Women prisoners feel oppressed, complain of injustice [Archives:2006/1008/Local News]

December 18 2006

Mohammed Bin Sallam
ADEN, Dec. 17 ) The Women's Relief Center in Aden governorate plans to launch a campaign entitled, “Silence and Photo without Comment,” this week to coincide with International Human Rights Day.

Lawyer Afra'a Al-Hariri, chairwoman of the center, said the campaign aims to enhance women's rights, particularly the center's former prison inmates and victims of violence.

In a statement to Al-Shoura Net, Al-Hariri explained, “Most of the women at the relief center who recently were released [from prison] or are victims of violence still have no birth certificates or ID cards. The Aden Security Department refuses to give women these documents, which is one of the simplest rights accrued to such women released from prison.”

According to Al-Hariri, the “Silence and Photo without Comment” campaign is the first step after the center entered a hopeless phase in trying to persuade security authorities to issue birth certificates and identity cards for women released from prison.

She attributes security authorities' refusal to issue such documents to the fact that they are unsure whether the inmates are Yemenis, providing the pretext that under Yemeni legislation, such documents are granted only to those born and raised in Yemen.

Al-Hariri said most of the center's residents are from rural areas and came to Aden after their relatives disowned them or they were victims of violence whom the center cared for after they were released and their relatives refused to claim them.

The human rights activist indicated that no civil registry for documentation exists in Yemen's rural areas, a fact so far highlighted in several local and international reports.

“Concerned parties refuse to issue birth certificates and ID documents to [former] women inmates who are Yemenis in originality, while many with non-Yemeni citizenship easily obtain these documents,” she pointed out.

Al-Hariri mentioned that the “Silence and Photo without Comment” campaign will feature posters and images of women inmates and their children, as well as statements requesting relief to be distributed to societies and human rights organizations working in Aden and other governments, as well as media outlets.

The campaign's statements are expected to be as follows: “The one who never committed a misstep should stone us,” “We are Yemenis, but without IDs” and “It's our right to have birth certificates and ID cards.”

The National Women's Committee conducted a study on women prisoners, concluding that women's issues in Yemen have increased both quantitatively and qualitatively. “Most women prisoners have become victims of violence and exploitation,” the study revealed, “Some women are jailed on various charges while others suffer domestic and social oppression.”

According to the study, women prisoners in Yemen are denied their legal rights, have no access to protection and aren't treated in conformity with laws placed into effect. Some women prisoners are jailed without trial while others remain incarcerated although they've finished serving their court-appointed terms.

The study disclosed that the majority of women prisoners are from poor families in remote rural areas where residents have no sources of income or lack the required experience and qualifications for a particular job. Such individuals are compelled to pursue low-income careers that don't secure the minimum living standards. Yemenis in remote areas also are engaged in cultural conflicts, thus leading them to deviate and commit violence against women.

The committee's study clarified that although many women are jailed for simple crimes, they then become professional criminals. It noted that organized crime occurs in prisons because notorious big-time criminals are mixed with those who committed small crimes.

The paper revealed that low levels of legal awareness among Yemeni women in general – and women prisoners in particular – are responsible for their poor access to legal protection. It added that women prisoners often don't appoint lawyers to defend them due to being unable to afford the costs because the majority are from poor families and are disowned by their parents and relatives.

According to the study, the majority of Yemeni prisons also lack experienced sociologists and psychologists to follow up the conditions of male and female prisoners. It mentioned that such prisons aren't well-ventilated and lack necessary equipment, disclosing that Yemeni prisons have very limited services, which contravenes the simplest human rights principles.

“Concerned parties ignore women prisoners, prolong case-related procedures and deny women the legal rights accrued to them. Thus, such prisoners feel compelled to avenge themselves against the community due to mistreatment they received in jails,” the study illustrated, adding, “Concerned laws aren't applied fairly to integrate female inmates into the community following their release.”

The paper revealed that many women prisoners live in Yemeni prisons with their children, who suffer difficult living conditions because they can't get milk or clothing and have no access to education or health care.

“Yemeni prisons have no plans or programs aimed at providing care or training services to women prisoners and their children. This serves to widen the gap between female inmates and other social classes,” the study concluded.