The Josephine Butler Society

Basic Principles

The Josephine Butler Society stands for:

  • Social justice

  • Equality of all citizens before the law


Prostitution is not, and has never been an offence in the United Kingdom, but it cannot be practiced without some person contravening either a statutory law or a local authority regulation. Since prostitution is legal, the JBS maintains that it is the duty of the government:


(1) To ensure, that a legal occupation may be conducted in safety.


(2) To ensure that social welfare supports are available to all members of the community without discrimination,


(3) To provide protection for women and children who are criminally detained, violently abused or exploited by others who profit from their prostitution,


(4) To provide routes out of prostitution for those people who wish to abandon the occupation. The Josephine Butler Society (JBS) and its predecessors, The Ladies National Association (LNA 1869-1915) and Association of Moral and Social Hygiene (AMSH 1915-62) all campaigned for the removal of the term ‘common prostitute’ from all legislation relating to prostitution. The JBS  opposed the deliberate creation of a legally defined and stigmatised category of women who were presented before the courts as ‘common prostitutes’ on the sole basis of police evidence. This practice gave statutory approval to social prejudice and offended the central tenet of British justice, which declares that a person is innocent until found guilty.


The society maintains that the legislative framework regulating prostitution has been constructed in a piecemeal fashion and without due consideration being given to the damaging effect that it has upon the lives of prostitutes. The word ‘prostitute’ is often replaced by the term ‘sex worker’ but it seems to us that  since this is an inclusive term which includes other occupations besides that of prostitute e.g. pole dancer, phone sex line worker, this can be misleading and we feel diluting, of the physical danger the prostitute faces daily.


The corpus of law, which criminalizes prostitution-related offences, contains a range of Statutes with conflicting aims.


Whilst recognising that communities may have cause for complaint against the annoyance caused by street based prostitution, the JBS believes that a non-punitive, multi-agency, community based approach to these problems would provide a better way forward than relying wholly upon the services of the police and the judicial system.