Sexual harassment goes unpunished in Yemen
She said the man kept following her, and when she shouted at him with the aim of drawing the attention of passers-by, he accused her of indecent acts and arrested her.
Many women in Yemen who are subjected to sexual harassment do not notify the police as they fear the social tradition that demeans those women who speak about being subjected to harassment. Additionally, security measures are fragile and allow offenders to easily evade penalties.
With the increase of harassment against women in the street, markets, universities and even inside the family, questions about the role of the police and combating sexual harassment are being raised.
Articles 270-375 of Yemen’s penal law addresses various sorts of harassment.
General Brigadier Abdul-Ghani Al-Wajeeh, secretary general of the Athletic National Police Club, says that the problem is that measures take a long time and that allows offenders to go unpunished.
Al-Wajeeh affirmed that there is a gap between the police and society regarding cooperation, confirming that victims abstain from notifying police about harassment, or bringing witnesses.
He indicated that some police stations took to cutting the hair or beards of those involved in harassment, and that this action managed to reduce sexual harassment. However, the practice was suspended under the pretext that police were not judicial authorities and could not hand out punishments.
Bushra Al-Khawlani, a police woman, relates the story of her sister who was harassed and abused on a main street. When her family notified the police station, their case was referred to the General Prosecution, then it was referred to Criminal Investigation. However, the perpetrator managed, through mediation, to avoid going to jail.
Lieutenant Haifa Hussein, from the Interior Minister, says that policewomen cannot deal with harassment notifications as they lack training in this field.
She says that a phone line for complaints (199) has been set up, but that there were very few notifications received, as social traditions do not allow victims to speak out.
Ahmed Al-Tahiri, security chief of Maeen district in the capital Sana’a, says that the role of police is to arrest perpetrators red-handed.
“We send security patrols to those places that are known as gathering places for women, taking with them their ability to deal with different cases,” he affirmed.
He said that among the obstacles police face is that victims and their families do not notify them about harassment, as they prefer to avoid being demeaned by their community.
Sheikh Jabri Ibraheem Hassan, a religious preacher at the Ministry of Endowment, says that the penalty against harassment in Islamic law is Tazeer, a punishment that can be administered at the discretion of a judge.
He stressed the importance of raising awareness about rights and duties through training workshops.
“If the harasser views women as his sister or mother, then he will realize the gravity of the harassment he commits,” he added.
He urged women who are subjected to harassment to notify police in order to put an end to these acts, pointing out that notification serves the community as a whole and that the silence increases the crime.
He stressed the importance of cooperation by all people to raise awareness about the effects of harassment on the community, citing that media outlets should play an active role in changing the community’s culture about dealing with harassment.