Hussein on Legal Reform and Women’s Rights in Yemen

Douaa Hussein  (American U. in Cairo – Dept. of Law) has posted Legal Reform as a Way to Women’s Rights: The Case of Personal Status Law in Yemen. The abstract follows.

In this paper, the researcher argues that the legal reform of the Personal Status Law is not sufficient to ensure gender equality within the Yemeni context where the religious and cultural value systems of rights remain untouched. Narrow and conservative interpretation of sharia forms the main conceptualization of the rights in the current law. The tribal value system and conceptualization of rights and its practices on the ground has affected the equitable marital rights. The researcher further claims that the current law which is premised mainly on sharia, consolidates the concept of ‘Wrong Rights’, obstructing women’s efforts to ensure equality in the Personal Status Law.

In this respect, there are several conclusions that can be drawn. First, there are three drivers for the conceptualization of rights that affect the formulation of Personal Status Law namely, guardianship (Sharia), sisterhood (constitution), and the weak and dependent (tribal customary norms). The three of them articulate and reflect the narrow interpretation of Sharia and patriarchal policies advanced by the state and the community. Thus the current Personal Status Law consolidates a number of wrong rights which paradoxically, constitute the basic human rights such as the denial of the freedom of choice and full consent, the freedom of movement and the right to terminate the marital relationship. In addition, the right to inheritance is the wrong right for women in practice.

Thus, the realization of gender justice in the area of Personal Status Law and the effective application of the law need a multi-dimensional approach namely an enlightened interpretation of Sharia, adopting the principle of reciprocity and the consequences-based approach. Societal reform suggests a four-pronged approach. One deals with the gender sensitive institutional reform while the second addresses education and the third adopts an Islamic feminist approach. The fourth is geared towards demolishing the dual legal systems.

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