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Program Team
Meet our Women's Rights Advocacy Staff in Washington
IHRLG IN YEMEN
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While Yemen has ratified the Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Political Rights of Women, Yemeni women continue to face institutionalized discrimination. Women are granted relative equity under Yemen's constitution, yet interpretations of Shari'a and social custom result in ongoing violations of women's human rights, including the failure to enforce laws pertaining to violence against women and the heightening of women's vulnerability to accusations of "moral crimes" (which can include being in public without a male escort).

Women's rights are also not well protected within Yemen's criminal justice system. In addition to having to endure poor prison conditions, women held in detention are sometimes subject to violent interrogation or forced confession, and gender-based violations including sexual harassment, for which security forces are rarely held accountable. According to custom, children and babies born in prison generally remain with their mothers. As Yemeni practices require male members of the families of female prisoners to arrange their release, many women choose to remain in prison for fear of abuse by family members and rejection by their communities. Women prisoners also frequently remain in prison past the expiration of their sentences, because their male relatives refuse to take custody of released prisoners due to the shame associated with their alleged behavior. Until recently, the Yemeni government had had no plans in place for accommodating these abandoned women.

In October 2000, IHRLG developed an advocacy capacity-building program for Yemeni women's rights activists to create a civil society platform for addressing women's human rights and raise international awareness of the status of women in Yemen. We also formed a partnership with the Sisters Arabic Forum (SAF), a Yemeni women's group, and with them created an inter-disciplinary Advisory Working Group to promote women's equal access to justice and the protection of the human rights of women in prison. Recent examples of IHRLG's women's rights advocacy work in Yemen include

  • Supporting SAF in their investigation on violations of women's rights at the Taiz prison, and their subsequent report to the Yemeni government's Supreme National Committee for Human Rights. SAF has also called upon all Yemeni governmental institutions concerned, and on the head the Human Rights Minister, to conduct swift and fair investigation and present those responsible for violations of women's rights to court.
  • Conducting a workshop, in partnership with SAF, on effective advocacy strategies for promoting women's human rights that address the discriminatory policies and practices that Yemeni women face in the name of culture and religion and the legal and social obstacles to the fair and humane treatment of women in prison. The workshop convened women's rights and prisoners' rights experts from Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Tunisia, the United States and Yemen and was attended by officers from Sana'a prison and government officials. Following the workshop, the office of the President of Yemen appointed a task force to review the situation of women in prisons and work with NGOs in developing plans to improve their situation.

IHRLG and SAF continue to monitor prison conditions and the Yemeni government's implementation of its recently issued directives intended to align the country's arrest, interrogation and detention procedures more closely with internationally recognized minimum standards. We are also continuing to advocate for the creation of more shelters/vocational training centers for abandoned women.

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