Sunday, October 12, 2014

Domestic Violence: Yemeni Women's Silent Killer

Photo/ Bushra Al Fusail.

While Yemen's political and security landscape is boiling, little attention is given to women's status in the country. Although Yemeni women had an active role in Yemen's National Dialogue Conference (Mar. 18, 2013 – Jan. 24, 2014), there has been zero progress in legislations to protect women's rights. The greatest danger for women in Yemen is enduring the systemic discrimination and violence which have devastating consequences on their lives. Violence against women is common in Yemen, perpetrated by the state, the community and the family. 

Yesterday, "a 16-years old boy attempted to behead his 20-years old sister while she was asleep in their house in Khor Makser in Aden city. The girl's been in severe condition when she arrived to the hospital as she was also stabbed in different places in her body. The mother and another sister tried to rescue the girl once they heard her scream, and they rushed her to the hospital immediately. The girl is in a critical condition and is placed in a medically induced coma1."

Additionally, there was a report of another domestic crime committed against a wife in Yemen's eastern; "a husband beheaded his wife for unidentified reasons in Foa neighborhood in Mukala city. Reportedly, the husband has escaped and has not been captured yet2."

There are no specific laws protecting women in Yemen from violence. The Penal Law criminalizes physical harm, but does not mention domestic violence or violence against women, and does not cover psychological harm. 

Social norms in Yemen allow a culture where men, hitting their wives, daughters and sisters is regarded as an acceptable manner. That culture is nurtured with the failure of laws to explicitly condemn domestic violence and other forms of violence against women. Therefore, it's absolutely crucial that there is a political will to address the problem, with an up-to-down approach.

“According to a National Women’s Committee (NWC) study, only 5% of women who were the victims of domestic violence proceeded to report the incidents to the police. This can be attributed to several factors. To begin with, very few Yemeni women are fully aware of their rights; meanwhile, even less are familiar with what can be fairly considered domestic violence. Complicating the matter, various forms of verbal and physical abuse, as well as restrictions on freedom, are regarded as aspects of Yemen’s cultural heritage and customs3.”

While Yemen's new Constitution is a work in progress by the Constitution Drafting Committee 4, the committee's members and the government must exert effective measurement in addressing violence against women in the country. Otherwise, domestic violence would continue to be a silent killer for many women across the country.