Women against the Law [Archives:2001/52/Culture]

December 24 2001


Dr. Mohammed Awadh Baobaid
Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology, Sana’a University
The role increasingly played by women in the public life has opened new horizons for more freedoms and equality in the different aspects of life. Indeed, women have become able to actively take part in the economic, social and political life.
The widespread of education in the urban and rural areas, despite all difficulties, has played a major role in this respect. Yet, women’s participation in public life is the most significant indicator of the progress achieved by women in their struggle for achieving a considerable amount of equality. However, this process still generates some negative impacts on the personal life of many Yemeni women.
Some studies on crimes revealed that the most important reasons leading to the sharp rise of crimes perpetrated by women are principally linked to the dramatic shift in the roles of women and their duties in society. Presently, the role of women is no longer restricted to rendering care to children and running the household affairs as this role has changed to include their active participation in the political, social and economic life. For the most part women still perform some traditional jobs, which have doubled their responsibilities in the society.
Women: victims of crime and law-enforcement agencies
Women who come under assaults face doubled-edged problems as they are primarily victimized by men and do not get justice from the law-enforcement agencies, as well, particularly when the crime takes place within the parameters of family. Mostly, the victim woman tends not to expose the crime perpetrated against her so it keeps silent to avoid further punishments. However, when the victim woman gets major injuries the family finds no choice but to refer her to a doctor taking in mind to screen the case and those responsible for it. Accordingly, doctors are requested by the family members not to register the case, although they are premeditated assaults. Regrettably, this situation paves the way for further assaults and as the assailant faces no deterrent to stop him. Many cases have been reported to the police departments, however, police officers do not give these cases considerable attention by the time they know that the assailants are family members.
A related study showed that womens attendance at police stations causes different reactions. Some policemen negatively handle the cases of the victim woman from the perspective that a woman who dares to report the assaults of incurred on her by a family member is an evil woman whatever the injuries are. According to some of the policemen surveyed by the study a decent woman should tolerate the attacks patiently, particularly if the assailant is her husband. Similarly, assaults against women are always considered a punishment for a disreputable act committed by the victim.
From a psychological perspective, this act is entirely consistent with the so-called the psychological deterrent mechanism in which humans legalize for themselves to retaliate against any person who commits aggression against them or refrain to carry out their duties properly. This is identical to the case of the policeman, who refrains from doing his humanitarian and professional duty to confront the offenders and do justice to the victim.
On the other hand, some policemen give some attention to women coming to police stations questing for justice, but the real reasons behind this are evil intentions against the victim herself which may go to the extent of exploiting her situation for making improper advances. Although, this type of policemen are rare within the Yemeni police, the fact is that so many cases of this sort have been narrated by a lot of people. Interestingly, the way policemen treat women depend on their stance towards women in general, and their stance towards violence against women in particular. Indeed, this is principally related to the non-existence of legislations that protect women from family violence; thus the way women are treated by policemen is governed by the policemen stance towards them. Thus more studies should be conducted on the tendencies of policemen and the judiciary when handling cases related to violence against women with the view of working out a strategy that best tackle this issue.
This is the case of women who seek justice at the law-enforcement departments, while the case is much different when women are themselves the law-breakers. In the rest of the article, I will try to spotlight some of the difficulties facing this segment of women.
Rights of female law-breakers
When a woman is convicted to have broken the law, she will be treated similarly as male law-breakers under the penal code. She will be subjected to precautionary measure, interrogated, tried and then the court will issue a verdict to release her or send her to jail. Of course, nothing wrong has happened up till now, as the problem mostly lies in the way these measures are processed. What is in practice proves that convicted women are mistreated, particularly during the interrogation stage as they are detained in women standby prison for long periods of time and not in reception centers.
To place untried women along with convicted women is categorically unfair as their detention in prisons will harm their reputation and status in society. It is also regrettable that the law-enforcement agencies do not even provide them with sub-standard fair treatment as most of women prisons lack the basic facilities needed for humans, not to mention the particular care required for women and their kids. Pregnant and breastfeeding women badly need special treatment with regard to appropriate medical care and balanced diets. Pregnant women should be admitted to civil hospitals before delivery to ensure the safety of both the mother and infant. Furthermore, an appropriate breastfeeding should be ensured for the new-born infants to be subsequently admitted to well-staffed nurseries in case their mothers could not continue attending to them.
The standards ensured for women prisons may differ from one country to other, but there are certain basic needs that should be made available, particularly what have been stated in the international report produced by the New York-based Human Right Watch on the status of prisons for the year 1993.
The report recommended ensuring the following basic standards as minimum requirements:
– Women should be provided with a sanitary towel or an equivalent substitute and should be ensured a daily access to a shower during menstruation.
– Women should have access to work and education opportunities on an equal basis with men.
– Pregnant women should have access to regular medical check-ups and proper nutrition, particularly prior to delivery.
– Breastfeeding women should be provided with a balanced diet.
– Establishing a regular contact between mothers and their infants and respecting their rights to directly nurture them.
Ultimately, providing women prisoners with their particular needs is basically one of the minimum standards required for women offenders since it is an integral part of human rights. The good wills on the part of law-enforcement agencies in our country are not sufficient to meet the needs of women prisons. Thus, women prisoners should be provided with appropriate medical care and food as minimum standards at these prisons. Frankly speaking, prisons in Yemen are no longer reformatory institutions serving to rehabilitate the offenders so as to come back later to the society. These prisons are mere long walls and rooms that combine different women who happened to break the law. Also, We should not forget the fact that so many women have served their terms of imprisonment, but can not leave prisoners except after the agreement of their male guardians, especially the ones serving sentences pertaining to moral crimes. This issue is a major violation of human rights that should be promptly solved from its different aspects.