Yemen’s MPs debate female circumcision, pre-marriage tests [Archives:2008/1146/Local News]

April 14 2008

SANA'A, April-13 ) Preventing female circumcision and pre-marriage medical tests evoked turmoil and disagreement among Parliament members (MPs) in last week's session.

The session ended with a unanimous agreement to cancel the term 3, which would prevent female circumcision, and delay the discussion of pre-marriage tests.

The two terms were part of a draft written by the Safe Motherhood Law Project, and introduced by the heath committee inside Parliament.

Najeb Ghanem, the Chairman of the Health Committee in Parliament, expressed his sorrow over the way Parliament discussed the two issues.

“These two topics are very important for guaranteeing women's rights in Yemen,” he commented in a phone call to the Yemen Times after the session.

According to Ghanem, who belongs to the Islah party, most of the MPs who disagreed with the terms represent the conservative attitudes of most Yemeni citizens. “The committee is aware of the Yemeni conservative community's positions on these issues. So we [the committee] suggested applying the law of emphasizing pre-marriage medical tests after ten years that is after we carry out extensive awareness campaign to educate people about the importance of such tests.”

Zid Al-Shami, an MP who suggested delaying the approval of the two terms, confirmed that such topics are “sensitive and need more awareness.”

“I suggested canceling term number three, about preventing female circumcision, for many reasons. First, the term, which was written in the draft, included inappropriate and shameful sentences. Second, female circumcision exists in few regions in Yemen, like in Hodeidah and Hadramout, so it not common practice. And finally, there is still religious debate regarding the issue, so as we have no directives by the heads of religion to forbid female circumcision, we do not have the right to ban it,” Al-Shami explained.

He confirmed that Yemen suffers from a lack of medical services to provide pre-marriage medical tests. “Yemen has a lack of doctors, labs, and medical facilities, so it's nonsense to approve a law which would prevent any couple from getting married unless they are certified as disease-free,” Al-Shami added.

He went on to say, “Having a law which says that the marriage is not acceptable, is not practical for the present day, but I am still for and encourage all young people to get tested, which is good for their own well-being and to have a healthy and happy life with healthy children.”