INDONESIA: Condom drive sparks protests
Conservative Muslim groups say promoting condoms will encourage promiscuity
JAKARTA, 21 December 2009 (IRIN) - A campaign to encourage Indonesians to use condoms as part of national HIV/AIDS prevention efforts has drawn criticism from conservative Islamic groups, who say it promotes promiscuity.
"Rather than curbing AIDS, promoting condoms will only further spread the disease," Ismail Yusanto, a spokesman for Hizbut Tahrir, a conservative Islamic political party, told IRIN/PlusNews. "AIDS is spread through injecting drug users and promiscuous sexual behaviour; these things must be stopped."
With the message "Use Condoms, Celebrate Life", Indonesia launched a national condom week on 30 November when free condoms were distributed in nightspots and brothels.
The recent appointment of Julia Perez, a local actress and singer known for her skimpy outfits, as a condom ambassador by the National AIDS Commission has also proved controversial in the world's most populous Muslim nation, where more than 80 percent of its 230 million people follow Islam. Perez caused a stir in 2008 when she gave away a pack of condoms with every purchase of her album, Kama Sutra.
Hizbut Tahrir members staged street rallies across the country in November ahead of World AIDS Day, urging the government to impose strict Islamic law to prevent the spread of the disease.
Targeting risky behaviour
The secretary of the National AIDS Commission, Nafsiah Mboi, defended the campaign to encourage the use of condoms, saying it targeted those most at risk of HIV. "We are targeting people whose sexual behaviour leads to unwanted pregnancies and disease transmission," she told IRIN/PlusNews.
"We can't stop them from doing what they do but we must do something to prevent them from spreading diseases," she added.
According to the National AIDS Commission, about 298,000 people are infected with HIV; the commission estimates that without effective prevention programmes, the number could rise to two million by 2015.
|We are targeting people whose sexual behaviour leads to unwanted pregnancies and disease transmission
About 54 percent of HIV transmission occurs through sex, both heterosexual and homosexual, while injecting drug use accounts for 41 percent.
Condoms are widely available in convenience stores and pharmacies in Indonesia, but according to Mboi, even with the ongoing campaign, the number of people who use condoms remains very small.
DKT International, a social marketing group that promotes condom use, puts condom sales in Indonesia at 100 million annually, according to the National Family Planning Agency (BKKBN). Of an estimated 10 million men who visit sex workers annually, only about 10 percent report using condoms.