The De-Victimalization of the Prostitute

  • Hans Boutellier


Victimhood has become the central metaphor of morality, but this does not necessarily mean that only new victims are now being found. Victimhood can also be made obsolete by certain cultural trends. Every era and culture has its own victims. Just exactly who is willing or able to call themselves victims or have others do so is subject to change. Sometimes people are thought of as victims much against their will, as is often the case with the physically disabled; sometimes the status of victimhood is not granted to people who suffer in certain ways, as has recently come to be the case with asylum seekers. In a certain social issue, victimhood can be shifted from one party to another, as seems to be the case in the criminality debate of the eighties. And unwittingly or not, victims can also disappear from the stage. Their suffering is no longer viewed as a form of victimhood, or the parties involved no longer wish to view it as such.


Asylum Seeker Venereal Disease Penal Code Feminist Movement Feminist Wave 
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  1. 1.
    This is the definition of prostitution formulated by the De Graaf Foundation (Scholtes, 1980).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    The second half of the nineteenth century also witnesses the founding of the Committee to Uplift Penitent Fallen Women (1847), the feminist-inspired Netherlands Women’s Association to Heighten Moral Consciousness (1885), and the Midnight Mission (1891).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    When the first international conference of prostitutes was held at Brakke Grond in Amsterdam, there were probably very few people who realized that almost a century earlier, a conference on prostitution had been organized at Frascati less than a hundred metres away, but with quite the opposite aim.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    The committee responsible for this report was appointed seven years earlier, at the same time as the legal committee that came out in favour of a law against the public practice of prostitution in 1960.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    This standpoint is repeated in 1973 by Groothuyse in Het menselijk tekort van de pooier (The Pimp’s Human Failing).Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    There is a similar incident in the Dutch town of Nijmegen in 1975 at a conference called Feminology. Prostitutes are occupying a church in Lyons at the time, and there is a dispute about whether or not to openly express sympathy and support for them.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    This assumption is confirmed in the study by Vanwesenbeeck, Altink et al. (1989), where 39.3% of the research group have been sexually abused by relatives. In the general study by Draijer (1988), the figure is 15.6%.Google Scholar
  8. 18.
    According to Van Mens (1992), in the models for a licence system (Association of Netherlands Municipalities, Amsterdam, The Hague), attention was almost solely focused on the public decency aspects, and barely at all on the working conditions.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Boutellier
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Ministry of JusticeThe HagueNetherlands
  2. 2.Vrije UniversiteitAmsterdamNetherlands

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