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HRW urges Yemen to protect women's rights in new constitution

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] on Tuesday urged [press release] the head of the Rights and Freedoms Working Group for Yemen's National Dialogue [official website] to incorporate protections for women in the country's new constitution. Yemen's National Dialogue conference was created to bring Yemeni society together to decide the country's future. In a letter addressed to Chairperson Arwa Othman, Executive Director of the HRW Women's Rights Division Liesl Gerntholtz listed seven key issues affecting women's rights—equality, non-discrimination, political parties, violence against women, personal status law, child marriage and nationality rights—and a series of recommendations for constitutional provisions which would ensure equal rights. "Action is ... needed to ensure that women enjoy equality before the law with men. Currently, under Yemeni law, women do not enjoy such equality: for example, in legal proceedings, the testimony of a woman is valued at only half that of a man. This situation cannot be allowed to persist." HRW also offered to meet with the Rights and Freedoms group in Yemen to help incorporate their recommendations.

Yemen has been in a state of transition since the anti-government uprising in 2011. In April 2011 former president Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to step down from power [JURIST report], ending his 32-year reign as the nation's leader, in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Earlier that month Amnesty International released a report urging the international community [JURIST report] to pressure Yemeni authorities to investigate the deaths of protesters. Earlier in 2011 L. Ali Khan, Professor of Law at Washburn University wrote that the people's revolutions of Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt are in response to sham democracies [JURIST op-ed] and their peoples' desire to enforce their rights and liberties. Also that year Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President of Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies [advocacy website] noted that for all his problems, Saleh had kept Yemen stable [JURIST op-ed] by placating its influential tribal patriarchs and paying them patronage.

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