17 APRIL 1936, Page 21


[To the Editor of Tin: SeEcT.vroal April 28n1 and 24th this Association is celebrating an historic anniversary : the' Jtibilee of the Repeal of the.

Contagious Diseases Acts in 1886. To many people today the words " Contagious Diseases Acts " may have no sig- nificance at all, vet these Acts were the cause of a successful agitation which lasted sixteen years, and had remarkable results throughout the world. Moreover, the " Ilepealcrs," led by Josephine Butler, presented a challenge to contemporary ideas on the social evil of prostitution which has largely changed the thought of the Western world in regard to it and is now affecting the East as well.

The British example has since been followed in the Dominions and Colonies and by Norway, Denmark, Finland, I lolland, the l'nited States, Czechoslovakia, Bolivia, Palestine, U.S.S.R., Germany and Switzerland. (Germany under the

present regime has since reintroduced the old system in

certain towns.) Great Britain never had the full Continental system of registered women and licensed houses, but it made a beginning between 186-1-69 with the C.D. Acts and introduced the " registered prostitute," under special police control and regular medical inspection, for use of the Army and Navy in certain garrison towns. The object was to reduce venereal diseases in the Services but the results were nil. We now know that such medical examination of one sex only for the benefit of the other does not protect the other, but it was not known then or not generally accepted by the medical

profession and the, , A cetrittoilii, small number of

doctors and administrators did criticise the Acts for meclical

reasons, but the deep and passionate revolt against them came. from 111C11 and women who opposed them not only on moral grounds but primarily on grounds of the gross violation

of the principles of law and justice involved in the Acts. Mrs. Butler_warned the people of this country :

"Never forget that if we allow persons belonging to any class of the citizens to be enslaved— however Ampere, despised or degraided that class may In— these will nut long cont bow to be the only slaves. The principle of individual liberty, 0/103 infringed, will ho gradually lost."

The agitation was eventually successful and it brought not only Repeal of the Acts but sweeping changes of the English law in regard to sex iii rats. Moreover, it led to improvements in the Service conditions which have brought. venereal diseases down from 207 eases per 1,000 men in 1886 to 10 per 1,0(X) in 193:1.

These and many other changes for the better we celebrate on April 23rd and 24th. Lady Astor, Professor Gilbert Murray, two descendants of Josephine Butler, Mr. R. A. Butler, M.P. (Secretary of State for India) and Mr. Andrew Butler, will speak at the Public Luncheon at the Criterion on the 23rd, which will be followed by a service of thanks- giving at St. Martin-in-the-Fields at 6 p.m., at which the Bishop of Liverpool will preach a special sermon. Tielicts and further particulars of the meeting on the 241.11 can be obtained at this ofliee.—Yours faithfully, ALISON NEMANS, Secretary.

Association for Moral and Social Hygiene, Livingstone House, Broadway, London,-5.11'.1.