Yemeni women: Making the most of the space available

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Yemeni women: Making the most of the space available

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In the country’s modern history, three major events have influenced these struggles and women’s political rights: 1) the unification of North and South Yemen in 1990, 2) Yemen’s uprising in 2011, and 3) the war that has been ongoing since 2015.

When the two Yemeni states unified in 1990, a reform of the family law took place that was considered an advancement for Northern and a setback for Southern women, as the South had already introduced more progressive women’s rights than the North, for instance, legal equality in family affairs.

Then, in the wake of the 2011 uprising, women fought hard for greater and more effective political participation, eventually achieving an unprecedented 30 per cent quota for women in Parliament.

Women also took part in the Constitution Drafting Committee for the first time in the State’s history.

Yet, today, all these advancements in the name of women’s rights have been eroded. As the four-year-long war rages on, the political system as a whole has descended into chaos and the push for women’s representation has shifted from political institutions to diplomacy and advocacy.

During the time from the Houthis’ takeover of Sana’a in September 2014 to the Saudi-led military intervention in 2015, the formal political process has ground to a halt. Militarisation has meant a significant loss for women’s political voice and role in decision-making. In fact, the discussion of women’s political rights in Yemen right now, in its current apocalyptic state, seems an extravagant thought.

The conflict has made Yemen the site of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Millions of lives are threatened by famine, but the heaviest toll is taken on women and girls of childbearing age. Females are facing a rise in child marriages and a 63 per cent increase in violence against them. With dozens of women detainees held in Houthi rebel prisons, facing torture and abuse, the conflict has destroyed some of the tribal safeguards that protected women from abduction or imprisonment. In Taiz, women activists are a target of Houthi bullets. Across many cities, women agonise over their missing male relatives and are barely able to feed their starving children.

Meanwhile, women are pushing back. At the grassroots level, with some 12,000 men arrested and more than 3,000 forcibly disappeared, mothers, sisters, and daughters of those abducted have begun to gather in front of the central prison or police stations across major Yemeni cities in search of their sons, fathers, or brothers. They have organised themselves as a collective named “Mothers of Abductees Association.” At the political level, UN Women has supported the establishment of the Yemeni Women’s Pact for Peace and Security, which calls for women’s inclusion in the political dialogue and peace process.

Click here to read the full article published by Afrah Nasser Blog on 28 April 2019.

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