Sex education and censorship in Myanmar

We all have that one thing we wish we knew about sooner in life and most of us would agree that proper “sex education” is one of them. The importance of proper sex education to a young person going through early stages of adult life cannot be understated. I grew up in a conventional Asian household with strict Buddhist beliefs in Myanmar. Therefore, it was unheard of for any children to receive useful advice on how to approach the topic of “sex” from adults.

My parents never sat me or any of my siblings down to have “the talk” either. Most of what I know about sex is learnt through either the internet or from personal experience. I believe my parents never talked to us about the topic of sex as it’s considered a taboo subject in a traditional Buddhist society.

Therefore, I would like to address how these traditions and cultural norms could be stalling the progress of the county in an ever-changing society. Traditional and religious beliefs should never get in the way of learning about the skills that are required to navigate human relationships and manage one’s own sexual health.

“Religion is a natural phenomenon. The concept of religions is transmitted culturally, through language and symbolism, not through genes. You may get your father’s nose and your mother’s musical ability through your genes, but if you get your religion from your parents, you get it the way you get your language, through upbringing.” – Breaking the spell

If we’re capable of teaching our children the abstract concepts of religion at an early age, there is not a shred of doubt that we can definitely teach them the proper sex education which will be more beneficial and have tangible results on their lives.

Sex education in Myanmar

Recently, my home country of Myanmar made a headline over a newly proposed school curriculum which would include the topic on sex education. The announcement drew criticisms from mostly right-wing conservatives and religious folks for its depiction of sexual content and concern over its potential to encourage premarital sex.

I’m completely aware that humans are resistant to any change whether it’s for the betterment of the society as a whole or otherwise. However, it’s a disgrace for full-grown adults to prevent young people from learning something so essential and basic as sex education.

Sex Ed in Myanmar Cover Art by me

The fact of the matter is that young people can easily find more information on the topic of sex online regardless. However, proper sex education taught in school classroom can be thoroughly sorted and tamed to fit the appropriate age group, if it’s done right.

After reading through the whole article and speaking to some of my friends back home about it, I realized that most people are more than happy to welcome the addition of such “sex-education” to a school textbook. So, this obviously is a case where the voices of a fringe minority group are overshadowing the vast majority, who are simply sitting on the sideline.

In addition, most teachers find it uncomfortable to approach the subject of sex education once again due to Myanmar’s long-standing religious and traditional view towards “taboo subjects”. This behavior projected by the teachers will further delay the progress in learning for generations to come. Imagine not wanting to cover the subject of reproduction simply because it makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s an unacceptable behavior and attitude for any smart teachers to uphold.

Silencing the voice

While many people decided to stay silent about the opposition, there was one person who spoke out and his name is Kyaw Win Thant. He’s a 31 years old doctor from Meikhtila who criticized the religious groups for their stance on the introduction of “sex education” to a school setting. His criticisms of the conservative Buddhists were not very well-received.

He was asked to apologize to the conservative Buddhists and their followers at a Buddhist monastery, where a mob of angry people gathered to serve him “the justice”. You can see in the video that people were outraged and ready to inflict harm on someone for speaking the truth about the bad influence of conservative Buddhism.

Kyaw Win That was then escorted into a police van and taken into custody. Here we have a man arrested for his outspoken criticisms online and sentenced to 21 months in prison for insulting Buddhism, which is preposterous!

Censorship in Myanmar

It would be foolish to believe that a country that is so intolerant towards freedom of speech and expression can be labeled “democratic”. In which free democratic society do you get arrested and imprisoned for speaking up the truth? Oh right, in Myanmar!

Over the years, I’ve read countless articles on journalists and activists getting harsh prison sentences for simply stating their opinions or trying to uncover the truth about government mismanagement. Senior military officers and government officials are notorious for suing people over remarks they make on social media and a series of other “cybercrimes”.

This is an abuse of power, plain and simple. It is unethical to arrest someone over an online remark, unless you’re an insecure and egotistical autocrat.

The worst offence is that the government tries to act kind and generous by pardoning wrongfully imprisoned journalists and outspoken activists from prison every year. This seemingly kind gesture doesn’t hold water regardless of how genuine the government claimed it to be. 

What is the point of releasing activists and journalists if you’re going to keep around the ridiculous censorship laws that put them in prison in the first place?

I have never been one who believes in the preaching of any religions. However, I believe that everyone has the rights to their freedom of religion and expressions, even if it means believing in something that’s contrary to facts and science.

Religion was first created with the intention of uniting people on the same goal and belief, not the other way around. We must remember that if we were to keep it around on our journey to making meaningful progress.

Politicians and religious leaders like to use faith as a wedge to divide the people. We must realize that they’re nothing more than rhetoric of people with agendas. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be riled up by religious rhetoric to commit their dirty deeds.

We, as citizens of a country, must strive towards abolishing these outdated laws which act as nothing more than “cheat codes” for those in power.

We must hold them accountable to the same standards and rules that apply to everyone living and breathing in the country.

Ultimately, we have to bring an end to the traditions and norms that would hold the country back from making real progress on the world stage.

Stay curious!

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