Honor crimes in Yemen: between execution and stigma [Archives:2005/849/Reportage]

June 9 2005

Hassan Al-Zaidi
In the framework of the Program of Eradicating Violence against Women, supervised by the Arab Sisters Forum for Human Rights, a workshop on “Honor Crimes in Yemen” was organized Thursday May 26.

The workshop aimed to discuss the proliferation of honor crimes in Yemen, the social and economic conditions and the cultural orientations, which lead to committing such crimes and their bad impacts on individuals and families.

Dr. Adel al-Sharjabi, Professor of Sociology at Sana'a University, who presented a current study on honor crimes, has not included any accurate figures of the issue.

He said the society as well as the police in Yemen practice different types of violence against women under the pretext of honor crimes, calling for reconsidering the legislative structure that makes women owned by her relatives.

He further mentioned that there are many women, who were shot by the police when hunting for a man in the company of a woman, and there are numerous cases of suicides, killings and drowning that require reconsidering the social heritage.

Al-Sharjabi noted: ” We don't have enough and accurate information about honor crimes due to the lack of readiness on the part of citizens to discuss honor-related issues.

Despite the existence of several honor crimes in Yemen, habits and traditions and the Yemeni law seem to be sentimental with women.

Lawyer Nabil al-Mohammadi mentioned Article 232 of the penalties law that approved of execution as the penalty for adultery after being accepted by the husband, the brother or the father. The law appears to be a violation against the Islamic Sharia, the international conventions of human rights and the principles of the Yemeni constitution.

The Law stipulates that if a husband killed his wife along with the one committing adultery with her, he would not be executed but might receive a light punishment: either to be fined to be jailed not more than 6 months.

The legal justification behind this is the state of anger due to be situation by the husband or anyone who will not be able to control his nerves when seeing such a kind of crime.

The husband might be shocked when seeing his wife committing adultery, the murder case was not previously planned, and therefore there is no an interval between adultery and murder.

Articles 274 and 275 of the Penalties Law state 6-month imprisonment for committing adultery while Article 273 of the law defines such a kind of crime as any act necessitating a state of nakedness.

Some legalists held the view that the legal changes come against interests of women and the public property doesn't interfere with the text of the law and that the public and private properties may be used in implementing penalties.

Dr. Fuad al-Salahi says: “We have to pose at the rights and liberties of women, particularly as the domain of the law came into place according to the traditional culture.”

“A legislative work is a must to drive us forward regarding women issues and the texts of the law may contradict the teachings of Islam which stipulate the testimony of four eyewitnesses for sentencing the criminal,” he added.

For his part, Ali Saleh Undersecretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor said there is a remarkable development in the Yemeni law and some of the texts were amended with respect to honor crimes.

The study on honor crimes, recently conducted, does not cover accurate scores, and it seems to be merely composed of opinions that are far away from the problem. It contained an account of male and female mortality rate, which is absolutely irrelevant from honor crimes.

Crimes of honor in Yemen remain far away from courts and the media means due to the existence of the traditional culture that still control all the social affairs.

The terrible increase in suicide cases reflects fearing the scandal more than fearing penalties. So an authentic study based on real scores is recommended to diagnose the issue and suggest any possible solutions and remedies.