(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)
Homosexuality is illegal in Yemen in accordance with Shari’a law. Yemen remains one of the seven states in the world where the death penalty is applied to consensual adults of the same sex, where the accused is maried.
Article 264 of the 1994 Penal Code states that ‘unmarried men shall be punished with 100 lashes of the whip or a maximum of one year of imprisonment, married men with death by stoning’.
Article 268 of the 1994 Penal Code states that ‘homosexuality between women is defined as sexual stimulation by rubbing. The penalty for premeditated commission shall be up to three years of imprisonment; where the offence has been committed under duress, the perpetrator shall be punishable with up to seven years detention’.
The 2017 US State Department Report on Human Rights Practices in Yemen states that there have been no known executions of an LGBTI person in more than a decade
No published cases have been found. Would be grateful if users of this website are able to refer us to any that they know of which involved LGBTI cases from Yemen.
PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE’S CAPACITY TO PROTECT
Yemen is a conservative Arab state where homosexuality is seen as a taboo and is condemned under the country’s strong Islamic beliefs.
In terms of Human Rights in Yemen, freedom of speech, the press and religion are all restricted, therefore homosexuality in the State is both ‘unseen and unheard’. It is kept underground, hidden from authorities and a disapproving society. In over a decade of reporting on homosexuality, the website GlobalGayz has only found eight reports on LGBTI activity in Yemen. Five were in relation to gay marriage, only one of which wrote in favour. Two reported on journalists arrested for writing about homosexuality and a magazine that had been shut down as a consequence. The final report, related the murder of three alleged gay men.
In 2017 there were reports that indicated several murders of gay men. It was suggested in an interview by a Yemeni gay man that ‘fourteen gay men were mudered in Aden this past year alone.’ He believes that most of these men were killed by Al Qaeda.
A suspected Al Qaeda attack in 2013 led to the killing of five men in Huta on the suspicion that they were gay.
On 29 April 2012, Al Thaqafiya, a government funded magazine, published a review of the Egyptian film, ‘Heena Maysara’. The film included a lesbian love scene. Aqbi, the writer of the review, said that homosexuality was ‘part and parcel’ of Yemeni society and recommended that the government look to extending the rights of the gay community including the legalisation of same-sex marriage. The reaction of religious leaders, members of parliament and the general public was to demand that the director of the film and the two women actors be put on trial. After insistence by the Yemeni Government, the magazine was shut down and the editorial team was targeted for an official investigation. Aqbi was subject to death threats and abuse.
On 31 October 2010, Ynet news online reported that ‘explosive-laden packages’ were sent from Yemen, targeting a gay and lesbian synagogue in Chicago in the United States.
The 2010 US Department of State Human Rights Report for Yemen reported:
‘There were no reports of official or societal discrimination, physical violence, or harassment based on sexual orientation, and there was no official discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care, largely because, since the activity was illegal, LGBT issues were not considered relevant. Few if any LGBT residents were open about their orientation or identity because of strong, hostile societal pressure.’
On 17 January 2009 in the Jawa Report that Mujahideen militants were attacking young men thought to be engaged in ‘sexual irregularities’ in the small town of Ja’ar. The murder of a 22 year old man, Saeed Abdullah, took place on 28 December 2008, the third in a series of incidents targeting young men in the area. A 2004 report, by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, indicated that between 1999 and 2003, the death penalty had been carried out for crimes of homosexuality. Although no official cases are known to have been reported since 2003, homophobic attitudes are so deep rooted in society that many have been known to take the law into their own hands.
There are earlier reports documenting social attitudes towards homosexuality in Yemen. On 18 May 2004, Aljazeera reported that three journalists at the Arabic-language newspaper ‘The Week’ had been arrested for including interviews with men who had previously been jailed for homosexuality. The court ruled that this act ‘had violated Yemeni morals and customs’.
In 2004, another article was published in the Yemen Times entitled ‘The fallacy of same-sex unions’. In this, the author describes homosexuality as a ‘troubling moral and social phenomenon’. It went on to say that it goes against God’s plan for marriage and the family: a marriage should exist between a man and a woman and procreation is an essential component to marriage. He believes legalisation of same-sex marriages would devalue the institution and that full human development of a child would not occur if the child is raised by same-sex parents. A response to this article was written by a gay man living in Yemen, in which he states that it is not an individual choice to be gay. His article attracted numerous responses, one by the original writer, rejecting the idea of homosexuality as being natural. Another compared homosexuals to child molesters, rapists and insane axe murderers and argued against the validity of the nature-nurture debate in relation to homosexuality. A view expressed by another reader explained that he does not reject homosexuality because he is a bigot or prejudiced, but because Islam forbids it. Accepting homosexuality is to suggest a separation of religion from the rule of law.
The Trevor Project is an online resource centre whose mission is to end suicide amongst Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Questioning (LGBTQ) youth. The website includes one post from a Yemeni gay man describing the situation gay men face in Yemen. In his letter he writes ‘You know how Yemen deals with gays. They are ready to kill guys if they know that they are gays. We live a secret life; we cannot refuse to get married to girls’.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
According to the US Department of State 2010 Human Rights Report for Yemen, due to the illegality of homosexuality and the punishment that results from violation of these laws, no LGBT organisations were found in Yemen.
Readers who have more information on this are encouraged to get in touch with the contact below.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS
Judge Bruce J. Einhorn (ret.)
Professor of Law and Director, Asylum and Refugee Law Clinic
Pepperdine University School of Law
24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
Tel: (310) 506-4416
firstname.lastname@example.org (preferred means of contact)
Judge Einhorn is a member of the AB. A National Commission on Immigration and a Lifetime National Commissioner of the Anti-Defamation League. He does extensive work on Egypt, Saudi Arabia (e.g., gays and Shiites there), Syria, Yemen, and Jordan.
Researched by: Christina Haneef