A shot of the cover at issue with enlarged blacked-out areas

Bold Australian students see their feminist statement blacked out by the authorities

A student magazine in Australia has been taken off the shelves due to a controversial front cover featuring images of 18 vaginas belonging to students at the University of Sydney.

The editorial team at Honi Soit, which is a weekly publication run by students at Sydney University, created the cover in order to make a statement on how female genitalia are 'artificially sexualised… or stigmatised'.

Lawyers at the university had taken steps to censor the cover before it was sent to print, by placing black bars over the vulvae. However, the bars were not fully opaque and the genitalia could still be seen, leading to the Student Representative Council ruling to withdraw all 4,000 copies as it breached the NSW Crimes Act.

The issue’s editor-in-chief Hannah Ryan expressed her dismay at the decision, saying: “The cover was meant to be an empowering message to women that they don’t need to be ashamed of their bodies. This response, and the fact that it is possibly criminal, is therefore incredibly disappointing.”

The Honi Soit website is currently unavailable, but a post on the magazine’s Facebook page said: “We are tired of society giving us a myriad of things to feel about our own bodies. We are tired of having to attach anxiety to our vaginas. We are tired of vaginas being either artificially sexualised (see: porn) or stigmatised (see: censorship and airbrushing). We are tired of being pressured to be sexual, and then being shamed for being sexual.”

One of the students who featured on the magazine cover, 18-year-old Lily Patchett, told news.com.au that she does not regret being part of the feature. “I'm proud to be a part of the project because I've already had women come up to me and thank me for helping them in the process of coming to terms with their own bodies, and how in some ways they don't fit the porn-standardised lie, but are still normal and still beautiful.”

Patchett went on to say that she expected Honi Soit to be criticised for the cover, but did not understand why.

“When is it going to be appropriate to show our bodies as they are, and not in some false, made-up way? Because if there is a place and time, not enough people know about it.”

The magazines were originally on the shelves for only three hours before being recalled, but the issue is now available once again. Students can now pick up copies with the 'offending' cover removed from university buildings. Original magazines with covers still attached come sealed in plastic packaging with a 'Category 1 Restriction' warning and can only be collected from a student office by providing proof of age.

The blacked out areas on the image of the cover above have been enlarged.