chapter  V
62 Pages

Prostitution Abroad.

THE reader who has thus far accompanied me, will, I think, be of opinion that I have called his attention to a state of things demanding serious notice, and the speedy adoption of remedial measures. A move in the right direction has, as we have seen, been made at Aldershott and some other similar places, but the great bulk of prostitution throughout the country presents to us a formidable evil, with which hitherto the legislature has not even attempted to cope. A great difficulty meets us at the very outset of our endeavours to deal satisfactorily with this subject. Any scheme of legislation, having for its object the regulation of prostitution, must have for its starting point the recognition of it as a system, requiring not repression, but direction. This position appears repugnant to the moral and religious sense of a large and influential portion of the community. They consider that a system which openly sets at defiance the laws of God, and exists only because men wantonly gratify those desires which they ought to control, should, if it can not be repressed, at least be left to itself, to work out in its own evil way its evil course, and to link inseparably with lawless indulgence the natural penalties attached thereto. We shall better appreciate the full force of this position, if we contemplate the attitude adopted by the state towards prostitution in other countries. We start with the conviction that the present state of things in our own land is intolerable, an insult to our civilization, at least as great as to our Christianity. The question has received a consideration abroad, which has been denied to it at home; experiments have been tried on the continent which we in England have hitherto declined to make. If on full examination of the means adopted in other countries for grappling with this evil, and of the results obtained by them, we refuse to follow their example, we may at least profit by their experience. To whateyer conclusion our research may lead us, of one thing we may feel assured, that honest and laborious consideration of a difficult problem must inevitably obtain the reward denied to indolent or prejudiced indifference. We shall meet in the course of our inquiry with much that is strange, and it may be repugnant to our feelings. Our true wisdom is to shake off national prejudices, and to extend to institutions

found among others the like patient and impartial examination that we would demand for our own; but we must at the same time be careful not to accept rashly things merely because they are new, or to reject things because they are old. Above all, we must pay to the religious and moral instinct the liveliest deference, being convinced that whatever is really repugnant to this has within it the seeds of evil. If we come to the conclusion that this condemnation must, in fact, be passed upon the foreign systems, we may still find some principle underlying their practice that we may with advantage adopt. At all events, the examination to which I now invite the reader cannot, fail to be useful in this respect, that the comparison of other systems with our own will bring home more clearly to us our defects, and even in learning what to avoid in others, we may discover something to borrow from their systems, something to avoid in our own, I propose, then, in this chapter to examine in detail the systems adopted in the leading European states, commencing with France, both as our nearest neighbour, and as the country that has always led the way in the advance of modern civilization and the growth of modern ideas, and I will only ask the reader to bear in mind that the object of our inquiry is no less how we may elevate the prostitute, than how we may protect the public, for we may lay it down as a golden rule that to benefit society at the expense of the prostitute is as unrighteous and injurious as it is to benefit the prostitute at the expense of society.