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The situation for Human Rights in Yemen is rather poor. The security forces have been responsible for torture, inhumane treatment and even extrajudicial executions.[1] But according to the Embassy of Yemen, in recent years there has been some improvement, with the government signing several international human rights treaties, and even appointing a woman, Dr. Wahiba Fara’a, to the role of Minister of the State of Human Rights.[2] Other sources state that many problems persist alongside allegations that these reforms have not been fully implemented and that abuses still run rampant, especially in the areas of women's rights, freedom of the press, torture and police brutality.[3] There are arbitrary arrests of citizens, especially in the south, as well as arbitrary searches of homes. Prolonged pretrial detention is a serious problem, and judicial corruption, inefficiency, and executive interference undermine due process. Freedom of speech, the press and religion are all restricted.[1]



Yemen is a party to the following human rights agreements:[2]

  • The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
  • The Convention Relating the Status of Refugees
  • The Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • The international Convention on the Ban of Genocide
  • The international Convention on War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.
  • The international Convention on women Political Rights.
  • The Convention on marriage Consent and Minimum Marriage Age and Marriage Contracts Registration.
  • The Convention on the Ban of human trading and exploitation.
  • The International Convention on the prohibition racial Discrimination.
  • The International Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • The international Convention on Anti- Torture, Cruel Treatment and Inhumanity
  • The 1994 Geneva Agreement and their 1997 Annexed Protocol.


In spite of the Yemeni Constitution of 1994, which stipulates equal rights for Yemeni citizens, women are still struggling with various constraints and secondary status. Yemen's Personal Status Law in particular, which covers matters of marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance, gives women fewer rights than men, excludes women from decision making, and deprives them of access to, and control over, resources and assets.

The right to divorce is not given to women equally. It is far more difficult for a woman to divorce a man. A man may divorce a woman at will. While a man may divorce without justifying his action in court, a woman must present adequate justification. Women face many practical, social, and financial negative considerations in divorce procedure.[4]

The minimum marriage age has been abolished, and in practice, marriages are consummated when the bride is as young as nine years old. This is deeply associated with cultural tradition and the virginity and moral virtue of girls in the society. Also, an unmarried girl is considered to be a nuisance and an economic burden for her family. However, pregnancy at early age, when a girl's body has not fully developed, increases the likelihood of miscarriage or other maternal complications. Early marriage also stops girls' education, which leads to low female enrolment rates and one of the largest education gaps between boys and girls in the world.

Women's access to maternal health care is severely restricted. In most cases, husbands decide women's fertility. It is hard for women to obtain contraception, or to take operation for treatment without a husband's permission. Yemen's high child mortality rate and the fourth fastest growing population in the world are attributed to a lack of women's decision-making in their pregnancy and access to healthcare services.[5]

Women are vulnerable to sexual assault by prison guards, and there is a lower, if any, punishment for violence against women than men.[3] The law stipulates protection women from domestic violence, but in fact there are few protections for women who suffer from domestic violence and no systematic investigation of such occurrences has been conducted. Spousal abuse or domestic violence is not generally reported to the police because of social norms and customs, meaning that women remain silent under these abuses.[6]

Freedom of the press

In 2005, Yemen ranked 136th of 167 nations in terms of press freedom.[7] The government holds a monopoly on all television and radio and bans journalists for publishing "incorrect" information.[8] In 2001, journalists at the newspaper Al-Shura received 80 lashes for defaming Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, the leader of the country's largest Islamist party. The newspaper was also shut down. According to Human Rights Watch, "Under the regulations for the 1990 Press Law, issued in 1993 and 1998, newspapers have to apply to the Ministry of Information for annual renewal of their license... in mid-2000 only about half of Yemen's two hundred publications had been granted a license."[9]

Freedom of religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice; however, there were some restrictions. The Constitution declares that Islam is the state religion, and that Shari'a (Islamic law) is the source of all legislation. Government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion; however, there were some restrictions. Muslims and followers of religious groups other than Islam are free to worship according to their beliefs, but the Government prohibits conversion from Islam and the proselytization of Muslims. Although relations among religious groups continued to contribute to religious freedom, there were some reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious belief or practice. There were isolated attacks on Jews and some prominent Zaydi Muslims felt targeted by government entities for their religious affiliation. Government military reengagement in the Saada governorate caused political, tribal, and religious tensions to reemerge in January 2007, following the third military clash with rebels associated with the al-Houthi family, who adhere to the Zaydi school of Shi'a Islam.[10]

Since the start of the Sa'dah insurgency many Zaydis accused of supporting Al-Houthi, have been arrested and held without charge or trial. According to the US Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, "Some Zaydis reported harassment and discrimination by the Government because they were suspected of sympathizing with the al-Houthis. However, it appears the Government's actions against the group were probably politically, not religiously, motivated".[11]

LGBT rights

Homosexuality is illegal in Yemen in accordance with the country's Shari'ah legal system. Punishment ranges from flogging to death.

See also


  1. ^ a b Derechos - Human rights in Yemen
  2. ^ a b Embassy of Yemen: Human Rights and Women's issues accessed 9-8-2006
  3. ^ a b Human Rights Watch: World Report 2001 on Yemen accessed 9-8-2006
  4. ^ Freedom House
  5. ^
  6. ^ UNDP - Inequalities
  7. ^ Reporters Without Borders: 2005 Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index accessed 8-8-2006
  8. ^ Reporters Without Borders: 2004 report on Yemen accessed 9-8-2006
  9. ^ Human Rights Watch news: Yemen: Closure of Newspaper, Journalist Flogging accessed 9-8-2006
  10. ^ United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Yemen: International Religious Freedom Report 2007. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  11. ^ US State Department

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