Violence Against Women in Yemeni Society [Archives:2001/41/Reportage]

October 8 2001

“Violence against Women within the Yemeni Culture,” is a forum in which participants discussed the need to enforce existing laws and to activate the role of criminal institutions in order to rid the country of violence against women. Furthermore, they brought attention to the necessity of reviewing Islam’s attitude towards this phenomenon, urging religious leaders to call for respecting women in any place and at any time. The symposium was organized by the Al-Shaka’aeq Forum in Sana’a from September 22 to 24. The participants discussed issues relating to women, such as getting rid of laws which are discriminatory and dangerous to women, eradicating poverty, urging woman to obtain an education, and calling on educational institutions to review curriculum which is discriminatory towards women.
The Chairwoman of the Forum, Amal Albasha said, “The main target of the forum is to highlight the main aspects of our Islamic religion which protect women. As a woman, one should be treated as fairly as a man. She possesses mental and intellectual capabilities as that of man.” She confirmed that the tribal culture affects our behavior. She gave an example clarifying this point. In one of the tribal areas, she said that a man stirred a woman up; the woman complained to her sheikh. The sheikh censured him in public. This is clear evidence that women enjoy a sense of respect in some tribal areas.
The majority of tribes have specific norms. If the man accompanies a woman and that man is exposed to revenge by other tribesmen, it is not acceptable for the avenger to avenge him, because, beside him is a woman. She further added that with women who fall prey to rape, the perpetrator is likely to have strong relations with this woman. In this case, a woman trusts him more than anybody else.
Al-Basha said that in the near future, the forum will begin receiving complaints about women who are exposed to violence. It is an experimental enterprise for only six months.
The Chairman of the Human Rights Information and Training Center (HRITC), Ezz Addeen Saeed, considers the violence issue as a result of the general culture within Yemeni society, clarifying that women’s roles are completely marginalized. She is confined only to her housework. She is not allowed to participate in the political arena. Only men make political decisions and women are not allowed to participate or to be free. Ezz Addeen has strongly condemned the platforms of the political parties, because as he went on, “These political parties do not change the traditional culture in our country. These platforms are dragged out only behind traditional trends. Thus, there is no real interest in improving women’s conditions.” He further explained that these women are excluded from practicing their role freely or making decisions. The women’s sector is considered only to be voters. He demanded the necessity of women’s integration with men, putting great stress on women’s role in chairing a party.
In her working paper, Mahasen Al-hoti, deals clearly with “family restraint” with regard to violence against women. Around 67 percent of women are mistreated by their husbands, 30 percent by their brothers, 17 percent by their parents, and 57 percent of women were exposed to violence five times a day during the last four months. She added that 35 percent of married women are socially beleaguered by their husbands, 42 percent are forced to work outside the home, and 25 percent of their salaries are seized by their husbands.
In his working paper, “Religious Leaders Role Towards Women,” the researcher, Mohammad Ali, stated that the government’s task is to tackle women’s problems by enacting laws, and ending violence against women by enforcing harsh punishments against perpetrators of violence against women.
Dr. Adel Al-shargabi, sociology professor at Sana’a University, explained the notion of culture and violence in Yemeni society at a time in which tribalism has the most dominant power over the cultural structure.
Concerning the role of the Ministry of Religious Endowments, he pointed out that the Ministry is the mouthpiece of unjustly treated women.
In his working paper, “Violence against Women in the Civil Society” Dr. Kaed Al-shargabi, a sociologist at Sana’a University, clearly pointed out that the real danger lies within the structure of the society itself, which carries a particular kind of fabricated awareness within the woman herself.
At the same time, the researcher, Rana Ahmad Ghanem, in her working paper, “Violence against Women in the Street,” she clarified that the causes of this problem can be attributed to the absence of religious deterrence, the misunderstanding of religion, the viewing of degrading films and TV series, and the absence of deterrent laws.
In his working paper, “The Legislative Approach to Violence Against Women,” the lawyer, Basem Asharji, demanded legal protection for women and the assurance of her freedom. He greatly stressed discarding all kinds of discrimination against women.
The forum came out of the following recommendations:
1- Informative and religious aspect:
— Urging the media to show interest concerning violence against women and demanding the media to change its informative message towards women, along with discarding all different kinds of discrimination which could humiliate or harm them directly.
— Prompting religious leaders to call for respecting and protecting women’s human rights everywhere.
— Clarifying the religious attitude towards women.
— Urging the Ministry of Religious Endowment to cooperate and perform its instructive role in putting an end to violence against women through TV programs, symposiums, and religious sermons.
2- Social aspect:
— Cooperating with the official institutions and organizations of the civil society to facilitate the performance of sociological, psychological and legal guidance for women who are exposed to violence.
— Providing job opportunities and eliminating poverty, considering it as the main reason for violence in general and against women in particular.
3- Legal aspect:
— Cooperating with official institutions and the organizations of the civil society in order to activate the role of punitive institutions effectively with regard to violence against women.
— Applying procedures to the national and international laws concerning all kinds of violence imposed against women.
— Coordinating with the official institutions and organizations of the civil society repeal laws which support violence against women.
— Motivating the government to adhere to international agreements and regulations without restraint.
— Coordinating with the organizations of the civil society, urging it to reform the judicial system and to improve its institutional and legal mechanisms.
4- Educational and cultural aspect:
— Urging educational institutions to introduce new mechanisms in an attempt to erase all kinds of violence from school textbooks.
— Calling on political parties to perform their roles effectively by spreading awareness among people and within the parties.
— Conducting comprehensive scientific research to reveal the negative aspects of violence against women.