|Path Dependence or Reform Capability? Scandinavian legislation on Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 1940's to 1990's|
|Path Dependence or Reform Capability? Scandinavian legislation on Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 1940’s to1990’s.
In the middle of the twentieth century the Scandinavian countries had very similar legislation concerning STDs. By 1990, when the most important STD was HIV/AIDS, Denmark had abolished any special legislation on these diseases, while Sweden and Norway incorporated them in new laws on contagious diseases. Why would the three countries, so similar in most ways, choose different solutions to the HIV/AIDS problem?
Adding Norway to complete the Scandinavian perspective this paper discusses possible explanations between Denmark on the one hand, Sweden and Norway on the other. It accepts Signild Vallgårda’s rejection of Peter Baldwin’s assumption that Swedish policies on HIV/AIDS could be seen as depending on a path laid out by much earlier policies against cholera. It also follows Vallgårda in attempts to explain differences in Swedish and Danish policies by Danish liberal attitudes to alcoholics and IVDUs, as compared to the restrictive Swedish policies towards the same groups. But suggesting that a continuation of some of the measures until then legislated for STDs may be a simpler form of path dependence, it discusses the possibility that reform capabilities, i.e. a flexible political system, was more outspoken in Denmark than in the two other Scandinavian countries. The broad influence of religious circles on Norwegian attitudes is seen as a further explanation for the restrictions legislated in this country.
Finally, attention is drawn to obvious discrepancies between legislation and social practices in combating HIV/AIDS. The importance of changing perceptions of sexuality in the three Scandinavian countries and of broad political similarities in political attitudes to restrictive legislation in these countries are also considered.