Women in Rural Areas in Yemen Death vs. Doctor
Eslah saleh

Yemeni women experience tragedies due to the customs, traditions and ignorance that prevail in many rural areas. One of the most significant problems faced by rural women is the culture of social discrimination that some still hold onto. This has gone beyond the good values and positive cultures of customs and traditions to become a whip that dominates females and sometimes may lead to murder. Among these wrong practices is the refusal to allow women to be treated by male doctors or to present even critical cases to them. Although Sharia fatwas declare this treatment permissible and doctors and nurses take a medical and ethical oath in their practice, there are no female medical staff in rural areas, costing the lives or causing pain and illness to many women who have done nothing wrong.   

Traditional thought 

In some Yemeni villages a number of traditional ideas and preconceptions prevent girls from pursuing education. Therefore, it is difficult to find women from the local community with scientific qualifications. This is confirmed by Amani, who came across in one of the rooms of Al-Naqib hospital in Mansoura Directorate in Aden governorate, southern Yemen. She was coming from a mountain village in the AL-qabaita region with her sister, who endured the roughness of the road and its hardship, looking for a doctor specialized in orthopedics.  

"I have not completed my secondary education, nor have my sisters, it is shameful for the village girls, according to their parents. How they want female doctors for their women, and prevent them from completing their education and work as a doctor!" says Amani.  

According to the Fatwa published in the "Yemeni Fatwa Gate", Judge Mohammed bin Ismail al-Omrani, answered the question: “Is it permissible for a woman if she has an illness to be treated by male doctor, and the matter may reach the disclosure of her body?” by saying: "The jurists have authorized the male doctor to look at the foreign woman when necessary, and based on that, the woman who wants treatment should be treated by a Muslim woman, if there is no, then by an unbelieving woman, if there is no, then by a Muslim male doctor, if there is no, then by an unbelieving male doctor of necessity, provided that there is no doctor who knows about the disease and its proper treatment, and provided with the existence of companion relative of her when examining and detecting the disease.’’ 

Persistent Societal Rejection 

Rural areas in general suffer from a shortage of female doctors and with the restrictions in these areas and dominance of traditional mentality that sees a male doctor's examination of a female patient as unacceptable, many women and girls do not get the medical care they need.  

Dr. Liana Nasr Badr, one of the doctors who was called to work in one of the villages of Yafa District of Lahj governorate, considers that there is nothing wrong with a woman going to a male doctor, but it depends primarily on religion, customs and traditions, Dr. Liana Nasr Badr says: "People here do not accept that male doctors treat women. This wrong way of thinking leads to much greater suffering for women and girls.” she said.  

Dr. Liana tells us a story about a medical condition that she received. The woman was eighteen weeks pregnant and her baby was still alive, but she was in a coma. The doctor realized that the young woman needed special medical intervention, so she referred her to a specialist male doctor. However, her decision was rejected and she was immediately discharged from the health unit, not knowing what the fate of the young girl was, she says: "I don't know if she managed to survive".   

Absence of Law 

In our question about whether the patient's condition requires immediate surgical intervention to save her life and the woman's guardian refused to do so, does the hospital have the right or the law oblige him to do so? "Unfortunately, no action is done except with the consent and signature of the woman's guardian, including critical cesarean births that require prompt and timely intervention, there is no binding provision for the guardian," says lawyer Huda Al-Sarari.  

In this regard, Dr. Wahib Al-Harbi, a General Practitioner, confirms that the medical profession has regulations and a charter of honor that all its members adhere to and they perform their work as angels of mercy to save lives.  

He points out that during the doctor's examination or treatment of a woman, a nurse or a relative of the patient is always with him. Also, many modern medical devices and radiographs do not need to reveal the woman's entire body.  

In turn, Dr. Mukhtar Mohammad Ali, a Laboratory Doctor, stressed that women in rural areas in Yemen suffer from a shortage of female medical staff and with the control of conservative society in rural areas and traditional hard-line thinking, most families believe that women meeting male doctors for screening and examination is unacceptable and completely rejected. This negatively affects the health of many females due to the lack of receiving primary health care in their areas urgently, which leads to a worsening of the patient's health condition and her reaching advanced stages of the disease. In the long term this leads to a condition in which her treatment becomes difficult or needs a longer period if these cases are transferred to cities, where female medical staff is available.  

For his part, the Journalist activist Wael Al-qubatti believes that this phenomenon is caused by rampant illiteracy and tribal customs and traditions that some still adhere to, especially in rural areas.    

He adds:“Some refrain from exposing women to doctors and stipulate that they be exposed to female doctors, and many Yemeni and rural areas, in particular, do not have women doctors except in cities, as there are cases where it is difficult to transfer them for treatment, altimetry women fall victim”.  

Wael Al-qubatti called for providing health units in rural areas with female doctors and deploying health units to more areas and organizations and media outlets should play their role in raising awareness of citizens in these areas.  

The Arab and Islamic jurisprudence legislations combine the inviolability of the human soul and the permissibility of treating a woman by male doctor, when necessary. However, awareness remains an important factor in the Yemeni countryside and it needs the solidarity of concerned governmental bodies, organizations and Imams of mosques because they have a great impact on educating citizens. 

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