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Kramer Major Owen Sweet’s campaign against prostitutes began shortly after his arrival in Jolo, in the southern Philippines, in May 1899. Four months into a war against the Philippine Republic, the 23 Infantry had taken control of the area from Spanish forces, but, as Sweet lamented, his troops had fallen “heir to the lax moral conditions incident to the Philippines and Oriental countries generally.” Lacking barracks space, his soldiers had been forced to live “in close contact” with “mixed races,” and Sweet had been “confronted with the same status of immoralities and the lawless community” as commanders had in Manila, Iloilo, Cebu and elsewhere. In these many settings, regulation institutionalized gendered and racialized notions of morality and disease, casting “native women” as the “source” of venereal disease and the exclusive objects of inspection, treatment and isolation.
The high point of Anglo-American cooperation along these lines was reached in the struggle to abolish regulation in India.
Without reserves, and fearing that the disease might leave military efforts “seriously crippled,” Hughes felt compelled to act to “jealously guard the man behind the gun.” The First Reserve Hospital, Manila, 1900. inspections took place weekly rather than bi-weekly; U. inspectors were not ordered (although some attempted) to counsel prostitutes against their trade. When civilians took over the Board of Health, and the regulation project, from the army in 1901, for example, they rehearsed the idea of borrowing policies—from U. sources—only to reject the strategy in favor of prevailing practices. Louis on prostitution,” were “now on the file in this office,” army surgeon and Board member Charles Lynch noted, “no changes were deemed necessary in the methods pursued.” By late-1898, the military’s regulation program was well under construction.
William Johnson, a correspondent for a prohibitionist newspaper, reported being told by a doctor that one sixth of the soldiers on the sick list--over 3,000 cases--were infected with venereal disease. Some medical officers lamented these sexual encounters in their own right, apart from an explicit disease context. employment of a “native physician (Spanish)” to carry out medical inspections suggests further continuities. By November 2, just under three months into the occupation, the Board had established a “womans [sic] hospital” for the isolation and “treatment” of all prostitutes found diseased, in a wing of San Lazaro leper hospital.
Approached in this way, the history of the military, prostitution and venereal disease during the Philippine-American War provides one window onto the cultural history of U. imperial boundaries: of how Americans marked the place where the United States ended and the rest of the world began, and made sense of their inability to completely control the processes that flowed across that elusive line. The rhetorical presence of Filipinos’ bodies, as sources of threat rather than objects of violence, also said much about that imperial body’s contours and edges. By 1898, the state regulation of prostitution through the coerced medical inspection of women had become a crucial element of municipal policy, sanitary strategy and moral reform throughout the globe, although its particular institutional practices varied greatly both between and within states.
century, but as documented by Philippa Levine, their most varied projections were in the British Empire.
Anti-colonialists connected it to broader fears of bodily and political “corruption.” For all of them, adoption of regulation signaled a tragic collapse of national exceptionalism, as the United States adopted what they considered immoral, “European” methods for containing venereal disease. Among these modifications, the Army formalized and universalized the inspection of its soldiers in the Philippines after May 1901; in subsequent years, this colonial innovation became national army policy. This research has explored the social landscapes of sexual labor near military installations, the state-to-state agreements made to facilitate commercialized sex, the experiences of sex workers, and the central role that controversies over sex have played in the politics of military basing.