Amid the civil war, Yemeni women are suffering from the lack of resources as well as the escalation of violence. The war adds on more obstacles for women on top of the patriarchal culture that already puts them at a disadvantage in society. Some issues they face are poverty, access to basic healthcare, access to clean water, and gender-based violence (El Bcheraoui et al 2018; Holt 2013). Out of these gender-based violence has the greatest impact physically, psychologically, and on their future well-being. About 92% of women say that violence most commonly occurs in the home and that much of abuse comes from the father or mother (MOPHP et al 2015). Globally, 59% of women reported sexual violence by a partner at some point and 75% reported emotional abuse (WHO 2012). Due to the war, there is a lack of current data on violence against women, but it is assumed that the numbers are skyrocketing. The WHO study was focused on intimate partner violence, but the Yemini women are experiencing far worse than that. Figuring out how to address trauma as it is happening brings challenges to those trying to provide aid to this country.
A question that must be addressed is: why is violence against women as common as it is in this culture? First, men believe they have a right to beat their wives, because it is written in the Qur’an. Secondly, as a loss of control is felt during a war, men abuse women because they can feel the comfort of a women while releasing their frustration (Holt 2013). This violence increases as the climate of fear thickens, and men feel more insecure and powerless. As it was emphasized in the class material this week, trauma has a long-lasting effect on a person and the stress may affect their family and future generations (Bombay et al 2009). This is an important cultural issue because Yemen has a long history of gender violence and the trauma that the past has felt has a clear effect on the present. Changes in culture take many generations, but a temporary solution to the effects of gender violence is counseling and educational opportunities. Global aid organizations have been established to provide shelter and a new life for these women such as the shelter by the Yemeni Women’s Union and United Nations Populations Fund that teaches women livelihood skills to start their own business (UNFPA 2016). This helps women find a supportive community that can counsel one another through the trauma, and a place that helps them build a future for their children.
Unfortunately, Yemen is not the only place where gender violence is prevalent, but it is one where it is most vicious. Since the violence is deeply rooted in the culture and supported by the dominating religion, there is no simple solution to the issue. Another obstacle is that violence against women is not seen as a public health issue. The effects physical, psychological, and sexual violence against women inhibit them from living a full life. Many have a distortion of their identity and suffer from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Holt 2013). Often, patriarchal societies do not see the importance of women in the development of their country. It is obvious that there is no help for the women from the country, therefore, the international community must be the initiators for change by providing aid and advocating for the women (El-Mouelhy 2004). Though it is a slow process, as awareness is raised people will slowly change their thinking and put gender violence on the political agenda. Without a drastic shift in the culture, Yemini women will continue to suffer from gender-based violence and be stuck in the endless cycle that has infected their long history.
Bombay, A., Matheson, K., & Anisman, H. (2009). Intergenerational trauma: Convergence of multiple processes among first nations peoples in canada. Journal of Aboriginal Health, 5(3), 6.
El Bcheraoui C, Jumaan AO, Collison ML, Daoud F, Mokdad AH. Health in Yemen: losing ground in war time. (2018). Globalization and Health. 2018;14:42. doi:10.1186/s12992-018-0354-9.
El-Mouelhy, M. (2004). Violence against women: A public health problem. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 25(2), 289-303. doi:10.1023/B:JOPP.0000042393.90825.fc
Holt, M. (2013). Violence against women in the context of war: Experiences of Shi’i women and palestinian refugee women in lebanon. Violence Against Women, 19(3), 316-337. doi:10.1177/1077801213485550
Ministry of Public Health and Population – MOPHP/Yemen, Central Statistical Organization – CSO/Yemen, Pan Arab Program for Family Health – PAPFAM, and ICF International. (2015). Yemen National Health and Demographic Survey 2013. Retrieved from http://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/FR296/FR296.pdf.
United Nations Populations Fund. (2016, October 31). Violence against women escalates under Yemen’s brutal conflict. Retrieved from https://www.unfpa.org/news/violence-against-women-escalates-under-yemens-brutal-conflict
World Health Organization. (2012). Understanding and addressing violence against women: intimate partner violence. Retrieved from http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/files/2015/05/intimate-partner-violence-WHO-2012.pdf