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YEMEN: Protecting women, children from violence

SANAA, 2 October 2008 (IRIN) - A Netherlands-funded project is aiming to provide better protection for women and children exposed to violence and sexual abuse.

Sisters Arab Forum (SAF), a local non-governmental organisation (NGO), will implement the US$700,000 project - the first of its kind in Yemen. All 21 governorates will be covered in the four-year project.

Amal al-Basha, chairwoman of SAF, said the scheme would include training courses, capacity building activities and a review of current laws. "There will be 20 lawyers to legally handle violence cases," she told IRIN.

She said a telephone hotline would be set up to receive complaints from women and children exposed to sexual harassment. "We will cooperate with the Ministry of Interior regarding reported cases. The project will monitor violence incidents reported by the media."

According to al-Basha, a shelter will be set up (18 months after the start of the project) in Sanaa city to provide round-the-clock support for women and children who are victims of violence.

Legal and gender experts would conduct a study of the causes of violence against women and children, and ministry officials and local NGOs would monitor the project closely, she said.

Al-Basha said there were no accurate data on sexual violence cases, and that one of the aims was to create a database of sexual violence incidents. "During the first year of the programme, we will be able to assess the gravity of the phenomenon of sexual violence against women and children.”

Report

A May 2008 report on the status of Yemeni women in 2007 [available only in Arabic].

According to the report, domestic violence against women was only very rarely reported to the police.

In 2007, there were 33 rape cases, including 18 cases against juvenile girls, the report said, adding that a 2003 health survey indicated that 5 percent of married women were exposed to domestic violence, including beating mostly by their husbands, and 21.5 percent of these apparently without any reason.

High illiteracy rates, lack of respect for the law, difficult living conditions and income disparities were among the factors responsible for violence against women, the report said.

In June 2008 Interior Ministry statistics revealed 2,694 cases of violence against women in 2007, with cases ranging from killing to harassment; 130 women died as a result, 88 of whom were intentionally killed. Across the 2,694 cases, the violence caused 970 injuries.

Children vulnerable

Jamal al-Shami, chairman of the Democracy School, a local NGO working with children, said sexual abuse against children was on the rise. "There are many violence cases in Yemen. Children are beaten at home but such cases are not reported. The law does not envisage punishment for parents who practice violence against their children," he told IRIN.

Furthermore, parents did not educate their children on sexual abuse, which resulted in a lack of awareness, al-Shami said, adding that his organisation was planning to train a number of local NGOs on how to raise awareness.

Yemen is ranked bottom among the 128 countries listed in the Global Gender Gap Report issued in 2007 by the World Economic Forum.

maj/at/cb

Theme (s): Children, Gender Issues, Human Rights,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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