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Извънбрачните сексуални отношения в средновековното българско право
Illicit Sex in Bulgarian Medieval Law

Author(s): Sashka Georgieva
Subject(s): History
Published by: Асоциация Клио
Keywords: illicit sex; Bulgarian Medieval law; sexual crimes; fornication; Judicial Law for Laymen; Ecloga; Apostolic canons; women; Balsamon; Middle Ages; illegitimate children; feminist

Summary/Abstract: The article is dedicated to the secular and canon law regulations concerning such sexual crimes as adultery, fornication and illicit sex in general. The basic sources are the so-called Judicial Law for Laymen, the Slavic Ecloga and the Apostolic canons adopted by the Ecumenical councils. The laws dealing with the problems of illicit sex do not treat men and women on an equal basis: while a married woman who engaged in illicit sex, regardless of whether her partner was married or single, was considered to have performed adultery (i. e., the worst crime), a married man was considered to have committed adultery only if he had engaged in sex with someone else's wife. If he had had sex with a single woman, his act was defined as fornication which was a lesser crime. According to Balsamon, adultery resulted in the offense and infliction of harm on another person. And, if a sexual relationship between a married man and a single woman qualified as fornication and not adultery, then there was no offense of the legitimate wife. As for the behavior of the unmarried woman, it is not discussed at all. If the woman was married, however, her act automatically qualified as adultery because her husband had been dishonored. Obviously, the concept of dishonored wives did not exist in the Middle Ages. Our medieval legislature requires that a woman should keep her husband's honor: probably, the medieval lawmaker's concern for the sexual behavior of married women derived from the fact that the birth of illegitimate children in the family may bring in its destruction. This attempt at presenting a rational explanation of the medieval laws concerning illicit sex may make modern feminists calm down. Besides, the legal postulate that a married woman should not divorce the husband who had betrayed her had a rational explanation, too: in this way, the woman was not deprived of the male support she needed. On the other hand, nothing rational could be said about the fact that medieval law did not persecute the dishonored husband who had caught his wife in an act of adultery and killed her on the spot. This postulate could only be explained through the male domination in medieval societies.

  • Issue Year: 1999
  • Issue No: 1-2
  • Page Range: 206-213
  • Page Count: 8
  • Language: Bulgarian