Records of the International Bureau for Suppression of Traffic in Persons

Archive Collection
  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 4IBS
  • Former Reference
      GB 106 4/IBS1; 4/IBS2
  • Dates of Creation
      1899-1970
  • Language of Material
      English Afrikaans , Arabic , French , German , Italian , Japanese
  • Physical Description
      34.5 A boxes
  • Direct Link

Scope and Content

The archive consists of minutes of the Bureau (1899-1940, 1942-1953), annual reports (1952-1966), conference papers, publications printed and received, League of Nations files and documents related to other advisory committees, country files containing correspondence and official materials, files of the general secretary containing similar files covering the post-war period and correspondence.

Abbreviations include:

ACISJF - Association Catholique Internationale Services de la Jeunesse Feminine: International Catholic Society for Girls.

AMSH - Association for Moral & Social Hygiene.

ASHA - American Social Health Association.

BNC - International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons: British National Committee.

BVA - British Vigilance Association.

FAI - Fédération Abolitionniste Internationale.

IAF - International Abolitionist Federation.

IB - International Bureau.

IBS - International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons (also known as IBSTP).

IBSTWC - International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Women and Children.

NGO -Non-Governmental Organisation.

NVA - National Vigilance Association.

TAS -Travellers' Aid Society

UN - United Nations.

UNESCO - United Nations Economic and Social Organisation

USSR - Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

VD - Venereal Disease

CD - Contagious Diseases

CDA - Contagious Disease Acts

Administrative / Biographical History

The International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons (1899-1971) was established at a time when the widespread campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts had had the effect of focussing attention on the issue of prostitution. This had the result of encouraging the growth of groups like the National Vigilance Association whose aim was to work against the trade and its causes. In 1898, following the precedent of the International Abolitionist Federation, the National Vigilance Association agreed to address concerns about the international aspect of prostitution and began laying the foundations of an international federation of bodies working towards the abolition of the trade which would be known as the International Bureau for Suppression of Traffic in Persons. An international congress was held in London in Jun 1899 attended by ten delegations from European countries and one from the United States of America, as well as representatives of forty-eight local and national societies for the UK. The first meeting of the International Bureau was held in 1900, and throughout its existence the National Vigilance Association provided the premises, secretariat and the major part of the funding for international work, although the International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons was always a separate organisation. Its constitution guaranteed that there should be a national committee in each of the partner countries. Each of these would send two representatives to sit on the international committee. The assembled representatives would, along with three other members elected by the National Vigilance Association, form the Bureau of the Congress or the central governing body. The NVA evidently saw the Bureau as the machinery for its international work, which would later lead to some tension with the partners. International work ceased during World War I after 1915 when it was decided that each national committee should continue working in its own way. The first official post-war meeting was held in 1920, but it was not until 1923 that national committees of former enemy countries felt able to re-establish international links. The first post-war Congress was held in Graz, Austria in 1924. The International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons became closely involved with the agencies of the newly formed League of Nations which had responsibility for the work towards the suppression of traffic in persons. On the outbreak of World War II in 1939, work was again halted, only fully to resume in 1949 when constituent national committees became particularly active in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Indonesia and the United States of America. Unfortunately, this resumption coincided with a financial crisis within the National Vigilance Association, which was obliged to close down its Travellers' aid work in 1951 and re-assess its role.

After the revision of that organisation's Constitution in 1952-1953 and reappearance as the British Vigilance Association, the International Bureau's work changed. It concentrated on encouraging nation states to ratify the United Nations convention for the suppression of the traffic in persons and of the exploitation of the prostitution of others (2 Dec 1949).

The International Bureau also reported on international travellers' aid work in association with the International Catholic Association of Young Women's Services (ACISJF) and the World Young Women's Christian Association /Amies de la Jeune Fille. In addition, there was particular emphasis on the status of young women working as au pairs. Constituent national committees were particularly active in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Indonesia and the United States of America.

During the latter years of the IBS the organisation was struggling to survive under severe financial restraints and a main preoccupation was retaining its status as a non-governmental organisation with consultative status at the United Nations. The aims of the IBS seemed no longer in tune with the times, and the organisation did not long survive Richard Russell's retirement from ill-health in 1971.

Conditions Governing Access

Gift

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Acquisition Information

All the archives in Strand 4 came to The Fawcett Library from the offices of the British Vigilance Association and International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons, some directly in 1972 and the remainder in 1973 via the Anti-Slavery Society, who had been given the more recent records to use in their own work.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Related Material

The Women's Library holds the archives of 6 organisations in Strand 4 all of which are closely related. By the end of their existence the organisations operated from the same address, often by the same people. The organisations aimed to aid and protect women, minors (including young men) and children in the areas of sexual and social morality. They operated on a regional, national and international basis, finally ceasing activities in the early 1970s when the British Vigilance Association and the Anti-Slavery Society passed the archives to The Fawcett Library. National activity is also represented by the National Vigilance Association archive, whilst the International Bureau for Suppression of Traffic in Persons tells the international story. Strand 4 is particularly closely related to the Strand 3, also held at The Women's Library, because the issues of prostitution and trafficking of women are so closely interrelated. Many of the activists and organisations have integral links and together they form a history of a subject that even now is rarely discussed.

Strand 4 comprises the following archives:

* 4BNC International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons: British National Committee

* 4BVA British Vigilance Association

* 4IBS International Bureau for Suppression of Traffic in Persons

* 4NVA National Vigilance Association

* 4RFR Richard F Russell

* 4TAS Travellers' Aid Society

Please note that Richard F Russell was the general secretary of the International Bureau from 1957-1971 (4RFR). Whilst records re the dissolution of the International Bureau for Suppression of Traffic in Persons in 1971 can be seen at 4BVA/E.

Strand 3 comprises the following related archives:

* 3AMS Association for Moral and Social Hygiene

* 3BGF British Committee of the Continental & General Federation for Abolition of Government Regulation of Prostitution

* 3HJW Henry Joseph Wilson

* 3JBL Josephine Butler Letters Collection

* 3JSM James Stansfeld Memorial Trust

* 3LCA Lancashire & Cheshire Association for the Abolition of the State Regulation of Vice

* 3LNA Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts

* 3NAR National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts

The British Library of Political and Economic Science holds British and Foreign Anti Slavery Society records c1873-c1900 (ref. COLL MISC 0101) whilst Oxford University: Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House holds the records of Anti Slavery International records dating from 1957-1972 (ref. MSS Brit Emp s 16-24 ). As at 2008 a large number of books and archives were still held by the organisation Anti-Slavery International (HQ).