Yemen ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) on May 30, 1984.


Upon ratification, Yemen made reservations against article 29 as described in detail below:

  • The Government of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen declares that it does not consider itself bound by article 29, paragraph 1, of the said Convention, relating to the settlement of disputes which may arise concerning the application or interpretation of the Convention.

Summary of Official CEDAW Reports:

To date, Yemen has submitted six official periodic reports to the CEDAW Committee (“Committee”). The initial report was submitted in January 1989, the second in June 1989, the third in November 1992, the fourth in March 2000, the fifth in January 2002 and the sixth report in March 2007.

In response to the most recent periodic report, the Committee released comments in July 2008 regarding Yemen’s progress in implementing CEDAW as well as the areas of concerns. The Committee commended Yemen for its sixth periodic report, but noted that it does not provide any information on the implementation of each recommendation made in the previous concluding observations of the Committee. The Committee expressed appreciation to the State party’s high-level delegation as well as the frank dialogue that took place between the Committee and the delegation.

A detailed account of progress expressed by the Committee following Yemen’s report in 2007 as follows:

  • The work of the Women’s National Committee on its promotion of women’s rights in its role as a consultative body within the Government. It commends its recommendations to the Government, although not yet adopted by the Parliament, to amend the many remaining discriminatory laws, such as the Personal Status Law, the Crime and Penalty Law, the Election and Referendum Law, the Nationality Law, the Labor Code and the Prison Law.
  • Ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in December 2004 and on the involvement of children in armed conflict in March 2007, in particular as these international instruments cover the human rights of the girl child.
  • Adoption of Law No. 26 of 2003 amending the prisons regulations with regard to pregnant women in custody and Law No. 25 of 2003 on the obligation for public and private institutions that employ 50 or more female workers to provide a nursery for their children.
  • The State party’s signature of several memorandums of understanding with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2005, 2007 and 2008, with regard to HIV/AIDS, and its commitment to prepare a refugee law and promote it as well as to open permanent registration centre for Somali refugees.
  • The government’s commitment to adopt temporary special measures in the form of programs to narrow the gap between men and women in political and public life, and especially the recent tentative acceptance of a quota system which would be instituted for the next elections for the Parliament, through an amendment of the electoral law in order that women hold at least 15 per cent of parliamentary seats.

A detailed account of recommendations made by the Committee following Yemen’s report in 2007 as follows:

  • In order to implement the Convention fully, incorporate the principle of equality between women and men in its Constitution, or other appropriate legislation, in line with article 2 (a) of the Convention, and reflect fully the definition of discrimination contained in article 1 of the Convention in its national legislation, and enact and implement a comprehensive law on gender equality that is binding on both public and private sectors and inform women of their rights under such legislation.
  • Clearly establish the status of international conventions within its domestic legal framework, ensuring precedence of international instruments, including the Convention, over national laws, and conformity of this legislation with these instruments.
  • Disseminate the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendations widely among all stakeholders, including Government ministries, parliamentarians, the judiciary, political parties, NGOs, the private sector and the general public.
  • Address stereotypical attitudes about the roles and responsibilities of women and men that perpetuate direct and indirect discrimination against women and girls in all areas of their lives, and increase its efforts to design and implement comprehensive awareness-raising programs to foster a better understanding of equality between women and men at all levels of society with a view to transforming stereotypical attitudes and negative cultural norms about the responsibilities and roles of women and men in the family and society, in accordance with article 5 (a) of the Convention.
  • Encourage religious authorities to promote positive images of women and the equal status and responsibilities of women and men in society.
  • Enact without delay, in accordance with the Committee’s general recommendation No. 19, legislation on violence against women and girls, including domestic violence, to ensure that all violence against women constitutes a criminal offence, that women and girls who are victims of violence have access to immediate means of protection, including shelters, and redress and that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished adequately.
  • Amend, without delay, the Penal Code to ensure that marital rape is criminalized, and establish clear procedures for filing complaints on violence against women and establish female sections in police stations to deal with such complaints and investigations.
  • Conduct detailed studies on the causes and extent of violence against women and girls, including sexual and domestic violence, collect disaggregated data on all forms of violence against women and provide information in its next periodic report on the laws and policies in place dealing with such violence and the impact of the measures taken.
  • Repeal any discriminatory penal provisions of the Penal Code, including articles 273, 275 and, in particular, 232, as already proposed by the Women’s National Committee several years ago, to ensure that homicides committed against women by their husbands or male relatives are prosecuted and punished in the same way as any other murders.
  • Adopt comprehensive and effective measures to prevent and combat trafficking and smuggling in persons, especially women and girls, and investigate thoroughly such cases, in accordance with article 6 of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 19.
  • Increase international cooperation efforts to prevent trafficking, to prosecute and punish traffickers in proportion to the gravity of their crime, and to ensure the protection of the human rights of women and girls who are victims of trafficking.
  • Ratify the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. It further calls upon the State party to provide to the Committee, in its next periodic report, statistical data related to trafficking and smuggling, concrete interventions and their results.
  • Take effective and sustained legal measures, including temporary special measures, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25, to increase the representation of women at all levels and spheres of politics, especially in decision-making positions. In this regard and in order to accelerate the representation of women, establish legal quotas for women for the coming elections to Parliament, and undertake awareness-raising campaigns about the importance of women’s participation in decision-making for society as a whole, including in the public and private sectors.
  • Implement measures to ensure access to girls and women to all levels of education, including access to proper and dedicated toilets facilities, which have a direct impact on the realization of their right to education, especially in rural areas.
  • Adopt temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25, to ensure the access and retention of girls in school.
  • Strengthen its efforts to improve the literacy level of girls and women through the adoption of comprehensive programs of formal and non-formal education and training, and to increase training and employment of female teachers, the development of gender-sensitive educational materials and the monitoring and evaluation of progress achieved towards time-bound targets.
  • Raise general awareness of the importance of education as a human right and as a basis for the empowerment of women, and to take steps to overcome traditional attitudes that perpetuate discrimination.
  • Implement targeted policies and programs, including temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25, in order to increase the number of women in the formal workforce, especially in the public sector, and take measures to change stereotypical attitudes and negative cultural norms about the responsibilities and roles of women and men, promoting the reconciliation of family and work responsibilities between women and men, and to design and implement awareness-raising programs directed at all levels of society.
  • Increase women’s access to primary health-care services, especially in rural areas, including reproductive health care and means of family planning. In the light of its general recommendation No. 24, the Committee also recommends that the State party increase awareness campaigns on the importance of health care, including information on the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS as well as on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies through family planning and sex education.
  • Reiterating its previous recommendations, take urgent legislative measures to raise the minimum age of marriage for girls, in line with article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which defines a child as being below the age of 18, and the provision on child marriage in article 16, paragraph 2, of the Convention, and stipulate that child marriages have no legal effect.
  • Enforce the requirement to register all marriages in order to monitor their legality and the strict prohibition of early marriages as well as to prosecute the perpetrators violating such provisions, and develop awareness-raising campaigns, with the support of civil society organizations and religious authorities, on the negative effects of early marriage on the well-being, health and education of girls.
  • Adopt, without delay, the Safe Motherhood Law recently presented to Parliament, which includes provisions prohibiting any practice that endangers women’s health, such as early marriages and female genital mutilation, in addition to ensuring the provision of contraceptives in all health centers. In this respect, the State party should ensure that such contraceptives are free or affordable.
  • Adopt all necessary measures to prevent these negative phenomena and combat this form of sex tourism. The State party should actively consider the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee of Islamic jurisprudence legislators on this issue, such as amending the Personal Status Law, and prosecute the perpetrators of such acts.
  • Develop awareness-raising campaigns, with the support of religious authorities and civil society organizations, on the negative implications of “temporary marriages” for the girls and their families.
  • In the light of its general recommendations Nos. 14 and 19, as an act of violence against women inflicting physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, adopt urgently legislation criminalizing female genital mutilation, and recommends that the State party enforce its prohibition through the prosecution and adequate punishment of offenders.
  • Strengthen its awareness-raising and education efforts, targeted at both men and women, with the support of civil society organizations and religious authorities, in order to completely eliminate this practice and its underlying cultural justifications, and seek technical assistance from relevant United Nations agencies and bodies.
  • Adopt temporary special measures, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25, to ensure that rural women enjoy their political, social, economic and cultural rights without any discrimination, especially with regard to access to education, public services, justice, health care and micro-financing.
  • In accordance with article 16 of the Convention and in the light of the Committee’s general recommendation No. 21, amend the Personal Status Law to prohibit polygamy and to abolish the institution of guardianship, as they contravene women’s right to equality with men, and repeal any other discriminatory provision against women in this Law.
  • Ensure equal rights between women and men with regard to personal status, especially in marriage, divorce, testimony, property, nationality, child custody and inheritance. Amend all other discriminatory provisions, including the right of a child born to a Yemeni mother to acquire his or her mother’s nationality in the same circumstances he or she would acquire it from a Yemeni father, and grant the same five-year residency rights a non-Yemeni wife of a Yemeni husband has to a non-Yemeni husband of a Yemeni wife.
  • Ensure equal rights between women and men in the justice and penitentiary systems and to eliminate all discriminatory measures against women in those sectors, and ensure that women in detention are segregated from men and under the exclusive supervision of female guards, including during pre-trial detention, and that they have access to adequate health facilities and rehabilitation programs to reintegrate them into the community, notwithstanding the refusal of the guardian or family to receive them. Special attention should also be given to children detained with their mother with regard to food, medicine and education.
  • Take measures through its mainstreaming efforts and poverty reduction strategy to address the specific vulnerability of women in poverty, including efforts to ensure women’s representation in the participatory approaches taken in the management of poverty reduction programs. Utilize temporary special measures under article 4, paragraph 1, and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25, to this effect.
  • Consider carefully all recommendations made by the Committee and ensure that its obligations under the Convention, its religious principles and its cultural and social values are made compatible, in order to promote and protect fully the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Yemen’s women. It recommends that the State party avail itself of the technical cooperation and assistance from relevant United Nations agencies and bodies, such as the United Nations Development Fund for Women, the United Nations Population Fund, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the World Health Organization, in order to implement de facto and de jure the provisions of the Convention and the Committee’s recommendations.
  • Transform the Women’s National Committee into a ministry within the Government in order for it to participate in the decision-making process, directly supporting its legislative proposal to the Parliament and mainstream women’s rights through the Government and the public administration, with sufficient budget allocation in order for it to carry out its mandate.
  • Consider the establishment of an independent national human rights institution, with a broad mandate to promote and protect human rights, in accordance with the Paris Principles (General Assembly resolution 48/134, annex).
  • Continue to strengthen its cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and adopt the draft refugee law, in compliance with the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its Protocol. Grant full access to UNHCR to detention centers for refugees, not to deport refugees without previous UNHCR verification of their status and to ensure refugees their right to security, especially for women and children due to their exposure to violence, including sexual violence.
  • Improve the collection and analysis of statistical data, and to include in its next periodic report statistical data and analysis on the situation of women, disaggregated by age, rural and urban areas, ethnicity and region, thus providing a clear picture of the situation of women in the State party. It also calls upon the State party to indicate the impact of measures taken and the results achieved in the practical realization of women’s substantive equality.
  • Sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention and also invites the State party to accept the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention, concerning the meeting time of the Committee.
  • While reaffirming that the Government has the primary responsibility and is accountable in particular for the full implementation of the State party’s obligations under the Convention, the Committee stresses that the Convention is binding on all branches of Government and it invites the State party to encourage its national parliament, in line with its procedures, where appropriate, to take the necessary steps with regard to the implementation of the present concluding observations and the Government’s next reporting process under the Convention.
  • Ensure the wide participation of all ministries and public bodies in the preparation of its next periodic report, as well as to consult with non-governmental organizations during that phase.
  • Utilize fully in the implementation of its obligations under the Convention, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which reinforce the provisions of the Convention, and requests the State party to include information thereon in its next periodic report.
  • The Committee emphasizes that full and effective implementation of the Convention is indispensable for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The Committee calls for the integration of a gender perspective and explicit reflection of the provisions of the Convention in all efforts aimed at the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and requests the State party to include information thereon in its next periodic report.
  • Disseminate widely in Yemen the present concluding observations in order to make the people of Yemen, and particularly government administrators and politicians, aware of the steps that have been taken to ensure de jure and de facto equality for women and the future steps required in that regard.
  • Continue to disseminate widely, in particular to women’s and human rights organizations, the Convention, its Optional Protocol, the Committee’s general recommendations, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.
  • Consider ratifying the treaties to which it is not yet a party, namely, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
  • Provide, within two years, written information on the steps undertaken to implement the recommendations contained in paragraphs 368, 380, 384 and 388 above, and consider seeking technical cooperation and assistance, including advisory services, if necessary and when appropriate for implementation of the above recommendations.
  • Respond to the concerns expressed in the present concluding observations in its next periodic report to be submitted under article 18 of the Convention. The Committee invites the State party to submit its seventh periodic report, which is due in May 2009, and its eighth periodic report, which is due in May 2013, in a combined report in 2013.

Summary of Shadow Reports:

To date, two shadow reports have been submitted by civil society organizations regarding the implementation of CEDAW in Yemen. The first report was written in 2002 and the second, most recent report was submitted in 2006. 30 individuals, representing a variety of NGO’s in Yemen, contributed to the 2006 shadow report. The report made a number of recommendations to the government, which covered the following areas of life in which Yemeni women still face problems.

The report made note of the following challenges for women in Yemen:

  • There are a lot of discriminatory provisions in the Yemeni legislations which do not equalize between women and men, such as the Penal Code, Citizenship Law, Evidence Law, Personal Status Law, and Labor Law. In addition, most laws do not have bylaws and there is a huge gap between the law and the implementation of the law which result ripping off the rights of women guaranteed in the law.
  • Women prisoners suffer from deteriorating conditions.
  • Illiteracy rate is high among women. Educational policies do not encourage women to complete their education. They actually contribute in girls dropouts. The abyss between males and females is tremendous in all levels and education fields. Curricula, despite change, still devote stereotypes for women.
  • Women participation in athletics is very weak, marginal and has no social acceptance. There is only one women union for all sorts of sports in which women started to participate in comparison to 26 unions for men.
  • As for the political participation of women, it is very low. Women rate 0.33% in the parliament, and 0.08% in Local Councils. Their representation in the executive, judiciary and political parties is very low as well. There are no positive discriminatory procedures for women like adopting a quota, closed constituency or others.
  • All forms of violence poses a major problem that different women in Yemen suffer from. There is no law incriminating domestic violence, street violence, work violence, etc. Besides, recently a number of quasi official newspapers are defaming civil society women activists, which negatively affects women’s encouragement to participate in public life.
  • The health sector in general is still poor. The budget for medical care represents only 4% of the total budget. Women’s mortality and fertility rates are the highest in the world. They cannot make decisions related to their health without the consent of the husband, like going under a cesarean section or use birth control.
  • There is still a huge gap between males and females involvement in public life in favor of males. Women work in agriculture in rural areas is unpaid and not reflected in the national income. The high-rated corruption in all the official sectors and establishments doubles the difficulty of women involvement in the public life.
  • The marginalized women (Akhdam) suffer from doubled violence and exclusion in all social, economical, political, and cultural fields resulting from their marginalizing class, and absence of serious and successful policies and programs to contribute to social incorporation of this social group.

Recent Updates:

The Yemeni Constitution provides for equal rights and equal opportunity for all citizens; however, discrimination based on race, sex, and disability existed. Entrenched cultural attitudes often affected women’s ability to enjoy equal rights. Women’s personal status is determined by Islamic law, which forms the basis of the Yemeni personal status code. Under this law, women face many restrictions in both the private and public spheres, specifically with regards to freedom of movement, citizenship, right to choose a domicile, access to divorce, access to education and obedience to male relatives. It should be noted that these restrictions are more prevalent in the north than in the south, where women have access to greater independence and opportunity. Since unification of the north and the south, the resurgence of Islamic values has encouraged women to remain at home in the private sphere.

Nevertheless, as Yemeni politics have become increasingly democratic, women have been afforded a larger role in government and politics. Women in Yemen have the right to vote, and comprised approximately half of all voters during the 2003 parliamentary elections. Although not a single woman was on a political party’s candidate list, one independent female candidate won a seat in parliament. In addition, both the president and prime minister have made numerous public statements in support of women’s rights and development.

Adult female illiteracy in Yemen is high at approximately 75% and doubles that of men. In terms of employment, women comprise approximately 28% of Yemen’s workforce, with higher participation in the south than in the north. Unfortunately, women have faced increasing social discrimination and unemployment as a result of unification.

Many women’s rights organizations have developed over the past decade. The most prominent organizations include the Social Association for Productive Families, the Women and Children’s Department of the Center for Future Studies, the Woman and Child Development Association, and the Yemeni Council for Motherhood and Childhood.

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