Role and status of women in ancient egypt Essay

Contrary to the normally embraced societal beliefs that demean women, the ancient Egyptian women were treated better in that they enjoyed the same legal and economic rights as their men. This is greatly portrayed in most of their historical inscriptions and arts. Their archeological evidence portrays the role of women as pertains to the elites and not as common folk. The Egyptians strongly believe that happiness and joy are main objectives in life and thus considers home and family as a source of delight. In many modern civilizations women are taken as servants except on rare cases where strong willed women would rule their homes using the force of their personalities.

 The women of the ancient Egypt had two privileges: first and foremost is that they were regarded as equals with men as far as the law was concerned. Such rights included the right to borrow money, the right to file divorce, the right to stand in court as a witness, the right to sign contracts, among others. Secondly, they regarded love and emotionality as integral part of marriage thus children and women were equally loved as people and not just as caretakers and workers (Madaras, L, 2004).

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            As Athenian men married out of civic duty, the Egyptian men and women enjoyed each others company because they valued love and affection and they considered marriage as the natural state for all classes. Just as in ancient civilization the men were considered as the heads of the house so it was in Egypt but the Egyptian men were urged not to meddle in the household affairs but instead trust their wives to properly manage the household activities.

The rights of the Egyptian women spread to all the areas in the society. There allowed to manage and even dispose private property which included money, land, livestock, portable goods and even the financial instruments. Any woman would dispose her property out of her own free will and independently. In Egypt a woman would be allowed to sue in a court and even appear in court as a contract partner in divorce or marriage contract. They could conclude any legal settlement and even make adoptions without any need of a male representative. This was the exact opposite of the Greek women who needed a designated male to represent her in any legal proceedings and had to be the husband, the father or the brother.

The Egyptian women had a number of ways through which they could own property. She could either purchase them or receive it as a gift either from the parents or the husband. The Egyptian had a provision in their laws that accrued to women one-third of the community property in her marriage which included her husband’s property after they are married. Although the husband had a free use of any property brought by the wife, the property still remained as legally hers and in the event of divorce her property would be returned to her plus any other settlement that was agreed upon in the marriage contract.

This would still be the case in the event of the death of the husband. The rest of the two thirds would be distributed to the children, followed by the brothers and the sisters of the deceased. If the husband wished to leave the greater part of his property to the wife he could as well sign an imyt-pr which is a house document showing what he would wish to assign to the wife. In case there were no children and the husband would not wish to give two thirds of his property to his brothers and sisters, he would as well adopt the wife as his child and for that matter an heir and therefore he would bequeath all the property to her (Creig, A & Graham, W, 2005).

Egyptian women were part and parcel of contracts including the purchase of property, marriage, engagement of wet nurses and divorce settlement. They were even mandated to conclude such matters without any intervention from male counterparts. The women in Egypt had the power to bring the lawsuits against anyone in an open court with no gender biasness and many are the times that they won the cases. Women could appeal to the court, they would be awarded legal decision and they stood the chance of standing as a witness in a law court (Delay, B & west, D, 2007).

Generally the Egyptian women were more literate. Most of them especially the royal princesses at court had private tutors and the royal women were regularly trained since they were in leaders. This can be translated to suggest that even the daughters of the royal princess were equally educated. The Egyptian women were free to go out in public and involve in the field works, work in the estate workshop. However, it was considered unsafe for the women to go far away from their home town alone. Despite the freedom that accrued to women, the tradition and the folk custom discouraged.

However, the Egyptian women are also seen as victims of crime such as rape and were chief perpetrator of great crime. They were also seen in the adulteress and they were victims of convicts. Women criminals were an existing phenomenon though it didn’t appear in so many historical records. For instance a woman by the name Nesmut was frequently implicated with a number of robberies of the royal bomb during The Twentieth Dynasty in the Valley Of Kings (Gilbert, A, 2002).

Marriage was also an integral part of the ancient Egyptian lifestyle. There was no standard age limit as to when one would get married but as long as they had started menstruating at about the age of fourteen. A girl was considered married when she had physical left the custody of the father and joined the other home though the new husband didn’t automatically become the guardian of the girl. She still kept her independence and had full control of her assets. Divorce was a private matter and any excuse could be used to end marriage which implied that any contract or alliance could be terminated at will.

Reference:

Creig, A & Graham, W. (2005). Heritage of World Civilizations. London: Prentice Hall.

Delay, B & west, D. (2007). Nation of Nations, Volume 2: Since 1865. NY: McGraw-Hill.

Gilbert, A. (2002). History of the Twentieth Century. LA: Harper Perennial.

Madaras, L. (2004). History. NY: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.