A reporter from Myanmar Times (the newspaper involved in the scandal referred to in the Guardian article) has written another article (again in English) about the scandal:
In it, she agrees with the Guardian claim that the polite word for the vagina translates to "woman's body", and that other regional languages do not possess similar taboos for the word.
Everybody I spoke to confirmed there is not a polite or formal word in
Myanmar that directly refers to the vagina. This is not the case, I
understand, for a number of ethnic languages in Myanmar, which do have
specific words and fewer if any taboos in using them. It is important
to remember when considering such issues in ethnically diverse Myanmar
that in attempting to work around the sensitivities of one culture you
might be ignoring those of another.[...]
But the closest one gets in Myanmar’s official language is a phrase
that translates as “woman’s body”.
Additionally, she claims that the language does contain a (vulgar) word for the vagina, and that technical words for the vagina exist.
Linguistic experts inform me there is in fact an “etymologically basic
word” in Myanmar for the vagina, but it is the equivalent of the
four-letter English word beginning with “c” that dates back to at
least the 13th century. This Myanmar word does not even appear in
There are also some more technical terms which equate to “inner female
genitalia”, “birth canal” and “women’s reproductive organs”. However,
from what I’ve been told these are usually only used in “legal
settings” and don’t quite have the same precision as vagina.
My linguist friend tells me some dictionaries do include the
Sanskrit/Pali word yoni or yawni, and has been that used in a neutral
way on health and beauty pages in Myanmar-language publications (as it
is also used in English). However, technically yoni refers to the
vulva or external genitalia, whereas the vagina is the internal