Debating Prostitution: The Regulation of Sexual Commerce and State Formation in Peru, c. 1850–1910
Arguments in favour of regulating prostitution circulated in the 1850s and a number of detailed proposals were put forward in the 1870s. But Peru did not implement a regulationist system until the first decade of the twentieth century. In this paper, I examine these proposals and debates over regulation in detail. As was the case in many other national contexts, debates over prostitution in Peru were shaped by, and in turn, helped shape broader debates over the regulation of individual bodies, both male and female, and of the social body, that is, of the nation. As elsewhere too, debates over prostitution in Peru reflected broader changes in ideas about the role of the state in managing “the social”, and more specifically, “the sexual”. Debates over prostitution and its regulation, as I suggest in this paper, expressed the ways in which the “sexual question” came to occupy an increasingly central place in discussions over state formation and nation building in the second half of the nineteenth century in Peru.
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