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War Surgery and Medicine

Closing of Legalised Brothels

Closing of Legalised Brothels

The opinions of a conference at GHQ MEF in March 1942 were expressed in the following terms:

It was unanimously agreed that the use of brothels should be discouraged:


The existence of brothels is an incentive to immorality, for it is popularly supposed by soldiers that medical examination of prostitutes renders them free from the risk of infecting those who consort with them. It should be pointed out to all troops that this is not true ….


The use of brothels is, from many points of view, morally undesirable and it is likely that young soldiers may be led by more hardened comrades into consorting with prostitutes, merely because such conduct is rendered easier by the existence of a brothel area.

DMS 2 NZEF attended a conference at GHQ MEF on 1 August 1942 when VD policy in Egypt was considered. Following a discussion in which many divergent views were expressed, it was decided that the Birket area should be closed and placed out of bounds. This action was taken on 12 August 1942, and its wisdom was reflected in the much lower average incidence of VD among New Zealand troops in Egypt.

Throughout 1943 the incidence of VD was low–the lowest it was in any one year in 2 NZEF, notwithstanding the fact that from May to September all New Zealand troops were congregated in Maadi Camp after the conclusion of the North African campaign and prior to their departure for Italy. As other factors in 2 NZEF remained the same, it can only be concluded that the closing of the ‘Birket’ was mainly responsible for the gratifying reduction.