Brazil Cancels "Happy to be a Prostitute" Ad

PHOTO: Prostitutes work in the Copacabana neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.Douglas Engle/AP Photo
Prostitutes work in the Copacabana neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

An online ad in which a woman says that she is "happy to be a prostitute," was recently pulled off the web in Brazil.

The ad was part of a campaign to reduce discrimination against prostitutes, and was commissioned by Brazil's Ministry of Health.

On Sunday, the "happy to be a prostitute," ad had been posted on the DST-AIDS department's Facebook page, and website. The agency focuses on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and works frequently with prostitutes, providing workshops on safe sex techniques.

It was published along with similar ads, in which prostitutes asked men to wear condoms, or said that they would not do business with a man who doesn't use a condom, which is known in Brazil as the "little shirt."

But the government backtracked on this campaign just two days after it had begun.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, the Ministry of Health said that DST-AIDS officials, posted the happy to be a prostitute ad online without prior approval from their superiors.

Health Minister Alexandre Padilha added that it was not the government's job to make value-judgements about prostitution. He said that the Ministry of Health should focus exclusively on messages that "provide orientations on how to prevent STD's."

Charging for sex is legal in Brazil, and as the country prepares for the 2014 World Cup, there have even been reports of prostitutes lining up for free English lessons, provided by an NGO.

But even if their job is somewhat tolerated, prostitutes still suffer widespread discrimination in the South American country, and are also one of the groups that is most exposed to violence.

Cida Vieira, the president of the Association of Prostitutes in Minas Gerais State, was angered by the Ministry of Health's decision to take down the ads.

Vieira told Brazilian TV station Globo that the campaign was designed with input from prostitute focus groups, in which she also participated. One of the main concerns that emerged from these meetings, according to Vieira, was that prostitutes are seen as "scum."