|Myanmar ‘lifestyle’ mag pushes the boundaries with sex coverage
With its glossy pages of pouting models and racy romance tips, Myanmar's first sex education magazine has got the usually demure nation hot under the collar. ‘Hyno’ has sparked fevered debate since hitting Myanmar's bookstores in November, where it has become a must-read among the young and curious, AFP’s Shwe Yinn Mar Oo reports.
Perhaps tame by western standards, Hyno's photo spreads of semi-clad women and columns espousing “bedroom secrets’’ and “the benefits of cuddling’’ – to the more cryptic “modern lies before marriage’’ – have raised eyebrows in conservative Myanmar, earning it an adult-rating. But its editor says it is not risqué.
“This magazine is a combination of sex education and entertainment,’’ Ko Oo Swe told AFP, saying the red label on the front page warning it is for over 18s has stirred the unfavorable comparisons. “Issues about sex remain hidden in Myanmar. Our society is becoming more open but I think sex education is still weak.’’
Hyno – which translates as “enchant’’ or “hypnotise’’ – is the first magazine of its kind and is proving very popular despite the relatively-expensive US$3 cover price at bookstores and street stalls.
Its debut follows the abolition in August of Myanmar's stringent pre-publication censorship.
But some bookstores refuse to stock the magazine, saying its aim is to titillate rather than educate.
Ominously, the Ministry of Information sent a letter to the interim press council registering its unhappiness with the “unethical’’ lifestyle magazine.
The ministry accuses Hyno of breaching its license as a fashion publication by printing “sex-related articles and photos that are not appropriate for Myanmar's culture.’’
“I even saw some comments on the internet saying how shameless the editor is to print such magazine,’’ said Ko Oo Swe, urging people to avoid criticism until they have read it and seen how he has “stuck to the cultural rules.’’
Despite the uproar, Hyno's young readers believe it could play a major role in raising awareness of sexually transmitted diseases and, in the longer term, shifting rigid social mores as Myanmar edges out of decades of isolation.
“For those who are quite old-fashioned it [sex education] is a very shameful thing,'' said Yoon Lae Khin, a 20-year-old student, who is also a volunteer for the Myanmar Medical Association. “My mother understands there are things we need to know, but it is difficult to talk about sex in front of my father and siblings. So we need to get this awareness from magazines.’’
Medical professionals have joined Hyno's corner saying it is high time the country talked about sex.
“Young people do not have enough knowledge so problems such as underage pregnancy, pregnancy before marriage and infection with HIV/AIDS and venereal disease occur,'' said Khine Soe Win, a project officer for a youth development programme with the MMA.
“Old-fashioned people turn their noses up in disapproval’’ of sex education, he added, criticizing them for judging the issue by the yardstick of “a culture they don't understand.’’
His comments were echoed by Ne Win, a doctor working for the United Nations Population Fund in Myanmar, who believes a modern, progressive media can fill the void left by the nation's reluctance to promote sex education.
“Our activities are not as strong as media coverage which can reach hundreds of readers in a short time,’’ Ne Win said.