Women's rights are the rights and entitlements claimed for women and girls of many societies worldwide. In some places, these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed. They differ from broader notions of human rights through claims of an inherent historical and traditional bias against the exercise of rights by women and girls in favour of men and boys.
Issues commonly associated with notions of women's rights include, though are not limited to, the right: to bodily integrity and autonomy; to vote ; to hold public office; to work; to fair wages or equal pay; to own property; to education; to serve in the military or be conscripted; to enter into legal contracts; and to have marital or parental rights.
Although males seem to have dominated in many ancient cultures, there are some exceptions. For instance in the Nigerian Aka culture women may hunt, even on their own, and often control distribution of resources. Ancient Egypt had female rulers, such as Cleopatra.
The status of women in China was low, largely due to the custom of foot binding. About 45% of Chinese women had bound feet in the 19th century. For the upper classes, it was almost 100%. In 1912, the Chinese government ordered the cessation of foot binding. Foot binding involved alteration of the bone structure so that the feet were only about 4 inches long. The bound feet caused difficulty of movement, thus greatly limiting the activities of women. Due to the social custom that men and women should not be near to one another, the women of China were reluctant to be treated by male doctors of Western Medicine. This resulted in a tremendous need for female doctors of Western Medicine in China. Thus, female medical missionary Dr. Mary H. Fulton was sent by the Foreign Missions Board of the Presbyterian Church to found the first medical college for women in China. Known as the Hackett Medical College for Women, this College was located in Guangzhou, China, and was enabled by a large donation from Mr. Edward A.K. Hackett of Indiana, USA. The College was aimed at the spreading of Christianity and modern medicine and the elevation of Chinese women's social status. Greece
The status of women in ancient Greece varied form city state to city state. Records exist of women in ancient Delphi, Gortyn, Thessaly, Megara and Sparta owning land, the most prestigious form of private property at the time. In ancient Athens, women had no legal personhood and were assumed to be part of the oikos headed by the male kyrios. Until marriage, women were under the guardianship of their father or other male relative. Once married, the husband became a woman's kyrios. As women were barred from conducting legal proceedings, the kyrios would do so on their behalf. Athenian women had limited right to property and therefore were not considered full citizens, as citizenship and the entitlement to civil and political rights was defined in relation to property and the means to life. However, women could acquire rights over property through gifts, dowry and inheritance, though her kyrios had the right to dispose of a woman's property. Athenian women could enter into a contract worth less than the value of a “medimnos of barley”, allowing women to engage in petty trading. By contrast, Spartan women enjoyed a status, power, and respect that was unknown in the rest of the classical world. Although Spartan women were formally excluded from military and political life they enjoyed considerable status as mothers of Spartan warriors. As men engaged in military activity, women took responsibility for running estates. Following protracted warfare in the 4th century BC Spartan women owned approximately between 35% and 40% of all Spartan land and property. By the Hellenistic Period, some of the wealthiest Spartans were women. They controlled their own properties, as well as the properties...
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