When the two Yemeni states unified in 1990, a reform of the family law took place that was considered an advancement for Northern and a setback for Southern women, as the South had already introduced more progressive women's rights than the North, for instance legal equality in family affairs.

Then, in the wake of the 2011 uprising, women fought hard for greater and more effective political participation, eventually achieving an unprecedented 30-per cent quota for women in parliament.

Women also took part in the Constitution Drafting Committee for the first time in the state's history.

Where women's political rights stand today

Yet, today, all these advancements in the name of women's rights have been eroded. As the four-year-long war rages on, the political system as a whole has descended into chaos and the push for women's representation has shifted from political institutions to diplomacy and advocacy.

During the time from the Houthis' takeover of Sana'a in September 2014 to the Saudi-led military intervention in 2015, the formal political process has ground to a halt. Militarisation has meant a significant loss for women's political voice and role in decision-making. In fact, the discussion of women's political rights in Yemen right now, in its current apocalyptic state, seems an extravagant thought.

The aftermath of an air raid on the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, conducted by the Saudi-led military alliance (photo: picture-alliance/AP Photo/H. Mohammed)
The aftermath of an air raid on the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, conducted by the Saudi-led military alliance. "The conflict has made Yemen the site of the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Millions of lives are threatened by famine; but the heaviest toll is taken on women and girls of childbearing age. Females are facing a rise in child marriages and a 63-per cent increase in violence against them," writes Afrah Nasser

Women and girls bear brunt of conflict

The conflict has made Yemen the site of the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Millions of lives are threatened by famine; but the heaviest toll is taken on women and girls of childbearing age. Females are facing a rise in child marriages and a 63-per cent increase in violence against them.

With dozens of women detainees held in Houthi rebel prisons, facing torture and abuse, the conflict has destroyed some of the tribal safeguards that protected women from abduction or imprisonment. In Taiz, women activists are a target of Houthi bullets. Across many cities, women agonise over their missing male relatives and are barely able to feed their starving children.

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