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78 W hile Ecuadorian women’s actions as mothers were of interest and concern to state actors who intervened in child welfare issues, other intimate activities of women were seen to pose a different set of challenges and dangers for state and society. Just as having a child required a man and a woman, so too the spread of venereal disease involved the activities of both sexes. Nonetheless , for social rather than biological reasons, state programs to control venereal disease came to focus on monitoring the sexual health of women in particular. In 1911 an initial attempt to regulate prostitution and venereal disease was established in Quito, setting the stage for future programs by bringing together medical and policing efforts to constitute “a penal and curative system among the women subject to surveillance.”1 Indeed, before the establishment of a stable Subdirection of Sanidad in Quito in 1914, the 1908 Ley de Sanidad (Law of Public Health) allowed for the rather precarious founding of what was also called a Subdirection of Sanidad within the Oficina de Higiene Municipal, funded and overseen by Quito’s municipal government.2 In 1910 oficina director Dr. Francisco Martínez Serrano began to explore the possibilities of using the law’s provisions to address the venereal diseases being spread by Quito’s prostitutes. Although no additional funding was available to expand the oficina’s services in this direction, the director thought that perhaps the salary of an additional staff member could be paid with the fines collected for infractions of a new reglamento de profilaxis venérea (venereal prophylaxis regulation). The identification of women whose health status might need to be controlled was a joint effort of the Higiene Municipal and the police: the po- • 3 GoverningSexualityandDisease GOVERNING SEXUALITY AND DISEASE • 79 lice might initiate this by asking the Higiene Municipal to inspect the hygienic conditions of brothels, or hygiene officials might ask the police to look into accusations of prostitution received by their office. This early attempt to control venereal disease via the control of prostitutes functioned only for a few months in 1911. Despite its short duration, the project nonetheless set a pattern that continued to be relevant as state institutions began to pursue more comprehensive policies to control some of the health consequences of sexual acts: most importantly , coordination between medical authorities and police functionaries, and a focus on controlling the health of female prostitutes first and foremost. The gendering of problematic sexuality as primarily female may have been due to the fact that only among prostitutes could the state justify monitoring of sexual behavior—or at least its health consequences. State functionaries had much less latitude to reflect on the sexual activities of other groups of women, or for that matter most men. Nonetheless, they did make some attempts to reach groups of men associated in particular with state institutions. State Services and Antivenereal Campaigns In August 1913 there was hope that a more sustained campaign against venereal diseases might be undertaken, with the arrival in Quito of public health specialist Dr. Carlos Miño as delegate from the main Guayaquil office of the Servicio de Sanidad. He was converted a few months later to a permanent subdirector of the national public health service under the auspices of the central government rather than the municipality. The acting governor of Pichincha province (who elsewhere expressed his concern about the effects of infant mortality on the nation’s future) took on the task of explaining to Miño the dire situation existing in the nation’s capital: Without exaggeration, the newspaper “El País” writes that the brothels located in busy central streets of the City are almost too numerous to count. It seems to me that if these Establishments must exist, at least they should be monitored preferentially by the Policía de Higiene y Salubridad, to avoid the spread and contagion of the worst of all diseases: syphilis. I have heard many physicians, and I have heard them with horror, say that this affliction has taken root in Ecuador to such an extent that if the Authorities don’t combat it the future of the Republic will be bleak, since its population will be made up of sickly and degenerate people. If respect for the rights of Man goes so far as to respect his freedom for vice, then at least this should not come saturated with an exterminating poison for his offspring. I hope, Señor Delegate, that you dedicate...


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MARC Record
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