Agents of Patriarchy in the Secluded World of Women: Females as Expert Witnesses

in The Expert Witness in Islamic Courts

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780226749334
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226749358 | DOI:
Agents of Patriarchy in the Secluded World of Women: Females as Expert Witnesses

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In Islam, the morality code obliges females to be segregated from unrelated males. The preference is for one female to treat another, especially if the malady or the wound is located in the intimate parts of the body. Male physicians are instructed by legal texts to teach women how to treat other women. This article explores the role of knowledgeable women in general, and midwives in particular, as providers of expert testimony concerning the intimate parts of the female body. These women testified on such issues as the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, birth, virginity, defects of the sex organs, and the identity of newborn infants and their physical condition. The article considers the physical inspections conducted by female experts and argues that they represented the interests of the patriarchy by supplying information and advice that were essential for maintaining the dominant male-oriented social and moral order. The article concludes by assessing the relationship between the legal status of women as expert witnesses and their social status in patriarchal societies.

Keywords: Islam; expert testimony; female experts; expert witnesses; patriarchy; midwives; physical inspections; legal status; social status; female body

Chapter.  6844 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Law

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