Back in the 18th century B.C., the Babylonian King Hammurabi established a governmental collection of 282 laws that established a set of conduct for his people in ancient Mesopotamia. In that set of laws there were very clear distinctions laid out for both men and women. According to Hammurabi’s Code, “if a man killed a pregnant maid-servant,” he was punished with only a fine. However if he were to kill a “free-born” pregnant woman, his own daughter had to be sacrificed as retribution. Clearly, these pre-Biblical laws helped to shape people’s views of women from our earliest times in recorded history. While Hammurabi may have been thinking of only his time, the influences of his laws have echoed throughout history and the same theme of crime against women has continued with little change for many millennia.
Mankind’s Historical Record of Crime Against Women
In 1997, according to the United Nations Human Development Report, after nearly 50 years of research and study, they came to a significant conclusion.
“No society treats its women as well as men.” While the differences in the gender gap vary from country to country, they determined that women were more often than not relegated to second-class citizenship all around the world. Here are a few examples.
One of the most heinous demonstrations of crime against women, even in these modern times is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This country has earned the label of the “rape capital of the world.” The prevalence and intensity of sexual violence against women has been described as the worst in the world. The Congo has long held a history of violence against women but the offenses have increased in recent years because of the political unrest that is growing in the country since most of the militia believe that sexual assault against women is a justifiable weapon in times of war.
In countries like China and India, the term “missing women” refers to a skewing of the gender ratio. In China for example, for many years a family was only allowed to have one child and since a male child is considered much more valuable than a female child parents were allowed to kill any female child born to them. Society, in many of these regions is now experiencing a shortage of women for their men to marry.
Western World - Crimes of Honor
Crimes of honor are considered to be crimes that are directly connected to the honor or shame of the men in society. For years, in many western cultures many patriarchal societies have given men the authority over women in every aspect of their lives. Through this authority, women can be overpowered and controlled by any male position (a boyfriend, husband, or father) in order to protect his position and status in society. Any woman who did not comply with his rules, or established hierarchy was subjected to all manner of abuses throughout their lifetimes.
It has only been in the last century that women have slowly begun to close the gap between the sexes and have earned their own rights as dignified citizens of this modern world. While crime against women continues to plague our society today, it is clear that with new laws constantly being established throughout the world the pattern is finally beginning to fade away.
Is it possible to see a world without crime against women in our future? Many believe it is only a matter of time. Until then, we have to rely on the continuous progression of laws to protect women from the historic violence that they have had to contend with for millennia
Photo Credit: Ben Sutherland