YEMEN: FGM is changing women into dolls for men

YEMEN (West Asia)                                 

Population: 24.77 million

Nearly 75% of Yemen’s population is under the age of 25.  50% are under the age of 15.  The country has the most youthful age structure in the world outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

Fertility Rate:  7.5 children/woman (1970s) vs. 5.2 children/woman (2010)

Life Expectancy:  40 years (1970s) vs. 65 years (2010)

Infant mortality:  53.5 deaths / 1000 live births

Male/Female Ratio:  1.03 male  / female

Major Religion:  Islam

– Female genital mutilation (FGM), or khitan al-inath as it is known in Yemeni Arabic, is a popular practice that is deeply rooted in tradition and it persists because it is a social convention upheld by underlying gender structures and power relations.  FGM refers to the removal of all or part of the female genitalia.  The most common FGM form practiced in Yemen is Type II – the excision (removal) of the clitoris together with part or all of the labia minora (the inner vaginal lips).

– It is estimated that about 3 million girls, the majority under 15 years of age, undergo the procedure every year.  Nearly all genital mutilation is carried out soon after birth: 75 per cent within the first ten days, 97 per cent during the first month.   The common belief is that the practice serves to temper sexual urges and prevent women from feeling any pleasure from sexual intercourse.

 – The law prohibits FGM, but, its prevalence was approximately 20 percent for girls. It was pervasive in the coastal areas, where FGM rates are as high as 90 percent. 

– Yemen’s legal age for marriage is 15, but a significant percentage of young women marry before age 14.  Among women ages 20 to 24, 51% were married by the age of 20.

– In part due to pregnancies that occur too young,Yemen’s maternal mortality ratio is 430 deaths per 100,000 live births.  Women have a one in 39 risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth over the course of their lifetimes

– About one-tenth of all children die before their fifth birthday.  75% of these deaths occur during the first year of life.

– Use of family planning is low, with just over 13 % of married women reporting current use of any modern contraceptive method.

–  Khat addiction in Yemen has reached epic proportions – 90% of the men, 25% of the women, and up to 20% of the children under twelve are addicted to chewing the bitter stems of the Catha edulis plant, which has stimulant properties that has been linked to increased poverty and malnutrition due to the financial costs of maintaining the habit.

– While about 22% of Yemen’s population was facing severe hunger, yet most households spend up to 50% of their income on feeding their khat addiction. Almost 80% of the country’s residents spend three to four hours every day chewing khat, storing a wad in one cheek as the khat slowly breaks down into the saliva and enters the bloodstream.  Evening khat ceremonies (regular salon gatherings that are usually only of men) are the country’s basic form of socializing.

– The country has one of the lowest levels of per capita water availability in the world, and water supplies are increasingly under strain.



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