Yemeni women’s status greatly deteriorated [Archives:2003/646/Community]

June 30 2003

Hassan Al-Zaidi
The status of women in Yemen is deteriorating in correlation with the decline in overall development. The role of women in society continues to be blurred. This topic has become a common ground for debate among political parties, especially during elections seasons as a kind of overbidding for gaining their votes. Prior to the general elections, there was a significant debate regarding the role and responsibilities that women have. But the debate came to a halt following the elections.
Soon after, awareness of the subject seemed to disappear among the public and the media. As for the population of Yemen the number of women exceeds that of men, nevertheless, the role of women in Yemeni society as depicted in programs and mechanisms the government implements and the kind of contribution to enable the woman to play her role in Yemen life remains very weak.
Normally, the status of women is solely discussed in relation to her role in a political life. During the 2003 elections, observers correctly noted that women registration for the elections has increased drastically. The overall number of registered voters was 8,097,162 million in 2003, and of that 3,415,114 were women, therefore 42% of voters were women. However, there is still a space for effecting improvement. During the same April 2003 elections, only one women was elected to Parliament. In other words, out of a total of 301 members of Parliament, only one woman has managed to win a seat at the parliament.
It is evident that the issue of woman needs cultural and environmental consolidation in order to enable her play the role she is supposed to. The Yemeni woman image is still confused and her educational, health and social situation is in a continual deterioration. Attaining real development in Yemen is linked to the woman role in this regard and to her position in development especially in the rural areas. Most Yemeni intellectuals believe that Islam has accorded women certain rights and privileges. They also believe that if we adopt a stance towards women consistent with these rights and privileges and never to undermine or override them, most of problems the Yemeni woman is suffering from could have been overcome.
By applying true Islamic principles, we would be able to convince even those who may have a narrow view of the role of women. By following and implementing the teachings of Islam, we can clarify the relationship between the man and the woman. That allows us to see clearly the privileges and rights that Islam has accorded on women. The Islamic philosopher and thinker. Dr. Mohammed Amara has written many articles on the legitimate role and status of women. According to Dr. Amara, Islam doesn't prevent women from assuming any official position. Dr. Amara states that the Prophet Mohammed appointed Shifa Bint Abulla in a post similar to the post of finance minister nowadays. She was in charge of supervising markets trade movement in them.
Dr. Amara also refers to the a Prophetic tradition which explains that no people or nation would succeed if they let a woman rule them, clarifying that this Hadith does not apply to assuming official posts. Rather the Hadith was pronounced for a specific occasion when a Persian man told the Prophet that a woman was in charge in Persia. The Prophet responded by telling the Persian that his country will collapse in view of these irregularities and injustice and corruption in Persia and that the woman had nothing to do with that. Dr. Amara adds that the Quran has mentioned about the rule of Queen Bilquis, the Queen of Sheba.
Dr. Amara also discusses the argument that women are deficient mentally and religiously. He recounted the circumstances when the Prophet Mohammed met some women on an Eid occasion and told them that sentimentality in women could be indeed a virtue as it allows them to perform harsh duties that men would definitely fail to do. Thus, sentimentality is a virtue and is very important and pivotal. As an example, women's role in children rearing and as household managers.
As to being religiously deficient, Dr. Amara explained that the reference is to the biological conditions of women whereby women could not perform religious duties under certain circumstances.
Misguided cultural viewpoints and some Parliamentary attitudes that are explained by some as they want on Islam's viewpoint about woman and the shortcomings in the government programs and mechanisms with regard to women have created a wrong impression about women.
The positive and enlightened clarification would certainly enhance the case of women participation. We find that the image of women in Yemen is distorted. We also find that women's educational, health and social conditions continue to deteriorate. However, we must realize that a true economic and social development in Yemen requires and necessitates that abolishment of hard conditions under which women find themselves in Yemen, particularly in the rural areas.
Accordingly, more and more intellectuals in Yemen believe that women's issue will be solved, if we based our viewpoints and standards of women on the rights Islam has granted to women.