A disturbing consequence of coronavirus shutdowns around the world has been an increase in domestic violence . When perpetrators and their victims are confined to their homes, the frequency and intensity of domestic abuse inevitably rise. It is a terrifying prospect for the victims. Domestic violence is as old as human civilisation itself. The first documented case of spousal abuse in China occurred in AD234 and was probably recorded because it involved high-born people. Nobleman Liu Yan and his beautiful wife, Madam Hu, were offering Lunar New Year felicitations to the empress dowager of the state of Shu. The royal took a liking to Hu and invited her to stay in the palace. But when Hu returned home a month later, her jealous husband accused her of having an affair with emperor Liu Shan. To force a confession out of his wife, Liu Yan began beating her viciously. He even ordered the soldiers under his command to take turns striking Hu’s face with their shoes. After he was done torturing his wife, Liu Yan divorced her. Hu took her former husband and tormentor to court. Liu Yan was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. After his decapitation, his body was displayed in public. The severity of the punishment was not a vindication of women’s rights in ancient China, but a grim warning of the consequences of besmirching the emperor’s dignity. This is not to say there were no laws against spousal abuse. There were related statutes in China since at least the Qin dynasty (221-206BC), but not surprisingly they tended to be skewed in favour of men. Domestic violence comes to a head in locked-down India The Qin laws stipulated “a fierce wife is to be remedied by a beating” but the husband would be culpable if the woman sustained physical injuries. The Han dynasty (206BC-AD220) was even more lenient towards men. As long as the woman’s injuries were not caused by a weapon, the abusive husband was not guilty of any crime. Conversely, if a woman struck her husband, it would be considered a criminal act and she would be made a slave of the state. There was a slight improvement in the Tang dynasty (618-907): if a man beat his wife, he would be dealt with as if he had struck another person, but his culpability would be diminished by a few notches. If a woman struck her husband, she would serve a year in prison. During the Song period (960-1279), there was a celebrated case involving the famous woman poet Li Qingzhao (1084-1155), who applied to the court for a divorce from her abusive second husband. However, it was her report of her husband’s shady dealings and corrupt practices that expedited her case. According to Song laws, a woman who sued her husband in court would be imprisoned for three years, but Li was freed after only nine days when high-ranking officials intervened on her behalf. In the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), a man who killed his wife because she had beaten or berated his parents or grandparents was flogged a hundred times. But if a woman took her own life because of her husband’s abuse, the case would not even go to court. We like to think we have left our barbaric past behind, but domestic violence continues unabated. Perpetrators are emboldened by medieval “traditions” or outmoded gender norms that have no place in the modern world, as well as the silence of their victim’s shame. They must not be allowed to get away with it.