Amnesty condemns Houthi female guardianship rules


Houthi rebels enforce strict guardianship rules in areas of Yemen under their control, limiting women’s ability to travel across the country.

New restrictions make life much harder for women amid severe humanitarian crisis [file photo-Getty]

Yemen’s Houthi rebels must end their “suffocating” male guardianship rules that limit women’s ability to travel in the country and worsen the already dire humanitarian situation, Amnesty International has said.

The Houthis have imposed “mahram” (“guardianship”) requirements in parts of Yemen under their control, which require women to be accompanied by a male relative or to have written permission from one. here when they travel.

Amnesty International said this had a negative impact on Yemeni women who have to travel for work and especially aid workers who have to travel to different parts of the country. More than 20 million Yemenis need humanitarian aid.

“The de facto Houthi authorities must immediately lift the mahram requirement. This restrictive rule constitutes a form of gender discrimination and reinforces the discrimination that women in Yemen face on a daily basis,” said Diana Semaan, Amnesty’s Acting Deputy Director for the Middle East. and North Africa, said in a press release.

“Yemeni women urgently need to be able to move freely within the country to work, seek health care and give or receive humanitarian aid.”

Yemen is in the midst of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN, with millions at risk of starvation or disease, despite a marked decrease in violence recently due to a ceasefire.

The obstacles faced by aid workers due to the new rules, which are not officially enshrined in Yemeni law, could spell disaster for families in Yemen who depend on humanitarian aid.

“The international community should pressure the Houthis to stop imposing mahram restrictions on women. Yemen is already facing a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, and there is now a very real risk that women and girls will stop receiving aid if female aid workers continue to be banned from traveling without a male guardian,” said Semaan.

Although the restrictions are not codified in Yemeni law, the Houthis – who control the capital Sanaa and northern Yemen – have since April applied the restrictions rigidly to women traveling in the country, insisting that they are accompanied by a male relative.

Five women spoke to Amnesty about the impact it has on their lives and work, with one accusing the rebel group – with close ties to Iran – of trying to “suffocate” Yemeni women.

“The mahram restriction gives men more control over our lives and allows them to micromanage our movements and activities. They suffocate us,” one woman told the rights group.

She said her husband had to take time off work and her child had to leave school, just to meet the stifling demands of the Houthis when she went to work in Aden, which is outside rebel control.

Another said she had to formally ask her brother, ten years her junior, to give her permission to travel.

“When he gave me his written approval note, he apologized for having to do it for me,” she said.

The Houthis took control of the capital Sanaa in September 2014, forcing the government to flee south and prompting the intervention of an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

The rebels have been accused of gross human rights violations, including torture, killings and detention of journalists, activists and even social media influencers.


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