The first Roman emperor , Augustus , framed his ascent to sole power as a return to traditional morality , and attempted to regulate the conduct of women through moral legislation . Adultery , which had been a private family matter under the Republic, was criminalized,  and defined broadly as an illicit sex act ( stuprum ) that occurred between a male citizen and a married woman, or between a married woman and any man other than her husband. Therefore a married woman could have sex only with her husband, but a married man did not commit adultery when he had sex with a prostitute , slave , or person of marginalized status ( infamis ) .  Most prostitutes in ancient Rome were slaves, though some slaves were protected from forced prostitution by a clause in their sales contract.  A free woman who worked as a prostitute or entertainer lost her social standing and became infamis , "disreputable"; by making her body publicly available, she had in effect surrendered her right to be protected from sexual abuse or physical violence. 
In the colonized states, the colonizers used the woman question to justify their dominance, claiming that women in their subject nations were backward and in need of uplifting. Ignoring the demands of women in their own countries, they were sometimes more willing to push for womens reforms abroad. On the other hand, nationalistic movements in colonized and other non-western nations began to link attempts at modernization with an improvement in the status of women. In many instances, liberal nationalists, many of them male, needed the active support of women to help fulfill their dream of an independent, modern state.