Gender Gap Index[1]

Gender Gap Index 2014
Overall Economic Participation Political Empowerment Educational Attainment
Rank Score Rank Score Rank Score Rank Score
142 0.577 138 0.360 138 0.025 140 0.707
(Rank: out of 142 countries) (Score: 0.00 = inequality, 1.00 = equality)


Family Code/ Personal Status Law

  • In accordance with Yemen's constitution, Shari'ah (Islamic law) is the source of all legislation. More specifically, the 1992 Personal Status Law governs issues such as marriage, divorce and inheritance.


  • Personal Status Law does not specify a minimum legal age of marriage
  • Early marriage is considered a serious issue in Yemen where, according to the OECD Gender Index, 12% of women were married by the age of 15, and 32% before the age of 18. Although survey data differs, the results are consistently high.
  • Recently steps have been taken to set a minimum age at 18 in a new constitution.
  • Under article 40 of the Personal Status Code wives are obliged to obey their husbands, who are legally considered to be the head of the household (Law 23, Art. 49).
  • In terms of parental authority, fathers are the guardians of their children, while mothers are considered children's physical custodians, but have no legal rights.
  • Polygamy is legal following provisions under Shari'ah law.


  • Men are able to divorce unilaterally their wives, while women can only obtain a divorce under a limited range of circumstances
  • In the event of divorce, mothers may be granted custody of young children (9 for boys, 12 for girls), who then pass their father or father's family, as they grow older.

Resources and Assets

  • Women have the legal right to own land and non-land assets.
  • Within marriage, women retain ownership and control over their own property and assets, which are not considered to be under joint ownership (the default marital property regime is separation of property).
  • However, poverty, illiteracy, unawareness of economic rights and discriminatory practices limit the ability of women to exercise these rights; in most cases, women hand over the administration of their property and positions to their husband or male relatives
  • Similarly, there are no legal restrictions on women's right to access financial services, including entering into business contracts and activities, and no legal restrictions on women's opening a bank account or accessing bank loans and credit; yet, women encounter limitations in this area.
  • Recent survey data on decision-making reveals that although relatively few Yemeni women report working for wages (7%), those who do feel completely free (64%) or somewhat free (22%) decide how their earnings are used.
  • Shari'ah law provides for detailed and complex calculations of inheritance shares. A woman may inherit from her father, mother, husband or children, and under certain conditions, from other family members. However, her share is generally smaller than a man's entitlement.
  • In rural areas, women are often denied their inheritance rights.


  • Discrimination on the basis of gender is banned under the 1995 Labour Law.
  • However, the majority of women who work outside the home do so as agricultural labourers, either receiving payment on a day-by-day basis, or receiving no payment at all. As a result, they are not protected by employment legislation.
  • Although women have the right to pursue education and seek employment, some guardians also restrict these activities
  • Pregnant women are entitled to 70 days of maternity leave, to be financed by the employer


  • There is no legislation in place in Yemen addressing domestic violence
  • Rape is a criminal offence, but the law does not recognise the concept of spousal rape
  • There are no specific laws addressing sexual harassment, although Articles 270-274 of the Criminal Code stipulate that anyone who commits an offending act in public can be sentenced to up to six months in prison or fines.
  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) is not illegal in Yemen, although a ministerial decree prohibits FGM/C from being carried out in health facilities.
  • Data from 2003 shows that 40% of women aged 15-49 had undergone some form of FGM. It is believed to be most prevalent in urban areas and along the coast, where women's rights groups report that prevalence may be as high as 90%.

Political Participation

Women's Political Participation Year Total Source
Number of women in parliament (single/lower house) 2014 1/301 (lower house)
2/111 (upper house)
IPU database
% of women in parliament 2014 0.33% (lower house)
1.8% (upper house)
Legislated quotas for women for single/ lower house (yes/no) 2014 NO The Quota Project database


  • The Yemeni Constitution proclaims equality between women and men in article 41, but also refers to women as 'men's sisters' who have rights and obligations as determined by Shari'ah law, which forms the basis of all legislation
  • The Penal Code, Personal Status Act, Citizenship Act and Criminal Code all contain provisions that discriminate against women. In addition, the mix of statutory law, Shari'ah, traditional tribal practices and customary law leave women vulnerable to violence and discrimination.


  • An attempt in 2008 to introduce a 15% quota for women in parliament was abandoned after intervention from a hastily convened 'Meeting for Protecting Virtue and Fighting Vice', made up of Islamic clerics and prominent tribal chiefs, who decreed that 'a women's place is in the home'.


  • The Majilis Annowab/ House of Representatives (Lower House), last elected in 2003 (elections have been consistently postponed) has 1/301 (0.33%) female representatives (directly elected). During the elections there were only 16 female candidates out of a total 1,536 candidates.
  • The Majilis Al Shura/ Consultative Council (Upper House), last renewed in 2001, has 2/111 (1.8%) female representatives (appointed by the President)
  • Female representation on local government councils is similarly limited with women occupying less than 1% of seats


  • Freedom of expression is not respected in Yemen, and Article 103 of the Press and Publications Law bans direction personal criticism of the head of the state or publication of material that “might spread a spirit of dissent and division among the people”
  • The government maintains a monopoly over television and radio and dissenting newspapers have been forcibly closed.
  • In addition, the media has been used to attack and vilify women's rights activists, while also serving to uphold traditional gender roles in its representation of women

CEDAW and reservations[7]

  • Yemen ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1984, with the following reservations:
  • The Government of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen declares that it does not consider itself bound by article 29, paragraph 1, of the said Convention, relating to the settlement of disputes which may arise concerning the application or interpretation of the Convention.
  • A National Strategy for Women's Development (2006-2015) is currently in place; its principal aims are to increase women's participation in economic and educational activities, and increase their access to healthcare.

Economic Empowerment[8]

Women's Economic Participation




Labour Force Participation

Ratio of female to male labour force participation



World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014

Labour force participation, female (% of total labour force)



World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank

Labour force participation, female (% of female population 15-64)



Labour force participation, male (% of male population 15-64)



Youth Employment

Ratio of female to male youth unemployment rate (% aged 15-24)



World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank


Unemployment, female (% of female labour force)



World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014

Unemployment, male (% of male labour force)



Unemployment, total (% of total labour force)



World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank


Firms with female participation in ownership (% of firms)



World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014

Female legislators, senior officials and managers (% of total)



World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank

Boards and Upper Management

Firms with female top managers (%)



World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank

Sectors of Work

Agriculture (% of female employment)



World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank

Agriculture (% of male employment)



Women employed in non-agricultural sector (% of total non-agricultural employment)



World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014

Industry (% of female employment)



World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank

Industry (% of male employment)



Services (% of female employment)



Services (% of male employment)



Vulnerable employment (% of female employment)



Vulnerable employment (% of male employment)



Employers, female (% of employment)



Employers, male (% of employment)




  • Despite the government's goal to increase women's economic participation, the labour force participation rate of women in Yemen remains relatively low at 25% (OECD Gender Index 2014).
  • According to the World Bank, just over 25% of Yemeni women are economically active; the majority of women who do work are employed in the agricultural and services sectors.[9]

[1] World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014:
[2] All information on legislation has been sourced from the OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index, 2014: Unless stated otherwise.
[8] All information on economic empowerment has been sourced from the World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank: Unless stated otherwise.