1893 - 1996



The Government sets up a committee to investigate the findings of Dr Bushell and Mrs Andrews.




The Cantonment Act is amended to prohibit the registration and examination of prostitutues.


30 December 1906


Josephine Butler dies.




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An amendment to the Vagrancy Act makes it an offence to 'live from the earnings of prostitution'.




The Aliens Act introduces the first legal restrictions on immigration and includes provision for the repatriation of known foreign prostitutes.




The Criminal Law Amendment (White Slave Traffic) Act is passed, strengthening the law against brothel keeping. Constables can arrest anyone suspected of procuring a girl under 21 to be ‘a common prostitute’ without a warrant. Those found guilty can be sentenced to be whipped.

Leading suffragist Millicent Garrett Fawcett appeals for the Bill to be passed.




The Ladies’ National Association and its male counterpart merge to form the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene (AMSH).




The AMSH draft a Public Places (Order) Bill, aiming to replace all legal references to the ‘common prostitute’ with laws applying to ‘any person’: it is never enacted.




A Street Offences Committee is appointed to examine the laws on solicitation and advises that it should apply to prostitutes and clients equally.




Laws similar to the CD Acts are reintroduced on the return of war. Anyone alleged by two or more people to have infected them with VD can be forcibly examined and treated, fined and imprisoned if they refuse.




Convictions for soliciting increase by five times in the 1950s. Stepney was a well-known area and local residents demand action.




The Sexual Offences Act is passed, consolidating much previous prostitution law. Soliciting for an immoral purpose (by men and women), keeping a brothel, knowingly living off the earnings of prostitution, causing the prostitution of women, and causing or encouraging the prostitution of a girl are all defined as sexual offences.




The Wolfenden Report recommends measures to limit street prostitution and to decriminalise homosexual acts between men. It argues for the retention of ‘common prostitute’, increased penalties for soliciting, and removing the need to prove annoyance.




The AMSH leads a deputation of women’s organisations to meet the Home Secretary arguing penalties proposed in the Wolfenden Report are excessive, and the unjustness of prostitution laws will persist. The Street Offences Act enacts the key recommendations of the Wolfenden Report. Prostitution moves off the street, and is increasingly commercialised.




The Association for Moral and Social Hygiene is renamed the Josephine Butler Society.




Three Private Members bills over two years aim to remove references in law to a ‘common prostitute’ are presented in the House of Lords. None receive a second reading.




Inspired by a ‘Prostitutes’ Strike’ in France, prostitutes’ organisations including the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) form in the UK, demanding the end to criminalisation. ECP occupy the Holy Cross Church, Kings Cross in 1982 in protest against ‘police illegality and racism’.




A debate is held in Westminster Central Hall. The meeting votes for the abolition of all laws relating to prostitution. Maureen Colquhoun, the country’s first openly lesbian MP, promises to introduce a  ten-minute rule bill. It falls the following year when a general election is called.




Press reports suggest that Thatcherite economics are increasing the numbers of women selling sex. Stories of women coming south to earn money for Christmas presents are commonplace.




The Criminal Justice Act replaces imprisonment for soliciting with fines. Women are still going to prison – but for non-payment fines.




Janet Fookes’ Sexual Offences Bill is passed, creating a new offence of ‘persistent’ kerb crawling. Feminists are divided on the law, and prostitutes’ rights organisations claim it will endanger women.




Scapegoating of prostitutes in relation to HIV/AIDS has another side, as funds enable to development of outreach projects and drop-in centres promoting harm-reduction. ScotPep, one of the earliest harm reduction projects, is founded in Edinburgh in 1989 as a peer led education programme to address safe sex, drug use and personal safety.




After being pursued by the Inland Revenue, but unable to register her brothel as a company, Lindi St Clair founds the Corrective Party. She advocates small collectives of four women and a madam, each paying a bond to the government and undergoing regular health checks.




A ‘vigilante patrol’ of local residents in Balsall Heath, Birmingham sit in armchairs on street corners holding six-foot placards with slogans like ‘Kerb-crawlers: the wife will find out’. There are also reports of women being threatened.




The English Collective of Prostitutes successfully supports the first private prosecution for rape in England and Wales.




Edinburgh Council begins to operate an unoffical 'tolerance zone' for street prostitution, citing the support of local women's groups and opportunities for harm reduction inputs. Councillors in Middlesborough work with police to set up a similar zone two years later.


Over 4000 people from all over the world attend the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Women's Citizenship in Brighton, one day of which explores prostitution and pornography as violence against women.


Irence Ivison, whose daughter Fiona was murdered by a punter, founds the Coalition for the Removal of Pimps (CROP).





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