Women prisoners in Yemen [Archives:2005/894/Front Page]

November 14 2005


There are several social, economic, discriminatory and legal conditions that result in the wrongful imprisonment of women in Yemen, especially illiterate majority of women who conflict with their families or husbands and as a consequence be thrown in prisons, where they are purposely denied their basic human and legal rights especially if their family and relatives disowned them and they cannot afford lawyers to defend them or follow up on their cases. For these unfortunate women the government does not pay enough attention to their issues and prison officials treat them as sinners with no human decency or the basic right for a trail.

According to an investigation conducted by journalist and Human rights advocate Mr. Ahmad al-Qurashi; the majority of disadvantaged women prisoners belong to poor families living in slumps where there are no essential services such as water, electricity and sanitation. Inhabitants of these areas are considered outcasts and are denied their basic needs requiring them to commit immoral acts and others punishable by law.

Mr. Al-Qurashi met a number of prison officials and inquired about the problems that face women prisoners; according to a Jail warden: “we experience no problems facing female prisoners except for pregnant ones who require medical care at the time of delivery, as they need to be taken to hospital in order to give birth”. Another prison administrator says: “Among the problems we face are those associated with the children of female prisoners, this is because some of them are imprisoned with their children. Therefore, we insist that the general attorney and the courts consider such matters and order the transfer of children of women prisoners to juvenile care houses.”

There are about sixty to seventy female prisoners in every prison, and the main crimes committed by these women range from murder and homicide to theft, and the commitment of sexual and immoral acts.

Night probes:

Unconfirmed information indicated that several prison officials in remote prisons undertake illegal immoral acts in the exploitation and ill-treatment of women prisoners. In the remote areas, like Abs and Harad in Hajjah and al-Zihrah and al-Lehya in Hodeida, women prisons are nothing but regular houses owned by influential persons who give shelter to female prisoners in return for being paid in a questionable manner.

The investigation revealed shocking stories related to the abuse and harassment of women prisoners which are in breach of the law and common decency; women prisoners are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, violence and deprivation, some of the women are unable to return to their families especially after being disowned or after giving birth to illegitimate children, therefore have to comply with their jailers wishes to sustain her living in jail or in the questionable housing arrangement.

Several other studies confirmed a correlation between female members of the family and household income; as the contributions of women to family income is considerably low and is at 15.6% of the Total Human capital of the country; and there is a significant gap between enrollment of girls in primary schools which stands at 32.8%, compared to 67.2% for boys in 1999, resulting in an illiteracy rate of 74% among women.

Another similar study conducted by the Supreme the National Woman Committee on the situation of women prisoners in Yemen indicated that there has been no scientific field study on the situation and problems of women prisoners' pre and post their imprisonment, which means there is no attention was paid to women issues.

However, the study also indicates that the majority of women inmates in Yemeni prisons convert to being professional criminals due to the absence of real rehabilitation and the mixture of women prisoners of different cases. These circumstances convert prisons to training center for organized crime.

Indeed, there are no social or psychological experts that monitor rehabilitation and prisons administration, the study revealed the rarity of services provided for women prisoners and the disregard of the simplest human rights of prisoners.

Complaints of women prisoners exceeds the unreasonably long period of time taken for them to stand trials to the extent that trail duration might exceed the imprisonment sentence, all while being harassed, exploited and abused. Making female prisoners vow to take their revenge on society and the state and become well-networked mobsters who understand the realities of the legal system and have experienced the worst punishment there is, they are fully aware that the state is careless either in the application of laws or in terms of the lack of policies and rehabilitation programs, therefore they choose to indulge themselves in the more rewarding life of crime thereafter.

The absence of basic human rights and the lack of training and rehabilitation programs in Yemeni prisons, results in the creation of violent criminals and masterminds whose aim is to take revenge back on the society which allowed such happenings to take place in prisons, hereby increase the suffering of other citizens in a vicious cycle which the prisons authority seem to endorse and Civil society organizations couldn't care less.