cultural norms. In addition, the media has been used to attack and vilify women’s rights activists, while also serving to uphold traditional gender roles in its representation of women.
An attempt in 2008 to introduce a 15% quota for women in parliament was abandoned after intervention from a hastily convened ‘Meeting for Protecting Virtue and Fighting Vice’, made up of Islamic clerics and prominent tribal chiefs, who decreed that ‘a women’s place is in the home’. There is only one woman in Yemen’s House of Representatives. JICA reports that as of 2009, there were also two women cabinet ministers. Overall though, there are very few women in positions of authority in Yemen, in any sector. There are however some very active women’s rights organisations in Yemen, whose members operate in a difficult and often hostile environment. Women’s rights NGOs were instrumental in drawing up a draft law to raise the minimum age of marriage and require marriage contracts to be certified by a judge (awaiting presidential approval, as of 2009). They have also been active in raising awareness of domestic violence, the harm caused by early marriage and FGM, and have called for changes to discriminatory laws.
Pregnant women are entitled to 60 days’ maternity leave, and discrimination on the basis of gender is banned under the 1995 Labour Law. However, the majority of women who work outside the home do so as agricultural labourers, either receiving payment on a day-by-day basis, or receiving no payment at all. As a result, they are not protected by employment legislation. Women and girls’ lack of access to education inevitably impacts negatively on their capacity to enter the workforce, and their earning capacity, but also on their career aspirations: according to the IFES/IWPR study, 74% of young women questioned who had completed secondary school intended to pursue a career, compared to 41% with primary education, and 24% who had no formal schooling. Of those who did not intend to pursue a career, 31% stated that it was because their husband or family would not allow it.
 ECOSOC (2003) p.162  ECOSOC (2003) pp.162, 163; JICA (2009) p.10  JICA (2009) p.10  Amnesty International (2010) p.357; Freedom House (2010)  Manea (2010) p.546  JICA (2009) pp.iv, 7; Manea (2010) p.556  JICA (2009) p.10  Manea (2010) p.570  JICA (2009) p.7  Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.)  JICA (2009) pp.iv, 27  JICA (2009) p.27  Manea (2010) p.569  Amnesty International (2009) p.16  Manea (2010) pp.546, 556, 569  ILO (2009); JICA (2009) p.26  JICA (2009) pp.iv, 23, 26  IFES / IWPR (n.d.) pp.2, 7  IFES / IWPR (n.d.) p.8
Following a civil war and the departure of the British (who had effectively ruled southern Yemen) in 1967, the country divided into two separate states, reunifying again in 1990. There is an ongoing civil conflict between government forces and rebels in the northern Sa’da governate that has displaced over 190,000 people since 2004, according to UNHCR. Protests erupted in Yemen in 2011, following similar movements across the region, to challenge the rule of the president. After months of protests, the president stepped down in November 2011. Yemen is classed as a lower middle income country by the World Bank. The economy is heavily dependent on declining oil reserves, and corruption is said to be a significant problem. The population is predominantly Muslim.
Gender-based discrimination is widespread and entrenched in Yemeni society and reflected in its legislation. The Penal Code, Personal Status Act, Citizenship Act and Criminal Code all contain provisions which discriminate against women. In addition, as a recent report by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) states: ‘The mix of statutory law, sharia, traditional tribal practices and customary law leave women vulnerable to violence and discrimination throughout their life cycle’. Yemen’s overall poverty also contributes to the difficult situation of women, as does the fact that the majority of the population live in scattered, rural settlements. As a result, women have limited access to health care, economic opportunities and education. Yemen has the largest gap between net primary school attendance rates for girls and boys in the region. Maternal and infant mortality rates are also very high for the region, exacerbated by early marriage and high fertility rates. According to JICA, just over 25% of Yemeni women are economically active; the majority of women who do work are employed in the agricultural sector.
The Yemeni Constitution proclaims equality between women and men in article 41, but then goes on to refer to women as ‘men’s sisters’ (and by implication inferior) who have rights and obligations as determined by Sharia law. Sharia law forms the basis of all legislation. Yemen ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1984, but has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol. A National Strategy for Women’s Development (2006-2015) is currently in place. Its principal aims are to increase women’s participation in economic and educational activities, and increase their access to healthcare.
 Freedom House (2010)  Amnesty International (2010) p.353; Freedom House (2010)  World Bank (n.d.)  CIA (2010); Freedom House (2010); Manea (2010) p.567  CIA (2010)  ECOSOC (2003) p.162  ECOSOC (2003) p.162  JICA (2009) p.6  JICA (2009) pp.iv, 22  ECOSOC (2003) p.163  JICA (2009) p.iv  ECOSOC (2003) p.163; JICA (2009) p.iii. See also UNICEF (2007) p.105; Freij (2009) p.1; Manea (2010) p.568  JICA (2009) p.26  JICA (2009) p.9  Freedom House (2010)  United Nations Treaty Collection (n.d.)  JICA (2009) p.iii  JICA (2009) p.8
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