Beauty is considered a ‘human right’ in this country

Beauty is an elusive and fickle little thing. Yet most of us find ourselves striving for it on a daily basis – subjecting ourselves to the all that poking and prodding to make our hair straighter, our teeth whiter, and pores practically invisible.

In the United States, all this primping generally comes at a price – and out of our own pockets no less. In Brazil, however, this isn’t the case. Rather, natives are considered to have “the right to beauty.”

The government supports this right by subsidizing nearly half a million surgeries every year, offering plastic surgeries at public hospitals either for free or at a low-cost, Vice reports.

And many can’t say no to the surgeries as beauty is generally perceived as being so central for the job market, for finding a spouse and for getting ahead in the South American country.

However, it’s not without risk. There is also a dark side to this “right to beauty,” Vice reports, with many in Brazil considering the surgeries, which are free or cheaper than their private counterparts, to be “risky affairs.”

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Yet they remain popular — many procedures often including wait times anywhere from several months to even years. That popularity has made Brazil the second-largest consumer of plastic surgery in the world, clocking up around 1.2 million surgeries each year.

The idea of beauty being a human right can be traced right back to the 1950’s when a surgeon named Ivo Pitanguy convinced then-president Juscelino Kubitschek that the right to beauty was as vital as any other health need, arguing that ugliness caused so much psychological suffering that it should be considered a humanitarian issue.

Initially, the main beneficiaries were individuals with congenital deformities or burn victims. However, these days the majority of procedures are believed to be purely for aesthetic reasons with surgeons and residents purposely blurring the lines between reconstructive and aesthetic procedures in order to get them approved by the government.

However, these hospitals have largely become a testing ground for innovative procedures and plastic surgeons in training, essentially exposing these patients to more risks.

Concerningly, few regulations are in place to protect these patients from malpractice and, given they tend to be lower-income earners, it can be difficult for them to get justice if the procedure goes wrong.

In effect, patients agree to the risk of becoming experimental subjects for the exchange of potential beauty – arguably, a price too high to pay.

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