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Japanese HIV awareness billboard banned for showing gay man’s underpants

A HIV awareness billboard that was erected in Tokyo’s Ni-chome gay district has been repeatedly banned by local officials because it contained an image of a gay man’s underpants
Even this version of the drawing was considered too racy
Image by Poko Murata

Local authorities in the Japanese capital repeatedly banned a HIV awareness billboard that featured cartoon gay men because one of the men’s underpants could be seen.

The billboard was erected in Toyko’s Ni-chome gay district in Shinjuku by ViiV Healthcare and designed by manga artist Poko Murata.

The billboard depicts a group of men lying down in a circle head-to-head resting against one another – and one of them, a body builder, is wearing just underpants. The rest of the characters on the billboard are fully clothed.

However the billboard was considered too racy by local officials who demanded that the billboard be redesigned after it went up in January.

Murata did as he was asked and produced a modified version of the drawing where the body builder is wearing a tank top and shorts but his underpants could still be seen through an open fly.

However this too was considered too racy by local officials at the Shinjuku Ward Office despite the Shinjuku area being full of hostess bars and nightclubs that advertise themselves with images of women wearing nothing but their underwear.

A third version of the billboard with the bodybuilder even more covered up was produced by the advertising agency that was handling the project – but without Murata’s involvement.

‘The final adjustments is not due to my hand,’ Murata wrote on his blog.

Murata says he believes the reaction to the billboard by local officials amounted to ‘obvious prejudice and discrimination towards gay people.’

Murata had been chosen to design the billboard as part of a competition by ViiV Healthcare – a subsidiary of GlaxoSmithKline and it was supposed to be on display for 6 months.

The company is seeking another artist to design a billboard for the rest of 2014 and despite the censoring of his billboard design Murata still hopes the project can, ‘change the consciousness of public office holders and neighborhood residents,' towards gay people.

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