How to Beat Your Wife: Regulations on Domestic Violence in the 17th Century - Moldavia and Walachia
14 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2013 Last revised: 3 Jun 2013
Date Written: May 16, 2013
Nowadays, domestic violence, may it be it physical or emotional, is fiercely condemned both by both the law and the public opinion. In the eyes of society there is no justification for a husband or a wife to impose his or her thoughts by hurtful means. The repulsion one feels for home violence is an effect of the necessity to respect the human rights, among which sex equality is one of the most important. In the past, however, when gender equality was rejected even in legal texts, the society had a more permissive opinion on the use of domestic violence.
This paper aims to present a 17th century regulation, enforced by the ecclesiastical justice in Moldavia and Walachia, on the husband's right to beat his wife. We shall present in an accessible form the provisions of two very similar codes of laws (both ecclesiastical and secular) enforced by the Metropolitan Bishops and by the Princes of Moldavia and Walachia, on the requirements the violent husband had to meet in order to evade judge's punishment. Thus, we shall analyze the provisions of Article 23 of the Romanian Book of Learning from the Imperial Laws and Other Judgements (Moldavia, 1646) and of Article 185 of the Guidance of the Law by God That Has All the Canon and Imperial Judicial Authorities on All the Priestly and Secular Crimes – Walachia, 1652). The reader will find out that husband had the unrestricted right to beat his wife with his fist or palm, often or seldom as he pleased. But he had to hit his wife only when she was really guilty of a fault. If he had beaten his wife without fault or if he hit her with arms or sticks or with cruelty or without any restraint, the judge was compelled by the law to divorce them. The husband had the right to detain his wife in chains or in a cellar on two grounds: adultery and conspiracy for killing him.
These provisions should not be judged too harsh because at that time, anywhere in Europe, domestic violence was allowed by law and society.
Keywords: domestic violence, Walachia, Moldavia, 17th century law, Romanian law, personal relations between spouses, ecclesiastical justice
JEL Classification: K14, K19, K30, K39, K42, K49
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