Liberal Ideology and Morals: The Debate on Prostitution in the Netherlands, 1850-1911
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In this thesis the discourse used by liberal politicians in the debate on prostitution in the Dutch parliament is analysed. Did the liberal ideology (or liberal politicians) change during the period in which the debate on prostitution was held. In the Napoleonic period in the Netherlands brothels were legally accepted and regulated by the Napoleonic Penal Code. When the 1848 constitution was installed, the Penal Code was still in place, to be replaced in 1886 by the Wetboek van Strafrecht (Criminal Code). The hygienists were highly influential in this period, gaining the upper hands in most local authorities on the subject of prostitution, pleading for regulation in order to combat venereal diseases. The debates in 1880 concerning this Criminal Code are used as a starting point. Brothels were finally banned in the Netherlands in 1911, the debates regarding the ban make up the second measuring point. It is striking to see that the liberals in 1880 plead against a ban whereas they agreed with the ban in 1911. What has changed? The liberal ideology itself does not per se change, what does change is the background. The public debate gains importance by the hands of growing numbers of eligible voters. During the nineteenth century the hygienist influence is waning. Other parties as feminists and religious parties dominate the public debate. In this changed background the liberal ideology is put to the test.