Author: Rithy Lomorpich (Yuki), November 24 2015 - Red carpet, flashing cameras and glamorously dressed people - no, it's not the Oscars, but the launch of the second series of Love9, a hugely popular TV show addressing sexual and reproductive health issues for young Cambodians through discussion and drama. To welcome the new series, I joined four members of the Love9 cast at one of the biggest cinemas in Phnom Penh for its first screening.

A few months into the series and we’re as popular as ever. Aired on MyTV and CTN, the most popular TV channels in Cambodia, the programme reaches millions of people each week.

In the new series - which includes a 30 minute drama and a 15 minute discussion with presenters and sexual health experts - we follow the lives of characters as they navigate the highs and lows of their relationships and deal with common issues surrounding sexual health such as contraceptives, multiple sexual partners, sexual orientation and consent.

An explosive argument

In a recent episode focused on violence against women, the main character Vandy, while socialising with her friends, is asked by her drunk husband to have sex. Angry and embarrassed, Vandy refuses - leading to an explosive argument between the couple. In the morning, Vandy’s husband realises his mistake and desperately works to apologise and repair their relationship. In the discussion part of the programme, a gender expert explored why domestic violence happens and its emotional, mental and physical consequences.

While writing and directing for Love9, young people are constantly in the forefront of my mind. The programme aims to help young people to be brave when talking about sensitive topics such as love and sex with their families and friends. In particular, many young girls can be shy when talking about sex with their loved ones. We hope to break this barrier by educating young people in entertaining ways about sexual and reproductive health and rights so they can confidently make healthier and better choices in their lives.

Sex on TV

It’s heartening to see how far we've come since the first series. When we first started, some people were surprised to see a program about sex on TV. They felt that talking about it might encourage more young people to have sex.

The popularity of the programme as space for discussion has proved them wrong. We receive hundreds of comments on social media each week from people sharing their views on topics raised in the programme - and telling us what they’ve learned.

As one audience member said on Facebook: "I really like the performance of the Love9 actors and actresses. Even though I’m young, the program helps educate me to understand sexual and reproductive health more clearly."

I hope audiences will continue to enjoy the new series. As a result of the programme, more people will have better knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health and rights - and be able to discuss these issues more easily with their family and peers.

Love9 airs on MyTV every Friday at 7pm with a repeat broadcast on Saturday at 5pm. The project is funded by USAID [United States Agency for International Development] and UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund].

Click here to access this BBC Media Action blog and related links on their work in Cambodia.
Image credit/Caption: BBC Media Action "Yuki (middle) celebrates the launch of the second series of Love 9 with drama cast members."

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