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Burma’s First Sex Magazine Too Hot to Handle

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Download Hnyot is Burma’s first sex education magazine – and most likely the last.

After only one issue, it became the first publication to have its license revoked since the end of military rule.

The Information Ministry said the magazine has violated its permit by publishing what it called ‘near pornography’.

As Banyol Kong Janoi and Cherry Htike report, the magazine, which explores Burma’s newly-found cultural freedom, is too hot to handle.

It’s 5 in the morning in downtown Rangoon. Sales agents are busy distributing today’s magazines and journals.

But one thing is missing: Hnyot – Burma’s first sex education magazine.

“The magazine sold really well. I only had a few copies so it sold out very quickly. Many people came to ask for a copy.”

Hnyot means ‘allure’ in English and it was the first magazine of its kind.

The first issue was published right after the abolition of Burmas’s strict pre-publication censorship laws last August.

Only 1000 copies of the first and only edition were published, and it sold out as soon as it hit the shelves.

There were many raised eyebrows when the magazine was launched, says Ko Oo Swe, the magazine’s editor.

"Nowadays we’re exposed to many kinds of adult entertainment such as online sex, sex web pages and offline adult entertainment in hotels or clubs. We need sex education to avoid unwanted diseases. We published Hnyot to educate young people about how to stay safe.”

The magazine combines sex education and entertainment.

The red label on the front page warns readers that the magazine contains adult material and is for over 18s only.

The Information Ministry has accused the magazine of breaching its license as a fashion publication by printing sexually explicit articles and photos – deemed to be inappropriate for Burma’s conservative culture.

But 27-year-old Win Aung enjoys the magazine.

“Nowadays many adolescents have sex with their partners. We can’t stop them from doing it. But if they don’t know how to protect themselves from viruses and pregnancy, there will be unwanted consequences. I like this magazine a lot because it educates us about these things.”

In 2011, UN AIDS reported that more than 200 thousand Burmese were living with HIV – nearly 40 percent of them were women.

In the same year, an estimated 18 thousand people died of AIDS-related illnesses.

Burma is still a conservative society compared to neighbouring Thailand.

And some are still too shy to talk about sex or HIV – or even to read the magazine.

“We need this kind of magazine, but we have to limit ourselves... not being too open about sex. It’s not good if we discuss it too much.”

But medical professionals want the country to talk more openly about sex, says Hmu Hey Thar Khae, who now works for health awareness NGO.

“This magazine helps our work a lot because it can reach lots of people across the country. It’s our job to spread awareness about preventing sexually-transmitted diseases such as HIV.”

But she and many others still think that the pictures in the magazine are too vulgar.

“Some young people may feel aroused by seeing sexually explicit pictures in the magazine. My parents will not allow me to read this kind of magazine. I have to read this secretly if I want to read it."

Magazine editor Ko Oo Swee shows me the first and only issue of Hnyot.

He admits that he’s prepared for the ban.

"A few years ago when women started appearing in adverts, many people came out and complained about it. They believe that these kinds of things shouldn’t be seen or discussed amongst families. Now, sex education is the next big thing that our conservative society has to accept.”

He highlights the importance of sex education for young people.

"Think about sexually-transmitted diseases like HIV. I’m not sure how accurate the government figures are, but I’m sure we’re among the worst in South East Asia. Thailand has helped control the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases by providing sex education to the public. But here, there’s a lack of sex education for straights, bisexuals and gays... such as using condoms. It’s very important for our society.

Ko Oo Swe plans to appeal the censor board’s decision.

He wants to add more content, focused on HIV prevention and tackling violence against women.

22-year-old accountant Zin Mar can’t wait to see another edition of Hnyot.

“After reading Hnyot, I think we need this kind of magazine because we lack this kind of knowledge. We can’t learn about this at school. Our culture doesn’t allow it. Older people always say that young people shouldn’t be involved and shouldn’t know about these kind of things. But if we don’t know anything, we’re always more likely to do something wrong.”
Last Updated ( Saturday, 26 January 2013 13:55 )  

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