Violence against women and the law.

It’s a hot topic today but check out this Italian law.

To repress the disordered (uncontrolled) vice of the flesh the death penalty is imposed for incest up to the third degree of consanguinity and to the first and second degree of kinship, after which, in both cases, is imposed the penalty of jail, which is possible to commute to a monetary penalty at discretion, but it must proceed even by investigation.

For violence or kiss (unsolicited touching) against a married woman or unmarried but considered as such for a long time [we impose] the penalty of jail and we do not admit proof to the contrary, for violence with consummation of the act [we impose] the death penalty but, in this case, it is not possible to proceed without accusation of the woman, or her father, or husband, or sons or brothers, if it is not a public crime. If it is public it must proceed even by investigation and against the will of the injured party, hating such a crime. If the woman is unmarried the offender will be required to give her a dowry, likewise it must proceed by investigation in case of sodomy and punish according to the law despite the aggravating conditions.

 This was Ecclesiastical law in Italy in the 1500’s. *

 What did this mean for the average Italian male in those times? 

Incest with any family member, even cousins has a jail penalty BUT can be commuted to a fine at the judge’s discretion.

Hard to prove if no one makes a formal complaint.

Any kind of sexual harassment of a married or unmarried woman also has a jail penalty, unless the act is consummated (rape and/or sodomy) in which case the death penalty can be imposed.

In the case of an unwitnessed rape there must be an accusation by a family member.

If the rape occurs in public there will be an investigation with or without the victim’s consent.

If the woman is unmarried the offender will be required to give her a dowry (financial compensation).

Up until recently unwanted sexual touching or kissing was tolerated up to a point and rape was usually considered as unwanted sex if there was no violence involved, leaving the ‘punishment’ to family members. Later laws protected an aggressor from being penalized for defending the family honor.  This law was not revoked until the middle of the 20th century! A rapist could end up murdered with no penalty to the murderer.  A woman might also be punished for dishonoring the family if she has consensual sex before or during marriage.

 It would seem that, just as today, violence against women is difficult to prove and often goes unpunished.

Given the number of abandoned babies in Italy over the centuries this law does not appear to have been given much weight.

In addition men were also protected by law from being named as the father of an illegitimate child should a woman decide against abandoning her child.  They were also permitted to ‘chastise’ their wives should it be deemed necessary.

* Source: Donato Piacentini. La società violenta…..

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