chapter  1
21 Pages

The societal perspective

Social status and gender (in)equality
WithIlan Peled

The opening chapter discusses the question of gender differentiation separately for free persons and for slaves. Within each group, legal evidence for gender inequality is discussed first, followed by the legal evidence for equality between the genders. As will be shown, some statutes denied women certain rights, while others referred to professions or activities that belonged exclusively to the feminine domain. Additionally, certain legal obligations were put into effect in order to keep certain rules of conduct and standards of chastity; these applied only to women. A more gender-balanced picture emerges from the examination of other statutes, which were explicitly applied equally to both genders, whether by sanctioning perpetrators or by protecting victims. When it comes to slaves, certain legal situations and stipulations were exclusive for females. These were not abundant and mainly preserved the right of property of slave-women’s owners, including their sexuality and reproductivity, and perpetuated the subordinate status of these women. Gender equality among slaves is also occasionally apparent. This, however, did not necessarily reflect a positive attitude towards women as much as legal indifference to gender differentiation, since slaves constituted property and were not regarded as persons who had similar rights to free persons.