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Tag Archives: Public health

Gregory Swedberg; Moralizing Public Space: Prostitution, Disease, and Social Disorder in Orizaba, Mexico, 1910–1945, Journal of Social History, 2017https://doi.org/10.1093/jsh/shx083

Abstract

This article explores how women working as prostitutes in Orizaba, Mexico, laid claim to a more revolutionary vision of women’s citizenship. Prostitutes pushed the state to realize the promises of the Mexican Revolution, even as officials and many local residents—rich and poor—retained outmoded notions of gender and citizenship. This research indicates that “respectable” poor and working-class individuals gravitated toward traditional gender values so as to position themselves as respectable in the eyes of state agents charged with policing morality and public health. State officials’ rhetoric of egalitarianism that followed the Mexican Revolution fell flat for the public women whose pecuniary position persisted long after the guns fell silent.

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Stefano Petrungaro; The Medical Debate about Prostitution and Venereal Diseases in Yugoslavia (1918–1941), Social History of Medicine, 2017https://doi.org/10.1093/shm/hkx023

Abstract

The article aims at illustrating the main features of the medical debate about prostitution and venereal diseases in the first Yugoslavia, and the role played by physicians in shaping prostitution policies in that country between the two world wars. The Yugoslav medical debate, while sharing many of the same arguments and characteristics with analogues debates in Europe and beyond, also reveals some peculiar aspects. These aspects were related to the Habsburg and Ottoman legacies, the phenomenon of Bosnian endemic syphilis, the establishment of the new Yugoslav state, and the South-East European context. This resulted firstly in a multifaceted debate, with internal discrepancies and a dynamic development during the time; secondly, in a relevant role played by physicians as policy consultants and even policy makers with marked eugenic tones, which were in full accordance with the social engineering and nation-building projects of the political elite of this newly founded state.

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Abstract
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There is a notable shift toward more repression and criminalization in sex work policies, in Europe and elsewhere. So-called neo-abolitionism reduces sex work to trafficking, with increased policing and persecution as a result. Punitive “demand reduction” strategies are progressively more popular. These developments call for a review of what we know about the effects of punishing and repressive regimes vis-à-vis sex work. From the evidence presented, sex work repression and criminalization are branded as “waterbed politics” that push and shove sex workers around with an overload of controls and regulations that in the end only make things worse. It is illustrated how criminalization and repression make it less likely that commercial sex is worker-controlled, non-abusive, and non-exploitative. Criminalization is seriously at odds with human rights and public health principles. It is concluded that sex work criminalization is barking up the wrong tree because it is fighting sex instead of crime and it is not offering any solution for the structural conditions that sex work (its ugly sides included) is rooted in. Sex work repression travels a dead-end street and holds no promises whatsoever for a better future. To fight poverty and gendered inequalities, the criminal justice system simply is not the right instrument. The reasons for the persistent stigma on sex work as well as for its present revival are considered.

The position of sex workers in society ranges across a wide spectrum. At one end of the spectrum there are slaves and the victims of inhumane traffickers. On the other end sex workers can enjoy a high position in society and are celebrated in the highest art forms such as in paintings or like in the opera la Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi. However, Eduard Manet’s painting of Olympia of 1863 brought some realism into this glamorous stereotypical portrayal by painting an image of a woman with a black cat—symbolizing promiscuity.1 This image of glamor lived on into the 20th century in films like Pretty Woman with its totally unrealistic Cinderella ending.

While the sex industry is present in every country, the reality for many sex workers is far from glamorous. A sex worker is defined by the World Health Organization as a “person who engages in sex work, or exchanges sex for money, which includes many practices and occurs in a variety of settings.” These may include workers who work full time in registered premises, to part time and casual workers working in informal locations.2

Full text available her for free. 

Decriminalisation: A harm minimisation and human rights approach to regulating sex work.

Author: Gillian Abel, PhD 2010
Ph.D. ThesisUniversity of Otago, Public Health Research

Abstract:

This thesis takes a community-based participatory approach, using mixed methods to examine the impact of the decriminalisation of sex work in New Zealand through the lens of a public health discourse of harm minimisation. The key question addressed in this thesis is whether decriminalisation has minimised the harms experienced by sex workers. Rather than taking a narrow view of harm minimisation and looking merely at the practices of sex workers, I have taken a more holistic stance, taking into account structural social issues which contribute to the health and wellbeing of sex workers. Data were collected through a survey of 772 sex workers and in-depth interviews with 58 sex workers in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Napier and Nelson. Estimates were done of the number of sex workers in these cities which show little change post-decriminalisation compared to estimates done prior to decriminalisation. There has been some change in the shape of the industry with more people working privately in the suburbs and fewer in the brothels and escort agencies but little change in size of the street-based sector. Such minimal change in the size of the sex industry is not surprising as the underlying motivations for working in this industry have not changed in a decriminalised environment. As this thesis demonstrates, structural factors (such as economic climate, employment opportunities, welfare, housing and sickness benefits) are associated with the entry into sex work rather than the way the industry is regulated.

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