Uncommon Sense

January 5, 2017

When Did Women Become Property?

The Code of Hammurabi goes back to about 1750 BCE, and this code was basically a list of the ways King Hammurabi would decide disputes, and was to be used by others as a model of how they should, too … because Hammurabi was such a just king, and he had the PR department to prove it.

In any case, here are a number of provisions in “The Code:”
209  If a superior man strikes a woman of superior class and thereby causes her to miscarry her fetus, he shall weigh and deliver ten shekels of silver for her fetus.
210  If that woman should die, they shall kill his daughter.”
211  If he should cause a woman of commoner class to miscarry her fetus by the beating, he shall weigh and deliver five shekels of silver.
212  If that woman should die, he shall weigh and deliver thirty shekels of silver.
Of course, abuses of slaves drew cheaper fines.

Hammurabi's Code (part) in the Louvre, Paris

Hammurabi’s Code (part) in the Louvre, Paris

The division of society into three basic categories: superior men (property owners and nobility, i.e., the wealthy), commoners (free men who worked for others), and slaves was apparently god-given, otherwise, I am sure, the slaves and commoners would be continually pissed-off by the “superior” class. This is but one use of religion for the betterment of those claiming power.

Women seem little better than cattle, since “if you kill one of my women, I get to kill one of yours” was built into The Code (see #210). Also the first mention of “an eye for an eye” was in this code.

But my question is “when did women become property?” I can remember in my life when there were still vestiges of children still being the property of their parents in the law, some of which, I am sure, remain today.

Back when we were in hunter-gatherer troops that were a single family, relationships were probably clear cut. Who had sexual privileges with whom was probably quite clear. Maybe when troops grew to include two or more families in size did “connections” between breeding pairs of humans become necessary or desirable. Obviously in other great apes, breeding rights might be assumed to belong only to the Alpha Male, and this may have been the case with hominids as well.

Whenever this occurred, we still have vestiges of these behaviors in our current society. We even have a President-elect who has bragged about the sexual liberties he has taking with unrelated women because he is of the “superior class” and he can get away with it.

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