Concerned about a surge in sexual activity among Indonesian teenagers, a top official of the government’s Indonesian Child Protection Commission says teenagers shouldn’t be allowed to buy condoms.
Easy access to prophylactics at the neighbourhood convenience store is leading to loose and dangerous behavior by the country’s youth, said Asrorun Ni’am Sholeh, deputy chair of the Commission.
“Allowing children to buy condoms and use them to engage in risky sexual behavior is against the principle of child protection,” Sholeh said, adding that he had conveyed the proposal to government agencies concerned. He would not say when or if they would carry out a ban.
Sholeh said only teenagers that are married should be allowed to buy the basic birth control. In Indonesia, the minimum age for marriage is 19 years old for men and 16 years old for women.
He said his agency was alarmed after convenience stores gave away condoms with purchases of chocolate on Valentine’s Day this year.
Despite the government’s concern, condom use is still surprisingly low in Indonesia, says Yayasan DKT Indonesia, an organisation promoting the use of condoms.
Child-rights campaigner Arist Merdeka Sirait said blocking access to condoms will end up hurting Indonesian teenagers as the lack of proper sex education means many are going to engage in risky pre-marital sex anyway.
“Condoms are important because of increasing sexual activity among teenagers,” said Sirait, the chair of the National Commission on Children, a non-governmental organisation. “Depriving them of access to condoms will only increase the risks of them contracting HIV/Aids. Condom use among unmarried youngsters may be controversial but we can’t hide from the fact that many teenagers are sexually active.”
According to the United Nations, the HIV epidemic in Indonesia is among the fastest growing in Asia. A UN report in 2010 said there were an estimated 333,200 people living with HIV in Indonesia across almost all parts of the sprawling archipelago.
Sirait said a survey conducted by his agency in 2007 revealed that 93 percent of high school students in 12 major Indonesian cities said they had already had some kind of sexual contact. At least 83 percent said they had watched porn.
“These findings are every parent’s nightmare. But teenagers act irresponsibly because there’s a lack of sexual education at home and in school,” Sirait said. “Telling them that sex out of wedlock is a sin will just not work.”-By Ahmad Pathoni