Diana Swingler

'It was as if you were cattle'

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The Contagious Diseases Acts were symbolic of bourgeois society's desire to control working class women's bodies, writes Diana Swingler. Let's celebrate the campaign that got them repealed

One hundred and fifty years ago the Contagious Diseases Acts, first imposed in port towns in 1864, were extended to civilian populations. They were met with one of the first successful women’s rights campaigns in British history, which has a resonance with the fight for women’s right to control their own bodies today.

Sicko

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Director: Michael Moore; Release date: 26 October

Michael Moore's latest film is a call to arms against the US healthcare system - or rather the lack of one. It makes explicit how this profit-driven industry causes insecurity and suffering for millions of Americans, and routinely leads to unnecessary deaths.

US healthcare is funded by private insurance companies with only a fraction of the most vulnerable - children, the elderly and disabled - qualifying for healthcare under Medicaid.

Uncaring System

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Review of 'The Death of Mr Lazarescu', Director: Cristi Puiu, Tartan Video £19.99

This film charts not the actual death of Mr Lazarescu but the stripping away of his humanity. He lies in pain and distress from a removable brain clot while shoved from pillar to post at different hospitals during the course of one night.

The film is set in modern day Romania. But to anyone who works in the British NHS, the themes of under-resourced services, hierarchical staff structures and bullying management practices seem eerily familiar.

Moved by Justice

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Review of 'Josephine Butler', Jane Jordan, John Murray £22.50

Jane Jordan's biography of Josephine Butler exposes the brutality of women's oppression at the height of British capitalism. In particular, our attention is turned to the treatment of working class women under the Contagious Diseases Acts passed in the second half of the 19th century. Jordan shows the 20-year struggle it took to finally defeat these vicious acts and celebrates the life of its determined leader.

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