Legal rights of women in history

The Legal rights of women refers to the social and human rights of women. One of the first women's rights declarations was the Declaration of Sentiments.[1] The dependent position of women in early law is proved by the evidence of most ancient systems.

Mosaic law See also: Role of women in Judaism In the Mosaic law, for monetary matters, women's and men's rights were almost exactly equal. A woman was entitled to her own private property, including land, livestock, slaves, and servants. A woman had the right to inherit whatever anyone bequeathed to her as a death gift, and in the absence of sons would inherit everything. A woman could likewise bequeath her belongings to others as a death gift. Upon dying intestate, a woman would be inherited by her children if she had them, her husband if she was married, or her father if she were single. A woman could sue in court and did not need a male to represent her. In some situations, women actually had more rights than men. For example, captive women had to be ransomed prior to any male captives. Even though sons inherited property, they had a responsibility to support their mother and sisters from the estate, and had to ensure that both mother and sisters were taken care of prior to their being able to benefit from the inheritance, and if that wiped out the estate, the boys had to supplement their income from elsewhere. When it came to specific religious or sacramental activities, women had fewer opportunities or privileges than men. For example, in monetary or capital cases women could not serve as witnesses. A woman could not serve as a kohen in the Temple. A woman could not serve as queen, the monarch had to be male. A divorce could only be granted by the husband, upon which time she would receive the Ketubah and the return of significant portions of her dowry. The vow of an unmarried girl between the ages of 12 years and 12 years and six months might be nullified by her father and the vow of a wife which affected marital obligations may be annulled by her husband; the guilt or innocence of a wife accused of adultery might tested through the Sotah process, although this only was successful if the husband was innocent of adultery, and daughters could inherit only in the absence of sons. Freeborn women of ancient Rome were citizens who enjoyed legal privileges and protections that did not extend to non-citizens or slaves. Roman society, however, was patriarchal, and women could not vote, hold public office, or serve in the military.[3] A child's citizen status was determined by that of its mother. Both daughters and sons were subject to patria potestas, the power wielded by their father as head of household (paterfamilias). At the height of the Roman Empire (1st–2nd centuries), the legal standing of daughters differs little if at all from that of sons.[4] Girls had equal inheritance rights with boys if their father died without leaving a will.[5] In the earliest period of the Roman Republic, a bride passed from her father's control into the "hand" (manus) of her husband. She then became subject to her husband's potestas, though to a lesser degree than their children.[6] This archaic form of manus marriage was largely abandoned by the time of Julius Caesar, when a woman remained under her father's authority by law even when she moved into her husband's home. Her husband had no legal power over her, and when her father died, she became legally emancipated (sui iuris).[7] A married woman retained ownership of any property she brought into the marriage.[8] There was little stigma attached to divorce, though it was a point of pride to have been married only once.[9] A Roman mother's right to own property and to dispose of it as she saw fit, including setting the terms of her own will, enhanced her influence over her sons even when they were adults.[10] Because of their legal status as citizens and the degree to which they could become emancipated, women could own property, enter contracts, and engage in business.[11] Roman women could appear in court and argue cases, though it was customary for them to be represented by a man.[12] An edict limited women to conducting cases on their own behalf instead of others',[13] but even after it went into effect, there are numerous examples of women taking informed actions in legal matters, including dictating legal strategy to their male advocates.[14] As in the case of minors, an emancipated woman had a male guardian (tutor) appointed to her. She retained her powers of administration, however, and the guardian's main if not sole purpose was to give formal consent to actions.[15] The guardian had no say in her private life, and a woman sui iuris could marry as she pleased.[16] A woman also had certain avenues of recourse if she wished to replace an obstructive tutor.[17] The practice of guardianship gradually faded, and by the 2nd century the jurist Gaius said he saw no reason for it.[18] The first Roman emperor, Augustus, attempted to regulate the conduct of women through moral legislation. Adultery, which had been a private family matter under the Republic, was criminalized,[19] and defined broadly as an illicit sex act (stuprum) that occurred between a male citizen and a married woman, or between a married woman and any man other than her husband. That is, a double standard was in place: a married woman could have sex only with her husband, but a married man did not commit adultery when he had sex with a prostitute, slave, or person of marginalized status (infamis).[20] Childbearing was encouraged by the state: the ius trium liberorum ("legal right of three children") granted symbolic honors and legal privileges to a woman who had given birth to three children, and freed her from any male guardianship.[21] Roman law recognized rape as a crime in which the victim bore no guilt.[22] Rape was a capital crime.[23] As a matter of law, however, rape could be committed only against a citizen in good standing. The rape of a slave could be prosecuted only as damage to her owner's property.[24] Most prostitutes in ancient Rome were slaves, though some slaves were protected from forced prostitution by a clause in their sales contract.[25] A free woman who worked as a prostitute or entertainer lost her social standing and became infamis, "disreputable"; by making her body publicly available, she had in effect surrendered her right to be protected from sexual abuse or physical violence.Christian laws and influences on women's rights As a rule the influence of the church was exercised in favor of the abolition of the disabilities imposed by the older law upon celibacy and childlessness, of increased facilities for entering a professed religious life, and of due provision for the wife. The church also supported the political power of those who were friendly toward the clergy. The appointment of mothers and grandmothers as tutors was sanctioned by Justinian. The restrictions on the marriage of senators and other men of high rank with women of low rank were extended by Constantine, but it was almost entirely removed by Justinian. Second marriages were discouraged, especially by making it legal to impose a condition that a widow's right to property should cease on re-marriage, and the Leonine Constitutions at the end of the 9th century made third marriages punishable. The same constitutions made the benediction of a priest a necessary part of the ceremony of marriage. The criminal law also changed its perspectives on women. Adultery was punished with death by Constantine, but the penalty was reduced by Justinian to banishment to a convent. A woman condemned for adultery could not re-marry. A marriage between a Christian and a Jew rendered the parties guilty of adultery. Severe laws were enacted against offences of unchastity, especially procurement and incest. It was a capital crime to carry off or offer violence to a nun. Women were subject to penalties for wearing dress or ornaments (except rings) imitating those reserved for the emperor and his family. Actresses and women of bad fame were not to wear the dress of virgins dedicated to Heaven. If a consul had a wife or mother living with him, he was allowed to incur greater expense than if he lived alone. The interests of working women were protected by enactments for the regulation of the gynoecia, or workshops for spinning, dyeing, etc. The canon law, looking with disfavour on the female independence prevailing in the later Roman law, tended rather in the opposite direction[citation needed]. The Decretum Gratiani specially inculcated subjection of the wife to the husband, and [27]. The chief differences between canon and Roman law were in the law of marriage, e[28] as indeed it had been made by the civil power, as has been already stated, in the post-Justinian period of Roman law. [edit]Islamic law