BRASIL

Meet Jane : prostitute, mother and model

Material compiled by our regional editor for South America, Jane is a member of ‘Daspu’; a new brand making its mark in the fashion world of Rio. What distinguishes it from other designer brands? All the clothes are designed and produced by Brazilian prostitutes. The project is carried out by a local NGO, Davida('of life') that defends the rights of sex workers in Rio de Janeiro. The name ‘Daspu’- ‘whores’ in Portuguese, was inspired by that of the department store in São Paulo: ‘Daslu’. A reference which was not to the taste of the store’s owners, who have taken the NGO to court.

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Material compiled by our regional editor for South America, Cristiano de Sa Fagundes

Jane is a member of 'Daspu'; a new brand making its mark in the fashion world of Rio. What distinguishes it from other designer brands? All the clothes are designed and produced by Brazilian prostitutes. The project is carried out by a local NGO, Davida ('of life') that defends the rights of sex workers in Rio de Janeiro. The name ‘Daspu’- ‘whores’ in Portuguese, was inspired by that of the department store in São Paulo: ‘Daslu’. A reference which was not to the taste of the store’s owners, who have taken the NGO to court.

Interview with Jane Eloi, prostitute and member of Daspu

Jane Eloi is 32-years-old, HIV positive, a widower, and the mother of three children (none is infected by the virus). It was from her husband- the only person that she had unprotected sex with, that she became infected with HIV. When she found out that she had the infection in 2005, she became suicidal.

I wanted to die. I spent all day in bars in Plaça Tiradentes (Rio’s urban centre), doing nothing but drinking, in desperation. One day, Doroth from Davida, who I didn’t know, came to speak to me in one of the bars. She told me that that she’d been watching me for some time, and invited me to see the NGO where she worked. I went because I had nothing better to do.

Over there I met other prostitutes and I realised that I had the right to a bit of dignity. Everything changed. I discovered that I had rights, like everyone, in particular the right to anti-retroviral drugs given out by the government.

Today I work with the organisation to make our rights known, I distribute condoms, and I look after my colleagues when they need me.”

Jane also takes part, in full humour, in the Daspu fashion shows.

Last year we were invited to participate in the São Paulo arts biennial by an artist (Tadej Pogacar). I turned up in a superb wedding dress, made out of only hotel sheets and condoms. It was brilliant.

Of our most memorable appearances, Rio fashion week was the best. While the world’s greatest designer names gathered at the Marina de Gloria, our girls organised their own parade in the red light district at Plaça Tiradentes. The next day in the paper, there was a huge photo of me next to one of the top model Giselle Bündchen. It was incredible. We couldn’t stop laughing. That was my moment of glory. I never dreamed of anything like that. Me, a girl from the street, sharing a page in the paper with Giselle Bündchen.

But we still suffer from discrimination and violence. Yesterday, some boys took to a group of transvestites with a fire extinguisher. The transvestites had approached the car unkowingly. Some of them fell and were injured. I don’t know what’s up with that kind of people. I despair at these young rich boys.”

Post your questions to Jane. Our regional editor, Cristiano, will pass them on to her.

Library catwalk in Rio on 6 June 2006, the launch date of the book ‘The Daspu Girls’

 

 

Gabriela Leite, director of Davida, speaks at gay pride in Rio, 12 October 2007

 

 

Video and translation by our regional editor for South America, Cristiano Fagundes.

 

I’m not a great speech-maker, I have a quiet voice. But I’m very moved to be here with all the prostitutes of Davida de Daspu, with the whole Brazilian community of prostitutes, (…) to fight for our right to sexual liberty. So that we can practice sex in peace. In Rio and the rest of Brazil, without discrimination. We are, and will always be, together. Thank you.”

The Daspu website: "In the end, we’ve always worked in fashion"

Daspu's homepage We’re prostitutes who’ve been brought together by the NGO ‘Davida’, and we love fashion. We discuss patterns, we draw up the designs and sometimes we even sew the clothes ourselves. We make street-wear (to use in the day or at home), leisure-wear (for the beach, the park or the garden), and fancy clothes (for parties or a carnival). These clothes protest, they stand for the respect of our human rights, and they promote the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. Here, we don’t discriminate against women in other professions, or men. In the end, we’ve always worked in fashion. But now, we’re really excelling ourselves in the field.”