Sympathetic distrust: Liberalism and the sexual autonomy of women

Social Theory and Practice 34 (2):243-270 (2008)
This paper compares two recent public debates in the Netherlands: the debate initiated by Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the position of Muslim women on the one hand, and discussions regarding the situation of female sex workers since the legalization of Dutch prostitution in 2000 on the other. It is argued that liberal public policies should not always be guided by the unconditional respect for the autonomy of (adult) citizens, but that it sometimes seems wiser to adopt an attitude of sympathetic distrust regarding practices of which one has good reasons to suspect that they are harmful to the women involved.
Keywords liberalism  autonomy  Muslim women  sexuality  prostitution
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DOI 10.5840/soctheorpract200834214
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