Yemen: Calling to amend Yemen women’s legal statutes

The Yemen Observer
Economic and political changes in Yemen have had a great impact on governmental policies within the country. One such issue that has been particularly at the forefront of change has been the status of women.
A number of amendments have been ratified that aim to eliminate discrimination against women, in particular, The Convention to Eradicate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Yemeni lawyer unions recently joined forces with the Women’s National Committee and the Forum of Arab Sisters (FAS) to organize a forum to discuss the issue of blood money, money obtained after the killing of a woman by a man, on Thursday June 16th. The forum was attended by Amat Al-Alim Al-Soswa, the Minister for Human Rights.

“Islamic law (Sharia) says that men and women deserve equal punishments, and that includes blood money. Islam doesn’t say that one male tooth is equal to two or three female teeth,” said the minister.

The Quran says in Al-Maidah, Verse 45: “And we prescribed for them therein: the life for the life, and the eye for the eye, and the nose for the nose, and the ear for the ear, and the tooth for the tooth, and for wounds retaliation. But whoso forgoeth it (in the way of charity) it shall be expiation for him. Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are wrong doers.”

Al-Soswa said that if equality was based on small wounds, how can life, which is the most valuable thing, really be an issue? She said that the Quran stated that women should receive half as much as men in inheritance and that one male witness equals two women. “If it was the same for blood money, the Quran would state it instead of leaving it to people’s judgment.”

Fatima Al-Harazi, a lawyer in training, presented a paper on the beliefs of different sects, showing some to adhere to the belief that women’s blood money should be half of men’s blood money, while others believe in equality.

“Speaking about women’s issues in Islam is one of the most difficult things. Some change facts for personal benefit or because of cultural and social traditions. They use Islam as a wall of defense, so no one dares to challenge them,” Fatima said. “We are in urgent need of scholars and religious leaders who have complete acknowledge about these issues.”

The forum recommended the formation of a committee to review measures and punishments before submitting the amendment to the parliament.

The Women’s National Committee formed a board from the Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Ministry of Human Rights, and the Ministry of Information to review 45 statutes pertaining to women and children’s issues.

One of the amendments in the Personal Affairs Law states that Yemeni nationality should be given to any child born of a Yemeni mother and foreign father. Other amendments concern women in terms of local elections and political organizations. While other changes ask for the deletion of some articles or the addition of others. Furthermore, amendments were requested to the Work Statues in order to increase equality in the workplace between men and women.

“Parliament agrees any amendment should be aligned with sharia law. There is no legal or constitutional article that prevents women from participating in general life or the same occupation as men,” said Abdulla Bin Hussein Al-Ahmer, head of Parliament in a workshop on June 14 to improve women’s legal statues.

Parliamentary representatives actively supported the legal amendments adapted by the Women’s National Committee, as long as they did not conflict with Islamic sharia and fair judgment. They also recommended a future meeting of scholars, Imams, legal figures, and parliament representatives to further review the statues.

“According to article No 31 of the Yemeni constitution, women are like men in that they have the same rights and duties which are ensured by sharia and legal statutes alike.” Mohammed Al-Shaeef, parliamentary representative and head of the Human Rights and Freedom Committee said, “ The constitution of the Republic of Yemen and international agreements ratified by the Yemeni government ensure women equal rights to participate in political, social, and economic events and organizations. As representatives of the people, we all support these amendments,” he said. He asserted that women’s participation in decision-making positions should be increased through applying the quota system.

The workshop was attended by scholars and religious leaders who agreed that Islam elevated the status of women and bestowed many rights which are taken from them because of false beliefs. “ I hope that women call for the rights guaranteed by Islam before calling for rights not stipulated in Islam.” Sheikh Al-Motawaree said. He pointed out that some people abused these rights for their personal benefits that do not benefit society as whole.

“Making a decision in this matter is not easy. We should not rush in discussing this matter. We need to hear scholars’ points of view and that of Dar Al-Efta (edification house),”Al-Motawaree added.

“The situation with women’s statutes is improving, although more could be done, such as the introduction of the new 5-year national development plan which is strongly aligned with the Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Millennium Development Project.”

Alexander Alen, a representative of UNFPA in Yemen said: “The law on emergency safe motherhood could make a dramatic change in the statues of women in Yemen through improving reproductive health and easing access to birth spacing techniques and health care. Directly or indirectly such improvements would lead to broadening women’s access to education, social life and decision making.”

Rasheda Al-Hamadani, head of the Women’s National Committee, said that a lot of women’s rights approved by Islam were violated because of social and cultural traditions. “We are proud of being Muslim women and we are proud of Islam which gives women all rights and freedom to participate in building society. Our aim is to protect these rights. We don’t intend to ask for or claim rights that may not be based on Islamic principles and values.”

“We believe that injustice does not come from Islam, but from poor application and mistaken beliefs concerning Islam.”

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