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Prostitution

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PROSTITUTION. The history of prostitution would make a curious chap ter in the history of society. It appears that in all countries and in all ages there have been women who have prostituted their bodies for hire. The practice has been viewed in very different lights in different countries, but probably in all countries it has been attended with a cer tain degree of infamy.

As marriage and the formation of a family are the foundation of all society, anything which checks marriage or en courages promiscuous intercourse, must be considered as opposed to the general interest. But prostitution in some form or degree will probably always exist : ..nd the object of good government should ne to make such regulations, d any, as may reduce it to the least amount. There is a difference between concubinage, or the regular cohabitation of unmarried per sons, and that promiscuous intercourse Which is fornication. Concubinage may externally appear a marriage, and the evil to society from bad example or dis orderly conduct may be entirely absent, though there are reasons enough why it may often offend against good order and decency. The main disadvantage of con cubinage in a political view is that the woman is deprived of all those rights to which marriage entitles her, and the chil dren are exposed to neglect. It is, how ever, a thing which is best left to the control of positive morality. If the posi tive morality of any given society dis countenances it, that is a sufficient check : if the positive morality looks on it as a matter of indifference, legislative enact ments will be ineffectual.

The same principles do not apply to prostitution. The laws of all well regu lated societies should interfere so far at least as to prevent open indecency and check any disturbance which may be caused in houses to which persons resort for fornication. But here also the posi tive morality of society will be the strongest check, when the positive mo rality of the mass is opposed to the irregu lar connection of the sexes. The practice of licensing prostitutes and subjecting them immediately to the control of the police is at least a matter of doubtful policy. Where it has long existed, there may be reasons for continuing this system ; but there are weighty reasons against intro ducing it into any society where it has not been long established.

The most efficient check to prostitution will be the improvement of the early education of females of the poorer classes, from among whom the great mass of prostitutes come. The solicitation of chastity proceeds from the male, and the temptation is money, which gives a wo man the hope of living without labour and of indulging in dress and other things which her station in life does not allow her. The immediate inducements which

lead women to surrender their chastity are no doubt as numerous and various as their condition and dispositions. But the temptation of money operating upon po verty and on the ignorance and inexpe rience of young women is certainly the most powerful of the causes of seduction. Those who would direct their efforts to wards diminishing an evil which can never be entirely removed will succeed best by attempting to remove the main causes of it; by supporting every measure which will give to the labouring classes better wages, and secure to them a better and more practical education than they now receive.

As the solicitation of a woman's chastity proceeds from the male, whose passions are generally much stronger, seduction and its usual consequence, prostitution, would be most effectually checked by operating upon the propen sities of the male. But it is not easy to suggest any efficient mode of doing this. All good education will contribute to this end by forming men to habits of greater self-control, and accustoming them to view the consequences to the whole of society as well as to themselves of every act of their lives.

The English law has few regulations on this subject, and it is very doubtful if any good would be effected by additional legislation. Brothels, or bawdy-houses, which is the name of houses kept for the resort of men and women, are common nuisances ; and persons who keep such houses are punishable by fine and im prisonment. Fornication itself is an ille gal act, and punishable in the spiritual courts. In the session of 1849, an at tempt was made criminally to punish the practices known to be resorted to by infamous persons to procure the defile ment of women and young females. By this act, the 12 & 13 Viet. c. 76, it is provided, that if "any person shall by false pretences, false representations, or other fraudulent means, procure any woman or child under the age of twenty one years to have illicit carnal connexion with any man, such person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor," punishable by imprisonment, with hard labour, for a term not exceeding two years. Some other attempts to legislate further on this subject only show the ignorance of those who think that because a law is made it will for that reason be efficient.