Everyone always seems to think that they have prostitutes all figured out: that sex workers, especially those who are females, all have either "daddy issues," were abused, are impoverished, and most importantly, miserable. However, a formerly-running Brazilian ad campaign tried to shoot down the stereotype with its jolly feature phrase "I am happy being a prostitute." Following a surge of criticism, the Brazilian health ministry pulled the plug on this ridiculous campaign and we should be relieved.
Health Minister Alexandre Padilha ceased this campaign because he felt that his office was sending the wrong message ... and boy, was he ever right.
The purposes behind the ad campaign were actually well intended, as it aimed to promote safe sex and remove the stigma placed on sex workers, especially given the upcoming surge of business the 2016 Olympics will bring. To be fair, the ministry also had other posters with more practical messages in circulation such as this one, which reads "I cannot be seen without a condom, my love."
And this one which reads encourages the use of condoms to protect against STDs and sexually transmitted diseases:
Apart from these ads that actually serve a purpose, it is great that the health ministry recognized that it probably had no authority in parading around this unsupported idea that prostitutes are content with their professions. Of course, who is to say that a sex worker can't be satisfied (take it as a pun, if you please) with making a living off of his or her body? Unless the health ministry has gotten to know every prostitute in Brazil and has surveyed them to find that they are all smiles and love their job, their "happy prostitutes" campaign was at best, laughable, and at worst, an utter embarrassment.
This ad campaign was a fail not just because it was presumptuous but also because it was disrespectful and insensitive.
Though legal prostitution is widespread and usually includes age and sometimes health regulations, this does not keep the profession from being one that is safe or desirable. Not only does Brazil account for 15% of South America's human trafficking cases but the country is also home to one of the world's hot spots for child sex trafficking. The figures for sex trade in Brazil are alarming enough without accounting for the individuals who have fallen into prostitution due to poverty or drug addiction. Therefore, running a campaign with the main slogan claiming that prostitutes are happy does not help break down the stigma of prostitution but adversely makes a mockery of sex workers.
As prostitution is legal in Brazil, the health ministry's idea of promoting safe sex between prostitutes and their clients was laudable; but it probably should think twice before it attempts to nonsensically glamorize a profession in which its workers are exploited and overall probably quite unhappy.