Blaming All Women: On Regulation of Prostitution in State Socialist Czechoslovakia

Havelková B, ‘Blaming all Women: On Regulation of Prostitution in State Socialist Czechoslovakia’ (2016) 36 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 165

Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 27/2016

42 Pages Posted: 10 May 2016

See all articles by Barbara Havelkova

Barbara Havelkova

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law; University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law Study Group

Date Written: April 1, 2016

Abstract

The article explores how Czechoslovakia reacted to the persistence of prostitution during State Socialism (1948-1989) when its underlying Marxist-Leninist ideology predicted that it should disappear with the overthrow of capitalism. The paper adopts a law in context approach, critically analysing legal instruments as well as expert commentaries by social scientists, legal scholars, judges and prosecutors from the period.

It argues that while the Czechoslovak state attempted to suppress prostitution through criminal law, conceptualizing it as ‘parasitism’, many of the State Socialist experts ultimately fell back on the extra-legal normative system of gender. Women in prostitution were condemned for their sexually promiscuous behaviour while all women were blamed for failing in their gender roles as good women, wives and mothers. Whereas the official policy was thus enforcing socialist morality, the experts reverted to traditional bourgeois morality, in clear betrayal of the promises of both Marxism-Leninism and the State Socialist ideology as regards the equality of the sexes.

The heightened responsibility all women were given to prevent prostitution was unique. State Socialist Czechoslovakia is thus more than yet another case study of a repressive regime that controls and punishes the more vulnerable side of the prostitution transaction and apportions blame in a gendered way. Instead, it demonstrates how prostitution can become a vehicle for promoting and upholding traditional gender norms not only towards women in prostitution, but all women in society.

Keywords: prostitution, gender, sexuality, parasitism, socialism, Czechoslovakia

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Havelkova, Barbara, Blaming All Women: On Regulation of Prostitution in State Socialist Czechoslovakia (April 1, 2016). Havelková B, ‘Blaming all Women: On Regulation of Prostitution in State Socialist Czechoslovakia’ (2016) 36 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 165; Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 27/2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2777397 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2777397

Barbara Havelkova (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St. Cross Building
St. Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UJ
United Kingdom

University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law Study Group

Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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