Nefertiti TV

New Egyptian network to deal with sex and birth control.

Published May 8, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

In the past 70 years Egypt's population has risen from 18 million to more than 60 million, partially because of the difficulty in promoting family planning among the poor. With this explosion comes an increasingly warped sense of sexual propriety. Several sexual abuse cases have recently appeared in the news, with one teacher jailed after assaulting some pupils.

To educate the population about sex and birth control, Egypt is launching Nefertiti TV, a new television network named after the ancient queen. Topics previously thought to be taboo for discussion in Egyptian culture, such as sex, will be addressed in soap operas and chat shows, and broadcast via satellite across the country.

The people behind Nefertiti TV, including Health Minister Ismail Salam, aren't stupid. By using the image of Queen Nefertiti, they hope to attract as many viewers as possible. Nefertiti, the wife of Ikhnaton, was queen of Egypt an estimated 3,500 years ago. Her name means "the beautiful one is come," and she is also known as "the most beautiful woman in the world." Unlike other members of Egyptian royalty, a mystique surrounds Nefertiti because of both her beauty and the fact that her body has yet to be found. A bust of her is one of the most important pieces in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, and her image is used all over Egypt to sell everything from perfume to souvenirs.

In other words, if Nefertiti can't get your attention for straight talk about sex -- even if it's part of a game show -- nobody can.

"Sex education will be for everyone -- mothers to help their daughters, young women and men," said Fatima Fouad, director of the new channel. "This television channel will leave no issue untouched and everything will be discussed bravely, honestly and with freedom."

Egypt is greeting the channel's launch with anticipation. Will Nefertiti TV be able to curb overpopulation, teach children about sex and stop people from committing sex crimes? Producers are downplaying the channel's potential for controversy, arguing that television is a good medium with which to educate all social classes and ages and that the channel is long overdue.

According to Fouad, the producers do not expect religious opposition "because Islam dictates that everything must be taught scientifically."

By Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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Birth Control Egyptian Protests Middle East Sex Education