Yemen & Britain Consolidate Ties [Archives:1998/10/Law & Diplomacy]

March 9 1998

Mr. Keith Vaz has been a Member of the British Parliament for the last 11 years. Born in Aden on 26th November 1956, he is the only British MP to have been born in Yemen. He spent the first 9 years of his life in Aden. His mother taught at Aden College and Aden Airways, and his father worked in the industry. a
After leaving Yemen in 1965 he was educated at Cambridge University, and became a lawyer. When he was elected to Parliament, he was the youngest Labor MP. The new Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has appointed him as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General, the highest ranking law officer. He has been re-elected to Parliament twice, each time with a larger majority.
Returning to Yemen after 33 years, to visit the country of his birth, Mr. Vaz talked to Ismail Al-Ghabiri of Yemen Times who filed the following brief interview.
Q: What is the purpose of your visit and what do you hope to achieve?
A: I am leading a delegation of a number of important British companies with an interest in tourism, on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry. The delegation hopes to encourage trade and tourism between Britain and Yemen.
We consider it essential that Yemen and Britain should act in partnership, in order to promote trade and tourism, but it must be a partnership of equals. I was delighted to meet a number of ministers and was especially pleased to have an audience with the President, who made such a successful visit to Britain last year. I told the President that British business establishments want to do business with Yemen. This will create prosperity within our two countries, and also jobs. I have been very pleased to meet a number of talented Yemeni businessmen, all have an interest in supporting this cause.
Q: You were born in Aden, what is still in your memory about that time? Do you think it has changed now?
A: I spent some of the happiest days of my life in Aden. I remember it fondly. I can remember the big ships coming into Aden port, which I hope to see developed again into one of the finest ports in the world. I remember my school in Steamer Point, and the flat where we lived in Mal’a. Aden was able to bring together so many cultures and people. I welcome the reunification of Yemen, and am very pleased to see so much development in the city. There have certainly been changes since I was last here, but they have all been changes for the better.
Q: Can you tell us about you role in the British Parliament concerning Yemen?
A: I was honored to have been elected Chairman of the British Yemen Parliamentary Group, Shortly before the President’s visit to Britain. The group exists to foster understanding between our two nations, and we intend to bring to the attention of the new government, the potential of this great nation. I want Yemeni people to know that they have a friend in the British Parliament; not just any friend, but one of their own. Yemen as a nation has a very bright future ahead of it, and I shall do all I can to assist.
Yemeni Personal Status Law Compared to Arab Laws
Ahlam Al-Mutawakkil,
Yemen Times
A special workshop was organized by the Applied Research and Women’s Studies Center (ARWSC) at Sanaa University from February 28 to March 3. The aim of the workshop was to review the Yemeni Personal Status Law and compare it with similar laws in nine other Arab countries: Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Kuwait, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. More than 80 people from the ARWSC and other relevant bodies took part in the workshop.
In addition to reviewing the Yemeni Personal Status Law and comparing it with its Arab counterparts, the lectures delivered at the workshop dealt mainly with a historical preview of the legal reform in the Arab World, the relationship between tribal customs and personal status issues, the relationship between local laws and the convention to eradicate discrimination against women, and several other topics.

The participants were divided into four groups or committees to be able to better present their views on the Yemeni Personal Status Law. Each discussion group was given when of four subjects: marriage, divorce, inheritance, and guardianship.
The Dean of Sanaa University, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh talked about activities of the scientific forum regularly organized by the ARWSC, in which many research work on women issues and other social concerns is presented. He indicated that such research is the “first step towards fully studying the realities of Arab women and diagnosing the social maladies that hinder their progress.” He added that it is “not through shallow political writings or demagoguery that women can be emancipated.” Dr. Al-Maqaleh commended the continuous assistance provided by the Dutch government and the efforts of the ARWSC staff and director, Dr. Raoofa Hassan.
Debates and discussions by the participants revealed a number of important issues. Unlike similar laws in other Arab countries, the Yemeni Personal Status Law does not allow for much intervention by the court concerned. The participants also noticed that some articles in the proposed amended law are in need of further amendments, while some of the omitted articles in the old law are better being re-introduced. For example, the old law allowed two women to give evidence in court as one person. The new law, however, has entirely abolished the provisions allowing women to give evidence.

It was found that the Libyan law, for instance, did not charge court fees on personal status law suits, something positive. Also, it stipulates that the wife may pay alimony to her husband in the case of the latter’s insolvency. The Tunisian civil law does not allow bigamy. It stipulates that marrying a second wife entails divorcing the first one. The Iraqi law allows for temporary alimony or financial support to be paid to the wife by a special fund while her case is in court.
Generally speaking, the debates uncovered many similarities between the Arab personal status laws due to being based on the Islamic Sharia law. Few procedural differences were found.
Concluding the workshop, the participants recommended holding similar events in the future. Of special importance here, it was recommended, is to organize special seminars to help eradicate law illiteracy. They must be presented in a simple language that can be understood by all.