Gender Equality and Womens Rights in Yemen
Table of Content
1- Introduction 3
2- Overview of Yemen 4
3- Education in Yemen 5
4- Yemeni Women Challenge 6
5- Women Rights Between Law, Religion and Tradition 8
6- Recommendations and Conclusion 14
7- References 18
8- Appendices 19 ?
Before Islam, women were treated like slaves or property. Their personal consent concerning anything related to their well-being was considered unimportant.
In addition, the birth of a daughter in a family was not an occasion for rejoicing, but was regarded with humiliation. The practice of killing female children was uncontrolled
With the advent of Islam came the verse from the Quran condemning those who practiced female infanticide:
“And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief! He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her in the earth Certainly, evil is their decision.” [Al-Nahl, verses 58-59]
Islam considers a woman to be equal to a man as a human being and as his partner in this life. Women have been created with a soul of the same nature as man??™s. Allah (SWT) says in the Quran:
“O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever and All-Watcher over you.” [Al-Nisa, verse 1]
And in the words of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW),
“Assuredly, women are the twin halves of men.” [Sahih reported by Abu-Dawud (RA)]
In Islamic law a woman is an independent, unique individual in her own right. She has the same responsibilities towards herself, towards Allah (SWT) and towards other human beings as the male, and will be punished or rewarded in the Hereafter without discrimination towards her female gender.
2. Overview of Yemen
The entire Yemeni history has only been known for its women, I mean those who made Yemen very famous, as they were mentioned in the Holy Quran; Queen Balqis, the Queen of Shiba, ruled Yemen back before Islam, Queen Rihana also and Queen Shamsa who used to be called “the Queen of Arabian Lands” and who used to control commercial routes and movement of the Yemeni goods and caravans. During the Islamic era, the first queen to take over in 1099 was of course queen “Sayeda Ahmed Al-Sulihi” known as queen Arwa, whose era has been the best ever.
I dont want to undermine the Yemeni men but history has proven that Yemen has never been elevated in the world unless the Yemeni women have been elevated. And this is the bottom line of this issue as Yemen will never be upgraded unless through its female population that shall give the men a lesson in how to run a country with honesty and justice and not through tribalism, Yemeni jungle law, violence and civil wars that have always been represented in the rule of men and have resulted in nothing for the benefit of the nation. Unfortunately, the male mentality refuses to confess and for those who are not persuaded, go back to examine the Yemeni history.
3. Education in Yemen
After the Yemeni revolution, the revolution government faced several development challenges including education which had been almost absent without any significant educational infrastructure. Education is considered to be one of the major components of the social aspect of human development and the first and foremost method of building human capacities and widening up his/her options. It is a controlling factor in the other social aspects such as health and services of the social safety net being the foundation of knowledge and skills acquisition and social awareness of life itself. Hence, the identification of the gender gap has to start from education and all the aspects related to it, such as rehabilitation and acquisition of skills because education is:
??? The foundation of human building and his/her economic and social capacities.
??? The foundation of the development of human resources and human development in general.
??? The foundation of human capital formation.
??? The foundation of increasing individual efficiency and improving capabilities to perform tasks and employ information.
After the revolution had faded out in mid 1960s, the new regime started to put more emphasis on education, opening schools and providing equal opportunities to all citizens. With the citizens rushing upon education, the government paid attention to establishing more schools after their number had not exceeded the number of the hands fingers, despite the weak and limited resources of the Government at that time. Late seventies of the past century was the era in which Yemen witnessed a remarkable stability that eventually led to more people enrolling in education and that pushed the government to cooperate with the people in establishing educational institutions that have now covered all parts of our beloved country.
4. Yemeni Women Challenge
Few decades ago Yemen was one of the most ignorant countries on earth; living in isolation from the rest of the world and experiencing illness and ignorance every single day. Today, reality is pretty different with Yemen competing through its subjects in all areas of life; there are doctors, engineers and scientists in various fields of science and delicate sciences.
Right now, it is evident that nothing can be exclusive for men as Yemeni women have proven that they are capable of upgrading the society to the best. Back in the past, the Yemeni man wouldnt allow a foreign doctor to check up his seriously ill wife due to certain restrictions but today the Yemeni women have broken the barrier and became very competent doctors who make us all proud; there are female surgeons, general practitioners and midwives who are exerting efforts to serve the Yemeni society. It is not limited to them, however, with female architects also lending a hand in building and construction of asphalted roads and infrastructure hoping to see Yemen one day on same footing with developed countries.
In every country there is a constitution representing the reference in all affairs and it is extremely pleasant to have women reaching the higher political positions as they practice their constitutional rights in elections. Today, the Parliament has widely opened its doors for women to become partners in decision making for the best of the country.
There are several questions that need to be addressed;
– Have women really realized what they were longing for
– Are we satisfied with what the Yemeni woman has achieved
– Are these achievements the result of encouragement or are they happening to cope up with the worlds development and change of concepts in regard to life and livelihoods
– What are the obstacles facing women in their way to effective partnership in building the Yemeni society in which women are being considered as marginal components
– The Yemeni society has witnessed significant changes and shifts since the Yemeni revolutions in 26th of September 1962 and 14th of October 1963 in relation to human life and womans in particular as she used to lack her very simple social, cultural, educational and political rights. Such social, economic and political changes and shifts had their impact in elevating and upgrading womans role and position in the society especially after the reunification of Yemen and consolidating the democratic process and political pluralism and the resulted legislations that guaranteed women human rights hoping that they will work hard to earn their fruits and achieve even more benefits. We can say that, thanks to our political system, the Yemeni woman in general has made undeniable accomplishments as the “modified” Yemeni constitution of 1994 stipulated in article 31 that “women are on equal footing with men; having rights and assuming duties as mandated by the Islamic law and stipulated by law”. [Constitution of the Republic of Yemen 1994 : Article 31]
5. Women Rights Between Law, Religion And Tradition
In the Yemeni labor law, article 42 guarantees the principle of equal public rights and duties, and there are other articles that ensures the right to contribute in the political, economic, social and cultural life by all citizens and gives the right to running for elections and expressing opinions in referendums.
[Yemeni Labour Code, Act No. 5 of 1995: Article 42]
The Yemeni legislator has guaranteed that women shall enjoy civil and political rights, the right to affiliate to any civil institution such as parties, organizations, syndicates and associations besides the right to assume a public post based on equal opportunities and rights to all citizens without any discrimination in addition to reward, rehabilitation, training, promotions, education, retirement pensions and social insurance such as aging insurance, mortality, disability, family compensations with delivery and maternity leave.
Those were laws stipulated by the government to be fair with women in the society but unfortunately the power of traditions and customs surpasses the rule of law abidance and religion adherence as the most trivial behavior of any person, no matter how religion and traditions despise, would make the one who commits it seem guilty, insulted and a society “outlaw”.
If a man called his wife with her name, for instance, while being with his friends, he will become a joke and will be mocked at whether intentionally or unintentionally, despite the fact that the Prophet (PBUH) used to call his wives by their names in front of his companions.
Therefore, the society prefers that women are called by their fathers, sons, husbands or brothers names and if a man doesnt find a name to call his wife with, he will come up with strange names that are often indicative of his downgrading look at her such as “home or family” not due to respect to privacy as many men claim, but out of embarrassment of mentioning her name in front of men. The traditional culture has attached mentioning names of women with a stigma which is evident in peoples disapproval upon knowing the name of a mans daughter, sister, mother or wife. Such a reaction has made it a shame touching the mans manhood and a reason to mock, insult or even scold the man among his friends. Consequently, men and women alike are reluctant to reveal the womans name in order to avoid being insulted or mocked at and in order not to exploit this name to harm or insult the woman or her family.
This social culture that considers revealing a womans name a social shame has resulted in causing injustice to women starting by hiding their identity and everything related to their rights and duties later on. This hiding has become a noble practice that children are taught to defend. Womens rights are being denied as a consequence and women are being placed in the back whether intentionally or unintentionally to become victims of marginalization even if they are well educated and employed as they occupy the bottom of the mens interests list, either intentionally or not.
I dont blame either the man or the woman as they are both the product of a social culture that supports discrimination based on sex, and not based on accomplishments or educational level. The man comes first, no matter how he is, even if he was unemployed and ignorant while the woman comes later even if she was better than the man in terms of position, acquisition and knowledge as she comes after the man in expressing opinions, in adopting her opinion, in employment, public places and even upon eating; as some families dont allow women to eat unless the men of the family are full and the leftovers remain to be their share.
Such discrimination is the main reason for destroying the womans character, with educated women being its first victim. It is really painful that men dont feel such harm and continue to deal with woman as an inferior creature even if she was a leader. The easiest word directed to a woman if she faced a problem is that “if you bring your guardian, the problem will be solved” even if this “guardian” is a child because this is the socially accepted behavior and that applies to everything related to women no matter how educated they are.
Should men and women, especially those intellectual figures, try to observe their behavior while being in a mixed society, they will find many behavioral patterns based on discrimination that are taken for granted and are being practiced without consideration of their future consequences.
Discrimination based on sex is unfair to women and men suffer from it whether they like it or not. This discrimination will remain until its concept alters to be based on distinction and that will not take place unless both men and women set together the right basis for distinction (other than sex) to be based on the capabilities, knowledge and values that are represented in behavior and sayings. Then religion will prevail over the traditional social culture and distinction will be based on things gained and acquired as a result of exerting efforts based on the Quranic verse “to the men is an assignment from what they have acquired and to the women is an assignment from what they have acquired” [Chapter: Al-Nissa, verse 32].
We conclude that preventing women from work or limiting their work to very narrow areas is a result of the prevailing social culture that leads to deactivating a major force in the society as it is unfair to keep women unoccupied by work despite the fact the our country needs to employ all its men and women to build a prosper society. Women are half the society and partners in life.
Many people think that women are being prioritized in terms of employment compared to their male counterparts but the statistics of the administrative body, private sector and unemployment data emphasize that the unemployment rate among educated women is very high reaching 31.9% compared to 13.1% of educated men. Similarly, offer and demand indicators among the outputs of higher education and those registered in the civil service offices for 2007 that 55% of those who have been graduated for over seven year (graduates of the year 2000 and before) and reconfirmed their registration are educated girls.
[Raynews ??“ Yemeni Girls – published on April 15,2009 -From: http://www.raynews.net/print.phpid=1128 – Accessed November 18, 2009]
A huge amount of these problems could be attributed to the traditional culture that rejects women participation in the public arena and the tendency of some employers to hire men instead of women due to their inferior attitude towards womens work.
There are many families in Yemen that play the main role in defining the type of participation in the labor market as they tend to select jobs that are largely practiced by women as the woman movement outdoors is still subject to the societys satisfaction with the reason and the type of the profession. However, there are other constraints to womens involvement in labor market as many families try to get rid of the handcuffs of traditional culture by pushing women to work but the womens lack of habilitation in the field of modern skills required to involve in the labor market represents an added constraint and limits women to unemployed categories or weakly productive groups as the labor force survey of 2006 showed that the womens skill in the qualitative economic activities has decreased compared to the total skilled labor force in the labor market.
Regarding womens work opportunities in the private sector, studies have confirmed the existence of discrimination against women in this sector as well. Employers tend to assign less wages for women than men upon doing the same work claiming that women are not breadwinners of families. Employers also tend to refrain from hiring women claiming that they are not punctual attendees of work as they dont come to work due to the family responsibilities, pregnancy or maternity leave. Moreover, women are being deprived the training opportunities and are removed from the leading posts despite their qualifications.
This has actually happened to me in my job which I finally left after years of trying to prove my capabilities went in vain.
6. Recommendations and Conclusion
Finally, has the woman actually realized what she is longing for
We cant deny the discrepancy between women today and women before the revolution. My grandmother would have never expected to see me finish my basic studies or go to any work but house chores, she wouldnt even have expected to see me work on computer or argue with “the man” intellectually, politically and socially. Moreover, she would have never expected to see me drive a car, though many elderly women still consider this shameful.
Today, have women realized what they were longing for Yes, some of them have but not the way they might have wanted. For example, we still dream of an actual representation in the Parliament and we still suffer from many community problems which some claim are exotic and are coming from the west, like violence against women, which are actually disapproved by our religion and have never been exercised except in the Ignorance (Pre-Islamic) era.
Are we satisfied with what has been achieved by Yemeni women
I have conflicting feelings in this regard. The Yemeni woman has achieved much, without forgetting to thank those who rationally looked at women in a way that is religiously consolidated and granted them some of their rights as they now compete with men in fields of study, work and exchange studies. Im truly happy but at the same time there are major fields that havent been reached by women such as the political representation in the Parliament with only one female MP.
Are these achievements the result of encouragement or are they happening to cope up with the worlds development and change of concepts in regard to life and livelihoods
Actually, both are correct. Without the societys encouragement, whether a family member, government or media means, women would have never been able to keep up with the worlds advancements and change their concepts. I may add another important factor; womens determination and belief in their capability to perform their role in the society as stipulated by our Islamic religion which has never confined women to their homes. This determination and ability to persuade the community and the family has played the main role in realization of these achievements and those laying ahead.
What are the difficulties and obstacles facing women in their way to effective partnership in building the Yemeni society in which women are being considered as marginal components
1. Such difficulties are related to the womens limited access to education and training and the prevalence of illiteracy among women which narrows down the prospects of employment to handicrafts or the unregulated sector as an only alternative facing uneducated women or weakly skilled women regardless of the instability of it and the lack of legal protection and social welfare that are available in the official and regulated sectors.
2. The disapproval of women employment and opposing it as well as confining it to limited areas.
3. Non-adherence by the laws, regulations and bylaws regarding the conditions of employment in the public posts, promotions, habilitation opportunities, internal and external training that women are often being excluded from.
4. Committees meeting outside the working hours during Qat chewing sessions prevents women from participation.
5. Misunderstanding of Islam in relation to the mans guardianship and responsibility to support women and therefore “there is no need for women to work”.
6. Certain concepts regarding women competing men over the already limited work opportunities has increased unemployment among men who are in most need for work.
Many people believe that women have obtained enough rights after the revolution and that is due to comparison between the womens situation today and back then. The issue is not whether rights have been obtained or not, it is rather whether the mens attitude towards women has changed or not and whether that inferior look has changed.
In summary, the Yemeni woman hasnt fully obtained her rights compared to men. Unfortunately, there is a wide gap between the Yemeni women and their counterparts in other Arab countries in relation to education, work and intellectual freedom. We hope that the keep up their honest intellectual struggle to prove themselves because there is enormous injustice being placed upon them.
– Constitution of the Republic of Yemen 1994 : Article 31
– Hadith: Sahih reported by Abu-Dawud (RA)
– Raynews ??“ Yemeni Girls – published on April 15,2009 -From:
http://www.raynews.net/print.phpid=1128 – . [Accessed November 18, 2009]
– The Holy Quran:
[Chapter: Al-Nahl, verses 58-59]
[Chapter: Al-Nissa, verse 1]
[Chapter: Al-Nissa, verse 32]
– Yemeni Labour Code, Act No. 5 of 1995: Article 42