A few weeks ago, I recorded an interview with The Oxford Human Rights Hub, a forum for international academics, practitioners and policymakers to advance the understanding and protection of human rights and equality. That interview is now available as a podcast via SoundCloud and iTunes.
We chatted about Britain’s nineteenth-century Contagious Diseases Acts—pieces of legislation that allowed for the compulsory inspection and treatment of any woman suspected of being a common prostitute. This was a deeply flawed attempt to prevent the spread of venereal diseases and, by extension, protect the health of military and naval personnel.
It was a fantastic experience to explore contemporary health inequalities through a close look at historical health legislation. When therapeutic medicine failed to protect population health, the state intervened with punitive, utilitarian policies that targeted a disenfranchised group: working-class women. As you’ll see, there are some troubling parallels with the state of health interventions today. Click the link below to listen to our conversation about how this legislation affected women; what happens when medical science cannot protect population health; and what we can learn from these problems.
Correction: Fritz Schaudinn and Erich Hoffmann identified the spirochæte—syphilis’s causative microorganism—in 1905, not 1906.