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Love and Sex Info
“I’ve never felt so guilty in my life,” says Anmol. He’s been with his girlfriend for two years but lately he’s found himself fantasising about her best friend.
“I don’t want to mess up my relationship over something like this but I really don't know how to get her friend out of my mind,” says Anmol. “I’m turned on every time I’m around her.”
Sex toys put the fun into safe sex, say the owners of Nepal's first sex shop 'Sweet Secret' in Kathmandu.
Sex toys are a tricky topic in South Asian countries. In India they’re officially banned – though there’s a lively black market trade, and vibrators are often sold as ‘massage’ products. But meanwhile across the border in Nepal, the authorities take a more positive attitude.
“When new customers come here the first thing they ask us is ‘Is this legal?’” says Manish Paudel, the owner of the first shop for sex toys in Nepal. When we show our licence they’re relieved to find out that it’s legal what they are doing.”
Manish’s shop Sweet Secret is located on one of Kathmandu’s busiest streets, but the entry is discretely tucked away in a corner ally. That was one of the criteria the government office set for Manish before he could open his shop. Though legal in Nepal, his products can’t be openly displayed.
This restriction isn’t a problem, Manish says. His shop has become so successful that he’s opening three more branches across Nepal in the coming months.
Promoting safe sex
Sweet Secret sells a wide range of imported products, from dildos and colourful vibrators to blow-up dolls. But most customers that come here aren’t looking for kinky toys. It’s the basic condoms that sell the best.
“Condoms are slowly becoming widely available in supermarkets all over the country. But people still feel uncomfortable buying from there. Here they feel like we have seen it all,” says Manish, who started his career distributing condoms and promoting safe sex in Nepal’s rural areas.
“Because of my long career promoting safe sex as an NGO worker in Nepal it was easier for me to convince the authorities of the health care reasons behind opening this shop.”
Manish says a lot of his customers are infected with sexually transmitted diseases and are looking for safer ways to enjoy themselves. By using sex toys safely, they’re less likely to be spreading disease.
Nepalis are becoming increasingly aware of safe sex, a report by the National Centre for AIDS and STD Control in Nepal recently confirmed. In 2011 the number of HIV infections and active syphilis cases stabilized.
Not the real thing
Co-owner of Sweet Secret, Prabin Dhakal, says he tries his best to boost his customer’s morale when they come to him with questions. Sex education in Nepal leaves much to be desired, he says.
“There are men who come in here with the question if a blow-up doll feels the same as a real woman. Of course it's plastic – our toys are only a substitute, not the real thing!”
To answer the many questions they get from the often shy Nepalese, Sweet Secret has an online question desk on its website. The owners say they get as many as 200 questions a day.
“We take the time to answer all these questions. We’ve now invited a doctor to come to the shop once a week, so our customers can consult him before buying our products,” Prabin explains.
Nepal’s sweet secret is slowly becoming a topic of public discussion, with more sex shops opening around the country. Nepali men who go abroad to work now pick up toys for their wives before they leave.
And who knows, they might be taking Nepal’s changing morals with them across South Asia’s borders.
Text and photo by Devi Boerema
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