Status of Women in Hammurabi's Code Essay

956 WordsMar 24, 20064 Pages
Throughout Hammurabi's Code, it is made clear that the ancient Near East had a patriarchal system in which laws were needed to be put in place to grant protection to women from abuse. Laws placed restrictions on women's dowries and the manner in which divorce could occur. The state, therefore, recognized that women needed certain legal protections from male authority. Unfortunately, while such legal protections are granted, women are constantly addressed as a piece of property similar to slaves. Therefore, there are a few major issues in Hammurabi's Code that demonstrate how the individual rights of women took a back seat to social order and stratification in the ancient Near East. It was believed that a woman's sexuality should be…show more content…
This left women with a clear disadvantage. The system worked well in happy marriages, but if a situation such as a husband's death, desertion from his family, or divorce were to arise, it was usually the woman who suffered as a result. According to the Code, a contract was necessary for marriage. Also, when a man and woman were getting married, the most important item to be negotiated was the bride price. This, again, shows that men were superior to women when it came to the ownership of property. Regardless of the amount of this bride price, it was managed by the husband and it was used to support the wife and her children: "If a woman who lived in a man's house made an agreement with her husband, that no creditor can arrest her, and has given a document therefore; if that man, before he married that woman, had a debt, the creditor can not hold the woman for it" (Pritchard 155). The bride's father had the right to change his mind about the marriage, in which case he would have been required to refund the purchase price in full showing again how women were nothing more than a piece of property: "If a man bring chattels into the house of his father-in-law and pay the price; if then the father of the girl say "I will not give you my daughter," he shall give back all that he brought with him" (Pritchard 156). Another horrific example of how women were regarded as nothing more than mere possessions was that if a wife died before giving birth to
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