Seppuku meant a samurai could die with his reputation intact or even enhanced; it could free the samurai's family from any culpability from his acts. Since the main point of the act was to restore or protect one's honor as a warrior, those who did not belong to the samurai caste were never ordered or expected to commit seppuku.
Samurai women could only commit seppuku with permission. The methods of seppuku for men and women are different. Men cut open their midsections, but the women would cut their throats, in version of seppuku called jigai. The difference was probably not to make it easier for women to die, but because of a reverence for the womb where all human life begins. The woman's legs were tied together to ensure a "decent" posture in death.