How does divorce work for women in countries that severely restrict their freedoms?
Here in the United States, as well as in many other western countries, it is very easy to take for granted the relative equality between men and women in terms of access to divorce. Of course women are still faced with a gender based discrimination including wage inequality and sexual violence, but in the United States women are protected by law to much greater degree than women in many other places on earth. Women have the right to marry whomever they chose and seek a divorce at their own discretion. This is not the case for millions of women globally.
In Yemen, women very little free will in terms of their ability to seek a divorce. Women seeking divorce in Yemen, and other places plagued with gender-based oppression such as Saudi Arabia, also have very few rights when it comes to child custody. Because of their second-class status, they lack the freedom to seek custody of their children outside of their marriage. Human Rights Watch noted in their 2015 annual report that “Women in Yemen face severe discrimination in law and in practice. Women cannot marry without the permission of their male guardian; they do not have equal rights to divorce, inheritance, or child custody; and a lack of legal protection leaves them exposed to domestic and sexual violence.” Having the legal power to seek a divorce is only part of the problem plaguing women in oppressive societies. Many are not allowed to undertake basic tasks like registering their children for school or even attending appointments or activities with their children unless accompanied by a male guardian. It is quite sobering to recognize that readily accessible divorce is a privilege enjoyed only by women in western society.