happy prostitute ads condoms birth control

Brazil’s health ministry yanked a campaign attempting to reduce the stigma against sex workers and promote safe sex this week after it drew heavy criticism.

“The role of the ministry is to have specific content to encourage prevention among sex workers, who are a very vulnerable group,” said health minister Alexandre Padilha.

Prostitution is legal in Brazil, and sex workers even have their own holiday. June 2 was “International Prostitutes’ Day.” In celebration, the health ministry had put out a series of ads called “I’m happy being a prostitute.”

Each ad shows a photo of a happy prostitute with quotes that say things like, “I am happy being a prostitute,” and “I cannot be seen without a condom, my love.” They look happy, and they’re noticeably free of Photoshop and excessively glamorous styling. Perhaps most strikingly, they did not have to stand on one leg or lean against anything.

It’s refreshing to see sex workers depicted as real women with legal jobs, not a glamorous woman standing like a flamingo or a salacious cautionary tale.

But even though the ad campaign was designed to help encourage sex workers to practice safe sex and not feel ashamed to seek medical treatment, which are among the health ministry’s goals, Padilha pulled the ads saying he didn’t think it was the image his department should be sending.

As Brazil gets ready for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, people are conscious of its image on the global stage. But the country’s sex workers are getting ready for the events, too, with many of them queuing up for free English classes being offered by the Association of Prostitution.

“English will be very important to communicate with clients during the Cup,” association president Cida Viera said to CNN. “They’ll have to learn how to work out financial deals and also use a specialized vocabulary with sensual words and fetishes.”

Via Gawker/Photo: Shutterstock