Despite the abundance of adult-oriented magazines, video and entertainment made available to those of us in Japan and the western world, it wasn’t until the end of 2012 that South-East Asian country Myanmar had an adult-only magazine of its own.
Prior to 2012, Myanmar’s magazines, books and newspapers were all bound by strict publishing laws and were often edited prior to their release by the ultra-conservative government. But thanks to changes to the law and the decision to remove the strict media sanctions, Myanmar’s publishing industry is witenessing a something of a rebirth, with the first private newspapers in more than 20 years due to go on sale later this year.
One of the first magazines to take advantage of this new, more relaxed set of laws was Hnyo – Myanmar’s first ever legally-published adult magazine. Although its content is unlikely to shock western audiences and those of us who grew up with lockable doors and access to the Internet, the magazine has caused quite a stir in its homeland, presenting erotic images and offering tips and techniques for a healthy sex life while providing information to help “boost people’s awareness of sex and sexual diseases.”
Retailing for little more than the price of a soft drink, the first issue of the Hnyo went on sale on November 27th last year for 3,000 kyat (around US$2). Promptly snapped up by consumers starved of titillating content or simply wishing to own a copy of the landmark publication, the magazine became an overnight success, and heralded the beginning of a new, freer-thinking Myanmar.
While the magazine’s risqué content and revealing images certainly raised plenty of eyebrows, the most shocking thing for consumers was actually a small block of text on the front cover. Advertised and sold as “strictly for adults only” – the like of which Myanmar has never seen – consumers couldn’t help but wonder what its pages could possibly contain, and Hnyo‘s publishers soon found themselves in the centre of the media spotlight.
As well as featuring a typical array of photos of scantily dressed women in sexy poses and articles such as “bedroom secrets”, “how to be popular with women” and “sex Q&A”, the magazine also dedicates many of its pages to sex education, something which is sorely lacking in the conservative country:
“The main drive behind our magazine is ‘health education’,” Hnyo‘s editor-in-chief told local media, “if we raise awareness about sex and sexually transmitted diseases, we can help protect ourselves from them. Myanmar lacks any form of basic sex education- even as we mature into adulthood we still have little to no real knowledge about sex.”
Clever marketing speak or not, with the content of the magazine barely on-par with decades-old publications like Playboy and FHM, it’s difficult to see the harm that a few racy images could possibly do to the country. Moreover, with the removal of its pre-publication censorship system and the release of magazines like Hnyo, it’s refreshing to see Myanmar showing signs of growth and freedom of expression.
Or so we thought.
While translating the content of this story from our sister site RocketNews24 Japan, we received word that Myanmar’s first adult magazine had, despite recent changes to the law, had its publishing licence revoked. As well as arguing that the December issue of the magazine had “deviated from its charter as a fashion magazine”, Myanmar’s new reformist government felt that Hnyo‘s content was indecent and not in line with that which the publisher’s licence permitted.
Despite there still being enormous demand for the magazine from both men and women alike, many of Myanmar’s bookshops remain wary of stocking material that some may find offensive. Laws and censorship issues aside, Hnyo and adult magazine that follow will certainly have a battle on their hands.
[ Read in Japanese ]