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I SSUE 8. But in the context of the vast corpus of Mill scholarship, this lack of attention to his views on prostitution is at first surprising. And so, perhaps, this lacuna should not come as such a surprise, despite the central role of both the phenomenon of prostitution and Mill himself in the emergence of feminist activism and ideas.
Further, my analysis adds weight to propositions that Mill was a more radical feminist than is often assumed. It was a focus for considerable political campaigning and debate as it drew together a range of controversies such as the emerging and developing role of the state, the liberalization of sex and sexual activity, and the role of women and feminist activism. As a subject matter for political debate, it dominated discussions throughout the s and s, engendering the greatest controversy with the enactment of the Contagious Diseases Acts.
This series of measures, first enacted in and finally repealed in , empowered the relevant authorities to subject suspected prostitutes in named military towns and ports to internal medical examinations and, if found to be suffering from venereal disease, to be detained in specific hospitals for up to nine months.
The immediate impetus for this coercive legislation was concern over the efficacy of the military due to the high incidence of venereal disease. The acts were, therefore, primarily aimed at preventing the spread of the disease among the military, though the wives and children of men using prostitutes, who then became infected, were also the subject of concern. By the late s, agitation had grown to such an extent that in order to placate opposition, the government established a Royal Commission to investigate the operation of the acts.
His evidence provides a clear insight into his approach to prostitution regulation, though this was not the first time that his views on the subject were made public Mill In his paean to personal freedom, On Liberty , Mill considered the justification of legal sanctions against pimps Overlooked then as now, these passages in On Liberty , together with his Royal Commission evidence, provide crucial information on his publicly expressed views. To these sources can now be supplemented insights revealed from his letters, particularly those written during the repeal campaign against the acts He declaimed that.