It argues that while the Czechoslovak state attempted to suppress prostitution through criminal law, conceptualizing it as ‘parasitism’, many of the State Socialist experts ultimately fell back on the extra-legal normative system of gender. Women in prostitution were condemned for their sexually promiscuous behaviour while all women were blamed for failing in their gender roles as good women, wives and mothers. Whereas the official policy was thus enforcing socialist morality, the experts reverted to traditional bourgeois morality, in clear betrayal of the promises of both Marxism-Leninism and the State Socialist ideology as regards the equality of the sexes.
The heightened responsibility all women were given to prevent prostitution was unique. State Socialist Czechoslovakia is thus more than yet another case study of a repressive regime that controls and punishes the more vulnerable side of the prostitution transaction and apportions blame in a gendered way. Instead, it demonstrates how prostitution can become a vehicle for promoting and upholding traditional gender norms not only towards women in prostitution, but all women in society.
Commercial forms of sex such as prostitution/sex work, strip clubs and even sex shops have been the subject of much political debate and policy regulation over the last decade or so in the UK and Ireland. These myriad forms of commercial sex and land usage have managed to survive and even thrive in the face of public outcry and regulation. Despite being part of the UK we suggest that Northern Ireland has steered its own regulatory course, whereby the consumption of commercial sexual spaces and services have been the subject of intense moral and legal oversight in ways that are not apparent in other UK regions. Nevertheless, in spite of this we also argue that the context of Northern Ireland may provide some lessons for the ways that religious values and moral reasoning can influence debates on commercial sex elsewhere.
This article examines the migration of women for prostitution around the Mediterranean Sea, particularly to and within the Middle East and North Africa, in the interwar period. Reading League of Nations’ reports on traffic in women and children along with other published and archival sources, it situates women’s mobility within three significant waves of migration at the time: of south European men and women to Europe’s colonies in North Africa; of east European Jews westwards and southwards; and of Syrians outside of Mt. Lebanon. It shows how women’s migration can be explained and traced by following such temporary travelers as tourists, sailors, and soldiers and such more permanent migrants as settlers, refugees, and labor migrants. By using the category of migration, this article argues that “traffic in women” is insufficient as an analytical category in accounting for the geography of prostitution and prostitutes’ international mobility in the interwar Mediterranean.