Want to stop the spread of HIV? Limit the availability of condoms. So goes the reasoning behind a draft law being developed in the Bengkulu province of Indonesia, on the southwest coast of Sumatra.
Under the proposed law, only pharmacies and other stores licensed to sell medicines could offer contraceptives—and they would be urged to be selective about whom they sell to. As one lawmaker explained, more young people would remain sexually abstinent until they get married if it were harder for them to acquire the means to avoid pregnancy—and therefore wouldn’t be exposed to HIV/AIDS.
Condoms distribution has been controversial in Indonesia for several years. The health ministry launched National Condom Week, the country’s first campaign to promote the use of condoms, in coordination with World AIDS Day in 2007.
In 2013 leaders of the government-funded Indonesian Ulema Council, the top Muslim clerical body in the country, criticized the campaign, saying it legitimized casual sex. The ministry stopped the campaign.
That same year, in response to shops selling condoms along with gift chocolates ahead of Valentine’s Day, the council leaders urged the government to regulate the sale of condoms. “We reject the condomization of society,” said the council’s Ma’ruf Amien. “The government should restrict the sale of condoms to married couples. If they are sold to the public freely, people can misuse them to engage in sex out of wedlock.”
Deaths from AIDS are increasing more rapidly in Indonesia than in most of the rest of Asia, thanks to a lack of antiretroviral drugs and other factors, UNAIDS reports (pdf, pg. 64). From 2005 and 2013, they increased by 427%: