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image of Islamic Law and Society

I examine here the conditions that have impacted on family law reform in unified Yemen. I will argue that during the early 1990s, the political climate of post-unification Yemen was polarized between supporters of the status quo ante— advocates of laissez-faire in the North and state intervention in the South. This division rendered any meaningful debate on family law impossible. Drawing on urban court records from the 1980s to the mid-1990s, I will show that courts are frequented mainly by women of modest origins who sue for divorce and maintenance, but who are discriminated against by judicial interpretation. Elite women use the courts only rarely and are comparatively better served by current judicial interpretation; thus, they have little concern for changing provisions on divorce and maintenance. Evaluating debates on women's rights in the late 1990s, I will briefly introduce some governmental and non-governmental initiatives with respect to family law to gauge current possibilities for reform.


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