June 1, 2012
Easy access to condoms at convenience stores is leading Indonesian teenagers to engage in risky sexual behavior, according to a top official in the government's Child Protection Commission. Asrorun Ni'am Sholeh, CPC's deputy chair, is proposing a ban on condom purchases by unmarried teens. In Indonesia, the minimum marriage age is 16 for females and 19 for males.
"Allowing children to buy condoms and use them to engage in risky sexual behavior is against the principle of child protection," said Sholeh. CPC became alarmed about the situation around Valentine's Day, when convenience stores were giving away condoms with purchases of chocolates.
Indonesia has one of Asia's fastest-growing HIV epidemics, according to UN figures. In 2010, the agency estimated 333,200 people were living with the virus across the vast archipelago.
Artist Merdeka Sirait, of the National Commission on Children, said his non-governmental group conducted a survey in 2007 and found 93 percent of high school students in 12 major cities reported some kind of sexual contact. He worries blocking access to condoms will harm Indonesian youths further, since proper sex education already is lacking.
"Depriving [teenagers] of access to condoms will only increase the risks of them contracting HIV/AIDS," said Sirait. "Condom use among unmarried youngsters may be controversial, but we can't hide from the fact that many teenagers are sexually active."