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Finding and Imprisoning Prostitutes in Victorian England: How Double Standards of Morality Led to Possible Violations of the Constitution by Patricia Penido Salles

Abstract: In the 1860s, Parliament passed three Contagious Diseases Acts to control the spread of venereal disease amongst the armed forces. The legislation focused exclusively on common prostitutes, submitting them to invasive medical inspections and possible arrest without trial. This article will examine two artefacts: The Constitution Violated: An Essay (1871), by Josephine Butler, and Found (1853-1881), an oil painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as evidence of gender bias influencing legislation. The sexual double standards written into the Contagious Diseases Acts rendered them ineffective and possibly unconstitutional. Furthermore, the injustices carried out against women under these laws eventually led to a successful repeal effort and the beginnings of the women’s rights movement.

Date created: 
Monday, June 6, 2022
Attribution for this resource:
Finding and Imprisoning Prostitutes in Victorian England: How Double Standards of Morality Led to Possible Violations of the Constitution by Patricia Penido Salles, All rights reserved.