Women and the law #
Laws can be weaponised to suit oppression – class, outsiders, or genders.
All paternalistic societies attempt to subjugate women.
The first coded law by Ur Nammu, 2100 – 2015 BC, written on a Sumerian clay tablets, the world’s oldest laws known to exist makes adultery a capital offence only when committed by a woman.
Hammurabi’s Code: (c. 1755–1750 BC) Debt slavery was common in primitive societies so Hammurabi legislated limitations on it.
If an obligation is outstanding against a man and he sells his wife, his son, or his daughter, they shall perform service in the house of their buyer of the one who holds them in debt service for three years; their release shall be secured in the fourth year.
The Judaic – Christians blame Eve for tempting Adam and our exile from the Garden of Eden. Deuteronomy 25:11-12, where the foundation text of Western culture explains:
“When men fight with one another, and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand."
Hesiod, author of Works and Days, blames Pandora for all the evils of the world.
Men have been undone both by being trusting and by not being so. Let not a woman who dresses to show off her behind deceive your noos, cajoling you with her crafty words, ready to infest your granary.
Whoever puts his trust in a woman puts his trust in tricksters.
Aristotle & Plato
Plato, Republic: • “Women and men have the same nature in respect to the guardianship of the state, save insofar as the one is weaker and the other is stronger.”
• The relation of male to female is by nature a relation of superior to inferior and ruler to ruled.”
• Book V: “Then, if women are to have the same duties as men, they must have the same nurture and education?
• Yes. The education which was assigned to the men was music and gymnastic.
• Yes. Then women must be taught music and gymnastic and also the art of war, which they must practice like the men?
Aristotle, a man who held that the subjugation of women was both “natural” and a “social necessity,” influenced key Muslim thinkers as well as many other Western medieval minds.
• The male, unless constituted in some respect contrary to nature, is by nature more expert at leading than the female, and the elder and complete than the younger and incomplete.” • The relation of male to female is by nature a relation of superior to inferior and ruler to ruled.
• The slave is wholly lacking the deliberative element; the female has it but it lacks authority; the child has it but it is incomplete." • History of Animals, Book IX:
• “Wherefore women are more compassionate and more readily made to weep, more jealous and querulous, more fond of railing, and more contentious.
• The female also is more subject to depression of spirits and despair than the male. She is also more shameless and false, more readily deceived, and more mindful of injury, more watchful, more idle, and on the whole less excitable than the male. On the contrary, the male is more ready to help, and, as it has been said, more brave than the female ; and even in the malacia, if the sepia is struck with a trident, the male comes to help the female, but the female makes her escape if the male is struck.”
The Justinian Code was influenced by one of the strongest wives in history, Theodora, who is remembered as one of the first rulers to recognize the rights of women, passing strict laws to prohibit the traffic in young girls and altering the divorce laws to give greater benefits to women.
Muslims and The Law #
Early Muslims broke ground on women’s rights, workers’ rights, animal rights, environmentalism, inter-ethnic relationships, international relations and science.
As the West progresses, some Islamic countries have regressed further into despotic fundamentalist rule like Iran, the Taliban from the 1980’s and Isis or Daesh after the Iraq war. Authority is given to religious zealots allowing them to foment discontent to masses reviving restrictive practices such as veiling of women, public whippings and beheading.
Despite the Koran’s admonition:
“God made us all diverse peoples so that you can know one another and live in harmony”,
The Muslim world appears to have become more and more intolerant, perhaps due to Western intolerance or envious of Western progressiveness.
Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi maintains why Muslim men treat women so badly.
” It was because men weren’t reading the Koran properly, either selectively, or taking phrases out of context.
Shia Muslims believe they protected their women by segregated places of worship.
Perhaps the most insensitive cultural insult was the Americans openly advertising brothels, when they first took over Kabul.
With the Taliban’s lightning-fast takeover of Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesperson said the Taliban would not discriminate against women and would give them their rights “within the bounds of shariah”.
Practices have not kept faith with the pronouncements, such as Manal Al Sharif, a campaigner for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia.
In the years that the Taliban were busy keeping women at home and uneducated, Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, Islamic scholar was uncovering a radically different version of Islamic tradition.
The Quran explicitly states that men and women are equal in the eyes of God and forbids female infanticide (practiced in pre-Islamic Arabia and other parts of the world). Nowhere does it advocate the oppression of women – and Islam has a rich history of forgotten female leaders.
Its luminaries included women like Ummal-Darda, a seventh-century jurist and scholar who taught jurisprudence in the mosques of Damascus and Jerusalem.
Her students were men, women, and even the caliph. Another woman in Akram’s research discoveries: the fourteenth- century Syrian scholar Fatimah al- Bataihiyyah, who taught both men and women in the Prophet’s mosque in Medina, drawing students from as far away as Fez.
“I know of no other religion in which women were so central in its formative history” Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, Islamic scholar
Apostate Islamic law recognizes three categories of legal inferiors: slaves, women, and unbelievers.
Modern countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran have regressed to discriminating against women in many ways.
The Magna Carta, 1215, #
Article 54 reads:
“A woman who witnesses a murder of anyone other than your husband? Sorry, you can’t testify. “No one shall be arrested or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman for the death of any person except her husband,”. ‘Illegal, unjust, harmful’
The Napoleonic Code strengthened the authority of men over their families, depriving women of any individual rights, and reducing the rights of illegitimate children.
Perhaps Napoleon was personally concerned about the claims of his many illegitimate children.