While The Law Code of Hammurabi and The Laws of Manu exemplify the ideals of civilization and central authority through the usage of direct law codes and social rules they none the less are clear examples of the inequalities between genders in each respected laws societies from which they represent. The purpose of these law codes was intended to serve as a force to maintain order and social control among its people, a written solidified code by which citizens were legally obliged to adhere to.
The problem is not with the premise of the law codes themselves but with the clearly visible discrepancies and unbalanced rules regarding gender. Each law code speaks to the law standards of numerous aspects of life form issues of the economy to regulations on slavery, however for this piece the laws pertaining to the injustices and differences in regulations and laws upon gender will be examined.
In The Law Code of Hammurabi we are able to see multiple instances of gender playing a direct role in the formation of laws, as well as many examples of how gender ultimately in some instances defined a punishment for certain actions or deeds. As exemplified in the section upon men and women under article 110 we see an example of a double standard in ancient Mesopotamia, “If a sister of god [women dedicated to the temple of a god] open a tavern, or enter a tavern to drink, then shall this women be burned to death” .
Apart from the obvious in justice of the extreme and brutal punishment this law also in-lightens other aspects of the Mesopotamian society, for example women whom are dedicated to the temple are barred from entry into the enterprise of tavern owning whilst others in society would be able to engage in the ownership of taverns. This exemplifies a bias on gender as a “sister of God” was a women restricted from tavern ownership or participation in tavern activities.
In addition to biases in law towards females there also exist examples of law protecting women from hardships, article 137 states “If a man wish to separate from a women who has borne him children, or from his wife who has borne him children: then he shall give that wife her dowry, and part of the usufruct…of field, garden, and property, so that she can rear her children” . This article demonstrates the protection women are given in instances of separation and exemplifies the importance of economic protection Ancient Mesopotamians put upon separated and single mothers.
The article also goes as far to state “When she has brought up her children…she may then marry the man of her heart” this is most interesting for the time period as most marriages were more economic agreements and partnerships between families than marriages of love. This demonstrates the more flexibility people in ancient Mesopotamian society had to marry upon love as opposed to other ancient societies. The Law Code of Hammurabi, in addition to many other laws portrays multiple issues upon gender and social roles and rights for each gender.
From these laws we are able to gain a greater understanding of exactly how gender portrayed to the rights one would legally receive, this set of law codes also exemplifies the believes Ancient Mesopotamian society placed on the roles of gender. In The Laws of Manu we once again see a written documentation of societal laws and normality’s protected under the legitimacy of the governing body. Once again fallowing the guidelines of the societal influence and importance of gender oriented laws and regulations for duties each gender is bound by law to represent we see numerous examples of the roles of men and women being different.
As stated in chapter IX article 2 we see an example of the expected dependence of females to their male counterparts “Day and night woman must be kept in dependence by the males (of) their (families), and, if they attach themselves to sensual enjoyments, they must be kept under one’s control” . The first part deals with the obligations of women to fulfill to the wishes of the males within her family whilst the second pertains to the fact of if a women’s loyalty being to one partner whom shall be her provider and essentially “keep [her] under control”.
In addition to article 2, article 3 further illustrates a women dependence upon men as it states “Her father protects (her) in childhood, her husband protects (her) in youth, and her sons protect (her) in old age; a woman is never fit for independence” . Article 2 and 3 both clearly exemplify this society’s placement of protection being the man’s job whilst women are to be dependent upon the men in their lives for their entire mortality.
However while women are to be in dependence of their men, chapter IX article 27 states that women are the ultimate cause for men and are responsible for the creation of men “The production of children, the nurture of those born, and the daily life of men, (of these matters) woman is visibly the cause” . This excerpt demonstrates that while women are dependent upon men, men ultimately originate from the woman, this allows for a high valuation and necessity of women in this society. The Laws of Manu in addition to numerous cultural and legal articles provide us with a rich sense of how this society viewed and legally dealt with the issues of gender.
As we have seen the women in society play a clearly dependent role upon those of their male counterparts, yet at the same time the intensity put upon women as being of extremely high worth and value in society through the belief of them being the originators of men is indeed interesting and very depictive of this Indian society. In both The Law Code of Hammurabi and that of The Laws of Manu we see regulations of law based on gender, which untimely allow us to expand upon these societies social beliefs on the issues of gender itself.
In both law codes we see women as being dependent upon men for economic and social protection. However the issue of separation of marriage seems to be more plausible in Ancient Mesopotamian society than in that of Indian society, even though in such cases women still remain highly dependent upon male providers. Through these legal codes we see that the inherent theme seems to be one upon which men provide for their women, where in women are responsible and expected to be put in submissive roles to their men.
However while this may be the overall theme in the ancient world we do see examples of differentiating customs and laws which allow women in different societies to obtain different roles and responsibilities at times, as well as the extension of either greater freedoms or restrictions apart from the norm of the ancient world. The customs of the Ancient world regarding gender were very similar yet it was each society that ultimately decided what exactly those roles would be.