With the fast approaching World Cup and Olympic Games, Brazil is doing everything it can to prepare its citizens for the hordes of tourists that will visit the county and spend their money. Now we usually hear about multilingual volunteers, some cultural awareness training maybe and some translation; the Brazilians though have taken this to the next level and are educating the country’s sex workers!
A recent article on the website of the International Business Times states that in preparation for the upcoming events in Brazil, prostitutes are being offered free English courses in the city of Belo Horizonte.
You would think these classes wouldn’t be very popular, but the opposite seems to be true: according to Cida Vieira, the president of the Association of Prostitutes in Belo Horizonte, 20 prostitutes have already signed up and another 300 are planning to subscribe. The classes have been organised by the Association, a kind of prostitute ‘union,’ itself and will start in March.
The football stadium of the city, the Mineirao Stadium, will be the home of six football matches during the World Cup in 2014. This will generate a lot of tourism. Vieira: ‘It will be important for the girls who will be able to use English to let their clients know what they are charging and learn about what turns them on.’ [Now this takes localization certainly to another level!]
Because of this, French and Italian courses might also be given. Reuters even states that the Brazilian language (Portuguese) will even be taught as many sex workers are immigrants.
In addition to prostitutes, there are many other people who work in public places that will need to learn English in preparation for the World Cup and the Olympic Games of 2016.
Policemen, waiters and taxi drivers all have to be able to speak at least a little English to communicate with the tourists that will probably swarm the cities. Vieira states that prostitution ‘is a profession too,’ so why not teach these public servants English as well?
Expectations are that the South American country will see about 10 million visitors in 2014, of which 500,000 will only visit Brazil to watch the World Cup football matches. Kamy Akhaven, President and Managing Editor of ProCon.org, believes teaching English to sex workers isn’t a strange idea at all: ‘I imagine a large influx of people working in the sex industry to come to the cities in the coming year. … There will be an influx of prostitutes matching the demand that World Cup fans would bring to the cities. That trend occurred again in South Africa [during the 2010 World Cup] where they were there again to meet the demands of mostly men.’
There is, however, a dark shadow that looms above the Brazilian sex industry – child prostitution. In March 2012, Brazil’s High Court of Justice decided that adults were not necessarily committing a crime when they were having sex with children. Moreover, the age of consent in Brazil has been 14 since 2009.
According to the Economist, child prostitution, although illegal, is very common in Brazil. In 2006, the University of Brasília released a report that stated that there are over 1,000 places where child prostitution takes place. Most of these are located on the coast in cities such as Fortaleza and Rio de Janeiro, but ports and border towns are crowded with underage sex workers as well. According to the Brazilian Multidisciplinary Association for the Protection of Children and Adolescents, there are thousands of children in the city of Fortaleza alone that work in the sex industry. Local activist Joyce in Compassion International: ‘The homes are less than 20 square meters in size where families of up to 10 people — between adults and children — live together. Without any conditions of privacy, there is often the occurrence of domestic violence or sexual abuse against the small ones. Frustrated and without any encouragement, all the children want is to be far from home. So they quit studying and become an easy target for the drug dealers. … In order to maintain their addiction, they simply go to the streets.’
Hopefully the renewed interest in the Brazilian sex industry from countries across the globe will raise awareness about child prostitution and force the Brazilian government to tackle it.
Although a bizarre piece of news, it does give people a fascinating insight into how language, culture, localisation, cultural awareness and business intertwine with the strangest of outcomes.