Spring 2014

Faculty Advisor

Dr. David Doellinger


The Contagious Diseases Act allowed the British government to arrest anyone who was thought to be a prostitute and perform unauthorized, and oftentimes non consensual, medical tests on them. Despite the confidence the British government felt while backing up the Act, there has been plenty of evidence to show that the spread of disease actually increased while the Act was in place, and declined sharply after the repeal in the late 19th Century. Many different organizations were created to put a stop to the unfair treatment against women, such as the Woman’s Club and the protests put on by Josephine Butler, despite the fact that the women were known or suspected prostitutes. This paper will explain how discriminatory the Acts were towards the citizens of Natal Africa, India, and the British Isles, more specifically the women who lived in these places. The Contagious Diseases Act was designed to aid in the health and well-being of the colonial population from these specific countries. The creation of the Contagious Diseases Act was contrived to address the health of the British soldiers rather than the women who were being infected as well. As a consequence, the Act also blurred the lines between social classes and racial domesticity in the British Isles, which will be addressed throughout this thesis.

Document Type


PDF-A Prostitution and the Contagious Diseases Acts in 19th Century Bri.pdf (512 kB)
PDF/A Version