With no word for “vagina,” language limits Myanmar’s gender activists

A woman showers outside her shack in Yangon on August 18, 2015. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)

Scandal struck recently when an English-language newspaper in Myanmar published the word “vagina” – not because the article was lewd, but because the Burmese language has no linguistic equivalent to describe that part of the female body. Lack of language is just one taboo that women’s rights activists face when pushing back against gender inequality in the country, according to The Guardian, which explained that the only “polite” term for that portion of women’s anatomy translates to “woman’s body.” Women in Myanmar face difficulty talking about their periods — It’s considered unacceptable to wash skirts and underwear worn by women in the same vessel as men’s clothes and they should never be hung where men may walk under them – but the discrimination is not limited to menstruation.

“The traditional view in Myanmar is that women’s genitals are dirty, which leads to degrading views about women in general. When society degrades women no one respects them. Sex education is important in teaching women to value themselves,” Daw Htar Htar of the Akhaya Women’s Association said. The group Daw Htar Htar runs helps women discuss sexual and reproductive health to help eliminate the stigma of their bodies.

A larger conversation about women’s rights in Myanmar has erupted after new birth control restriction, believed to target ethnic minorities became law earlier this year.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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