Member Groups

Women and the LawThe newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law

May 2013, vol. 18, no. 4

The law that won’t be missed

I was browsing some news on the Internet and read that Paris recently dropped its trouser ban for women after 200 years. Granted, it has not been implemented for many years, but the news made me smile and wonder about other archaic laws that affect women’s rights that are still on the books. I’ve found an entertaining list that I wanted to share:

1. In Maryland, a woman cannot go through her husband’s pockets while he is sleeping.

2. In Vermont, a woman must obtain written permission from her husband if she wishes to wear false teeth.

3. In Tucson, Arizona, like in Paris until the repeal of the law, women are not allowed to wear pants.

4. In Dyersburg, Tennessee, it is illegal for a woman to call a man on a date.

5. In Carmel, New York, women may not wear high heels within the city limits.

6. In Cleveland, Ohio, a woman is prohibited from wearing patent leather shoes in public.

7. In Michigan, a woman isn’t allowed to cut her hair without her husband’s permission.1

Of course I can read these laws and find them amusingly outdated and a relic of the past. My point of view comes from the comfort of full freedom that the Unites States provides women. Looking at these laws however, I could not help, but to draw a parallel to real issues in the headlines that women currently face in other countries where the laws that hinder their freedoms are nothing to laugh at.

And there is abundance of the real issues and some very recent progress in the right direction. For example, in January of 2013, Morocco announced a plan to change law that allows rapists to marry underage victims. Currently, the Moroccan penal code allows those convicted of “corruption” of a minor to go free if they marry their victims and the practice is encouraged by judges to spare family shame.2 The move was prompted by a suicide of a girl who was forced to marry a man who raped her. In another incident, in response to a highly publicized rape and subsequent death of the victim in India at the end of 2012, a government panel was formed to completely overhaul rape laws in India that have created a hostile and embarrassing environment for rape victims who tried to obtain justice against their attackers.3

Of course, there is still more than plenty of room for improvement. As we know, many countries are lagging behind on women’s rights. As an example of many, in Iran in accordance with the law, a woman is to receive 74 lashes if her attire is perceived as indecent. In Saudi Arabia, a woman is required to have a male escort with her when outside of home. I hope to see the day when we could also look at these laws with the ease of knowing that they are just vague memories of a time long gone. ■

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1. Katherine Butler, “7 Ridiculous Laws Against Women”, Ecosalon, November 30, 2010.

2. ”Morocco announced plan to change law allowing rapists to marry underage victims,” www.foxnews.com, January 23, 2013.

3. ”Indian panel sends its recommendations on amending rape laws to the government,” www.foxnews.com, January 23, 2013.


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