Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gender police in Yemen

While some of us might complain about "morality police" in our own country, let's be thankful that the phrase doesn't apply as literally to us as it does to Yemen.

This anecdote is the kind of thing that would be funny if it weren't so tragic:

Call them vice and virtue vigilantes: Even as Islamic scholars and lawmakers push Yemen to create a police unit to enforce religious standards, gangs of bearded men have appeared ad hoc to police public mores.

Nader Abdul Kadoos, a 50-year-old returning student, was set upon by one such street committee last month in the southern port city of Aden, in a confrontation that received broad attention in Yemen's news media.

Kadoos's apparent offense was to stroll out of the gates of Aden University after class in a group of male and female students.

About five bearded men pounced on the students, grabbing one woman by the hand to hold her while two other female students escaped in taxis, Kadoos recounted. The men slapped some of the male students. "Is this a lover's lane?" the leader of the gang shouted, according to Kadoos.

More bearded men appeared from nowhere to upbraid the group, while some outraged passersby stopped to defend the mostly young men and women.

"Do you want us to wait until they start having sex in the street?" Kadoos recalled one of the bearded men shouting back at the crowd.
That's from an article from several weeks ago, but here's a more recent update on the situation:
Activists in Yemen say the establishment of a religious police force, under the banner of promoting virtue and curbing vice, is a war on women and their rights.

Some two thousand clerics led by Sheikh Abdulmajeed al Zindani, the hardline rector of the Islamic Al Eman University, and a number of tribal dignitaries met in Sana’a last week and announced the establishment of The Authority for Protecting Virtue and Fighting Vice....

[T]he clerics outlined a catalogue of “vices” that included: performances by female singers, alcohol, nightclubs, fashion shows, mixed-sex dancing, sending female students to study in foreign countries without companions from their families and coeducation in schools and universities.

Already vigilante groups have forced restaurants and hotels that serve alcohol or permit socialising between men and women to close.
Interesting that this is being framed as an issue of women's rights.

Do you really think this sort of life is fun for the men?