Women in Public Spaces

Women’s ability to move freely and safely in public spaces supports their ability to fully participate in the civic, political, and economic life of their communities. The SWMENA survey asked women in Yemen how free or restricted they felt in associating with persons of their own choosing; expressing their views on critical issues to family members, neighbors or friends; leaving their house without permission; and moving about in public areas without fear or pressure.

The survey asked respondents who said they felt somewhat or completely restricted in moving about in public areas why they felt this way. Open-ended responses were coded into categories.

The top three most frequently cited reasons are shown in Table 1. Eighty percent of women gave one of these three reasons.“Husband or parents opposition to my going out” was cited by almost two-thirds of all women (60%), while annoyances on the street (14%) was cited much less frequently.

Figure 2 shows that there are significant differences in freedom of mobility among women by marital status, age, educational attainment, work status and region.

Survey respondents in Yemen were asked about experiences of women in public spaces (local markets, walking down the street, etc.). Specifically, women under 50 years old were asked whether men made “unwanted/sexually suggestive noises, comments or gestures.” Figure 3 shows that, when in public areas and places of work, just over half of all women under age 50 say they do not hear of women experiencing men making unwanted/sexually comments or gestures toward them.

Yemeni women under 50 were asked about whether their friends and relatives are verbally harassed by men when in the street, the market, at work, or in transit. Slightly more women report that they have not heard their friends or relatives speak about harassment – over half (58%) of Yemeni women. Figure 4 demonstrates that education, working for pay and size of place greatly impact whether women’s friends and relatives talk about being harassed by men.

Figure 5 shows the relative percentages among women under age 50 who report experiencing harassment in public. Although the majority (63%) of all women in those age categories report never receiving unwelcome comments or gestures from men in public, 14% of women say they always or most times experience this limitation. An additional 22% say they face harassment on occasion if rarely.

Of women under 50 who work or study, only a little less than half (49%) report never experiencing harassment while attending work or school. Figure 6 indicates that women are more likely to experience harassment in the workplace or at school than women in public places. Sixteen percent of women experience harassment most days or every day. Over a third of women (34%) report being harassed only once in a while or rarely.