Country: Yemen

Population: 26 million

Estimated prevalence among women aged 15-49:

38.2% (PAPFAM), 23% (DHS) & 1.1 million women cut (aged 15+)

Data Source PAPFAM 2003
15 – 49 (%) 38.2
15 - 19 (%) --
45 - 49 (%) --
Urban (%) 33.1
Rural (%) 40.7
Lowest Region (%) --
Highest Region (%) --
Nicked, no flesh removed (%) --
Flesh removed (%) --
Sewn closed (%) --
Traditionally performed (%) --
Medically performed (%) --
National law Legal

PRB 2014

Type practised:

The most commonly practiced form of FGC in Yemen is Type II. Type III is also practiced by a small group of East African immigrant/refugee communities in Yemen.

Legal Status:

As present there is no law that bans FGC in Yemen. There was a ministerial decree effective 9 January 2001 prohibiting the practice in government and private health facilities. The government claims that more research is needed before an outright ban can be imposed.

History of FGC in Yemen:

FGC is believed to have started almost 2,200 years ago in Egypt. The practice then spread through countries across Africa in a western band and up into Yemen, along lines of trade and ethnic groups. While FGC has continued in Yemen with varying rates since that time, an encouragingly high percentage (48%) of Yemeni women who know about FGC support its abandonment according to the 1997 DHS study.

In 2001, the Ministry of Public Health in Yemen sponsored a 2-day seminar entitled ‘Female Health’ to discuss the abandonment of FGC, which was the first time the practice had been publicly discussed in Yemen. The Minister of Public Health described this practice as a form of violence against women and a violation of human rights, and a subsequent plan of action to reduce the prevalence of FGC was established. Religious leaders were tasked with providing a legal opinion on FGC in consultation with doctors, and concerned ministries were asked to develop a public awareness campaign in areas most affected by FGC. The Ministry of Public Health was asked to conduct a survey to determine the extent of the problem, and it was suggested that FGC should be included in the curricula at medical schools, health institutes and literacy centres, and that a law be put into effect to ban this practice.

In 2008, a multi-faceted plan was designed to reduce the incidence of FGC by 30% by 2012, however in 2009 a ‘Safe Motherhood Law’, was amended to no longer include a section of FGC, by request of the conservative majority who deemed it to include “inappropriate and shameful sentences”. The conservatives also claimed that FGC was “not a common practice in Yemen”, thus making the law unnecessary.

Current efforts to abandon FGC:

As of May 2014, there has been a revival of the efforts to outlaw FGC in Yemen under a new law called the Child Rights Act. This new law would see FGC and child, early and forced marriage outlawed in the country. Hooria Mashhour, the Yemeni Human Rights Minister, has played a significant role in the revived push to ban FGC.

She is not the only voice calling for legal barriers to FGC, as the younger generation in Yemen are appealing for the enforcement of laws, better healthcare and education around FGC. Recently, the internet youth group Y-PEER broadcasted anti-FGC messages from Yemen as part of its ‘10 Days of Activism’.

The Ministry of Human Rights also supports a new study on the practice: “if the study proves that the practice is still being carried out, we will push for a new law” Huda Ali Abdullatef Alban, Minister of Human Rights, told IRIN.

Ongoing challenges:

Yemen faces significant political instability that endangers Yemenis, and has put the issue of FGC on the backbench. In addition to the political instability, Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East. Yemen’s poverty contributes to it also having the world’s largest economic gender gap according to the World Economic Forum. Gender disparities in terms of education are cited as an important reason for the continuation of FGC, with illiteracy rates among women reaching 70% (30% among men).

The approval of religious members is another key reason for the continuation of FGC in the area. In studies undertaken by the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), of the 39 religious clerics who participated, 72% wanted the practice to continue for reasons of religious mandate, virginity and tradition. 32% of women who had heard of FGC believe it should continue. Most of these (53.9%) cited ‘cleanliness’ as the main reason to continue the practice, followed by ‘customs’ (41.4%) and ‘religious tradition’ (27.8%).

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