Human rights in Yemen

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Human rights in Yemen are seen as problematic in numerous ways. 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 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] One significant case to gain worldwide publicity was that of Nujood Ali, who succeeded in obtaining a divorce at age ten,[5][6] with the help of a prominent female Yemeni lawyer who agreed to represent her.[7]

Yemen has one of the worst records of child marriage in the world, with UNICEF recording in 2005 that 48.4% of Yemeni women currently aged 20–24 had been married before they were 18 (and 14% before the age of 15).[8] Prior to the unification of Yemen in 1990, the law set the minimum age of marriage at 16 in South Yemen and 15 in the north. After unification, the law was set at 15. In 1999, the civil status law was amended and the minimum age was abolished. From April 2010, a controversial new law set the minimum age for marriage at 17. The bill was actively opposed by conservative parliamentarians on the basis that fixing a minimum age of marriage contradicts Islam. Other factors contributing to child marriage include embedded cultural traditions, economic pressures on girls' parents, and the value placed on young girls' virginity and consequent desire to protect them from sexual relationships outside of marriage.[9][10]

Other potential factors include older husbands' desire for young, submissive wives, and the belief that young girls are less likely to be carriers of HIV and AIDS. The dangers of early marriage to girls include the increased health risks associated with early pregnancies, social isolation, an increased risk of exposure to domestic violence and a cutting short of girls' education, further contributing to the 'feminisation of poverty'.[11][12]

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.[13]

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.[14]

Freedom of the press

In 2005, Yemen ranked 136th of 167 nations in terms of press freedom.[15] The government holds a monopoly on all television and radio and bans journalists for publishing "incorrect" information.[16] 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 200 publications had been granted a license."[17]

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 not 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.[18]

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.[19]

Since the start of the Shia insurgency, many Zaidis 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".[20]

LGBT rights

Homosexuality is illegal in Yemen in accordance with the country's Shari'ah legal system.[21] LGBT persons in Yemen are likely to suffer discrimination, legal, and social challenges. Punishments for homosexuality range from flogging to death.[22][23] Yemen is one of only seven countries to apply a death penalty for consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex.[24]

Gay and lesbian websites are blocked by the government.[25]

As of 2007, there was no public or semi-public space for gays as in western countries.[26] The official position is that there are no gays in Yemen.[26]

As a result of Sharia, LGBT people are killed in attacks.[27] The government does not protect its gay citizens from violence.

Human trafficking

The United States Department of State 2013 Trafficking in Persons report has classified Yemen as a Tier 3 country,[28] meaning that its government does not fully comply with the minimum standards against human trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.[29]

Violations of Children's Rights during Civil War

Amnesty International denounced the recruitment of young boys under the age of 17 at hands of the Yemen's Houthi armed group to fight as child soldiers on the front lines of the Yemeni Civil War. In mid-February 2017, four boys, aged between 15 and 17, were recruited by Huthis in Sana'a; the total numbers of the boys recruited is unknown. Since the children have been excited to shoot Kalashnikovs and guns and wear military uniforms, Houthis have run local centers that hold activities such as prayers, sermons and lectures where they have been encouraged to join front-line battles to defend Yemen against Saudi Arabia. As the report clarified, they always take one recruit from each family because of the few fighters at the front-line combats because of the few fighters at the front lines in the combats ; and when son dies, a monthly salary, estimated between 20,000 and 30,000 Yemeni Riyals, has been given to the family. According to the UN agencies, nearly 1,500 cases of children were recruited by all parties to the conflict since March 2015.[30] 

Secret prisons

The UAE runs secret prisons in Yemen where prisoners are forcibly disappeared and tortured.[31][32][33][34][35]

See also


  1. 1 2 "Derechos: Human Rights in Yemen". Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  2. 1 2 Embassy of Yemen: Human Rights and Women's issues Archived 2007-05-19 at the Wayback Machine. accessed 9-8-2006
  3. 1 2 Human Rights Watch: World Report 2001 on Yemen accessed 9-8-2006
  4. Freedom House
  5. Daragahi, Borzou (June 11, 2008), Yemeni bride, 10, says I won't, Los Angeles Times, retrieved 16 February 2010
  6. Walt, Vivienne (3 February 2009), A 10-Year-Old Divorcée Takes Paris, Time/CNN, retrieved 16 February 2010
  7. Madabish, Arafat (28 March 2009), Sanaa's first woman lawyer, Asharq Alawsat: English edition, retrieved 16 February 2010
  8. "Early Marriage: A Harmful Traditional Practice". UNICEF. 15 April 2005. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  9. Power, Carla (12 August 2009), Nujood Ali & Shada Nasser win "Women of the Year Fund 2008 Glamour Award", Yemen Times, archived from the original on 5 April 2011, retrieved 16 February 2010
  11. Kristof, Nicholas (3 March 2010), Divorced Before Puberty, New York Times, retrieved 7 April 2010
  12. Hausmann, Ricardo; Tyson, Laura D; Zahidi, Saadia (2009). The Global Gender Gap Report (PDF). Switzerland: World Economic Forum. pp. 9–11. ISBN 92-95044-28-2. Archived from the original (pdf) on 22 November 2009. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  13. "IRIN - Early marriage a challenge to development, experts say". IRIN. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  14. "UNDP - Inequalities". Archived from the original on 2007-11-17.
  15. Reporters Without Borders: 2005 Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index Archived April 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. accessed 8-8-2006
  16. Reporters Without Borders: 2004 report on Yemen Archived 2006-08-28 at the Wayback Machine. accessed 9-8-2006
  17. Human Rights Watch news: Yemen: Closure of Newspaper, Journalist Flogging accessed 9-8-2006
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. "Yemen". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  21. International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission: Status of Sexual minorities – Yemen
  22. New book details increase in antigay violence worldwide
  23. An FCO programme for promoting the human rights of LGBT people
  24. World Day against Death Penalty: 7 countries still put people to death for same-sex acts Archived 2009-10-30 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. "Study: 25 countries block Web sites, including those with gay content - News -". Archived from the original on 26 October 2008. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  26. 1 2 And then there was Yemen. Archived 2010-01-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  27. "Yemen: 25-year-old man shot dead for being gay". PinkNews. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  28. "Trafficking in Persons Report: Country Narratives T - Z and Special Case" (PDF). United States Department of State. 2013. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  29. "Tiers: Placement, Guide, and Penalties for Tier 3 Countries". United States Department of State. 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  30. "Yemen: Huthi forces recruiting child soldiers for front-line combat". Amnesty International. February 28, 2017. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  32. "Inside numerous secret prisons in Yemen, the UAE tortures and the U.S. interrogates detainees: Re..." June 25, 2017.
  33. "HRW: UAE backs torture and disappearances in Yemen".
  34. "Amnesty urges probe into report of UAE torture in Yemen".
  35. "UAE runs 'horrific network of torture' in secret Yemen prisons: report".
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