Safe Sex Still Not An Option For Conservatives In Indonesia
Author: Jean-Yves Dushime
Thursday 9th of August 2012 06:09:04 PM

Recently there was a very good article in The Independent on how religious intolerance is undermining the fight against AIDS in Indonesia. In the article Katherine Butler talks about Dr Mboi, Indonesia's minister of health, who was plunged into a firestorm on joining government in June, after launching a campaign to promote safe sex among 15 to 24 year olds. The former paediatrician was denounced as "obscene" by the Islamic Defenders Front or FPI - the group that led protests forcing Lady Gaga to cancel her Jakarta concerts in the spring. She was summoned to parliament to explain herself, where she faced a protest organised by the radical Islamist movement Hizbut Tahrir, accusing her of peddling "free sex". The solution offered by one of the conservatives was to "Keep the disease away ... by improving the nation's morality. There are positive ways to prevent HIV transmission, ways that do not follow the Western style". This kind of argumentation -that equals condoms to a "western style", something foreign/distant for the locals- really does not help the cause, it just becomes another excuse for people not wanting to protect themselves. Saying morality is enough defence against this disease is simply turning a blind eye to the problem and not being proactive enough to tackle it. Meanwhile the situation in Indoensia is becoming bigger and complex with majority of new cases being housewives infected by their husbands, these women often are not even aware of the infection, some of them giving birth to seropositive babies, who are often abandoned to orphanages... All of these troubels are forming a heavy burden to families who were already struggling to get by. There is a hypocrisy with the authorities when it comes to prostitution and sexual promiscuity; they are tolerated and practiced often, but introducing protection in these liaisons suddenly becomes a moral problem. The priority of the authorities should be to get real results and to tackle the disease before it is too late. We applaude Dr Mboi's efforts and we hope that all the powers that be in Indonesia can focus on saving lives, because this is what's most important.



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