Muslim Hate of Condoms

Muslim Women on Condom Machines: “Don’t ruin our culture, Remove these machines”

By Gudrun Schultz

CHENNAI, India, December 14, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Attempts to install condom vending machines in India’s capital have met with fierce resistance by Muslim groups. Street protests followed the government’s announcement that it plans to install 500 condom vending machines in the capital and 1000 more throughout the state.

“We must fight AIDS, but these machines at public places will only promote sex outside marriage among the younger generation,” said MH Jawahirullah, head of the Muslim Progressive Party, in an interview with Australian News yesterday.

Strong conservative forces in the country have shown staunch resistance to efforts to adopt Western liberal policies towards life issues.

“The government is spreading condom culture through these machines under the pretext of fighting AIDS,” said Fatheema Jalal, convenor of one Muslim group. “By this, our society will get more permissive and our youth will be ruined.”

HIV/AIDS infection rates in India are second only to South Africa, with more than five million people carrying the disease. 

Condom use is at the forefront of India’s strategy for slowing the spread of the disease, despite research that shows condoms are far less effective than advocates claim. A 2003 study by the UN AIDS Program admitted that condoms have a 10% failure rate in preventing transmission of the virus, while other studies have found those numbers to be as high as 55 %. (For coverage of the UN report see: http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2003/jun/03062303.html)

India’s National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) says of condom use: “The most successful and practical way to prevent the transmission [of HIV/AIDS] is the use of condoms. Condoms are not only affordable but also user friendly. “ The organization has been working with the Tamil Nadu government to bring in the condom vending machines as part of a program to promote condom use and availability. (For the full statement, go to:

 http://www.nacoonline.org/prog_condomprg.htm)

David Green, senior research scientist with the Harvard institute on Population Control, said in a report recently that condoms have not been found to be “user friendly,” despite advocates’ claims.  “Part of the proof of this observation is the disappointing low levels of consistent condom use after more than 20 years of condom promotion in the developing world.” (Baptist Press) A one-time condom advocate himself, Green now promotes the strategy of encouraging abstinence and faithfulness as the first weapons in the fight against the disease.

 

Condom taboo in Zanzibar hampers fight against Aids

Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania 

Campaigns to fight HIV/Aids often focus on the "ABC" strategy -- or Abstinence, Be faithful and use Condoms. However, on the ultra-conservative, predominantly Muslim island of Zanzibar, condoms remains taboo and is rarely incorporated into public awareness messages.

"We believe that advocating the use of condoms is promoting illegal sex, mainly among the youth," said Fadhil Soraga, secretary at the office of Zanzibar's mufti, or senior Muslim scholar. "The proper campaign is A and B."

While public talks or advertising campaigns about HIV/Aids in Zanzibar may advise people to "Abstain, Be faithful," these messages carefully omit condom use as way to prevent HIV/Aids.

"We are always loud when mentioning the letters A and B, but we mumble when it comes to the C," said HIV/Aids activist Asha Hussein.

In 2003, a United Nations-supported government survey on the main islands of Unguja and Pemba found HIV/Aids prevalence in the general population to be 0,6%.

While the rate is relatively low compared to prevalence rates in the region -- mainland Tanzania, for example, has an HIV/Aids prevalence of 7% -- health officials nevertheless estimate that the rate is rising.

Ameir Khamis, a government epidemiology and surveillance coordinator, estimated that about 8 000 Zanzibaris were currently living with HIV/Aids, up from 6 000 in 2002.

Officials from Medicos Del Mundo (MDM), an international NGO working on HIV/Aids in Zanzibar, said they had to be careful in their campaign against the pandemic.

"We're using many ways to deliver the message to stop the spread of Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases, but speaking about condoms in Zanzibar society is still very difficult," said Erene Casas, MDM project coordinator in Zanzibar.

The European Union-supported MDM has been working to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids, mother-to-child transmission of HIV/Aids and sexually transmitted infections in Zanzibar since April 2002. It also organises activities to sensitise the population, especially young people, on safer sex.

A moral issue
"Community leaders -- including religious and civic leaders -- are not ready for the condom-use theory," Khamis said.

A poster by the Zanzibar Aids Commission in Stone Town, the island's main town, reads: "Our culture is the best cure for HIV/Aids. Observe our culture and religion to stop the spread of the disease."

Soraga, from the mufti's office, blamed the rise in the prevalence of HIV/Aids on the degeneration of morality on the island.

"Despite repeated religious calls and the many seminars on HIV/Aids in Zanzibar, the number of HIV cases has been increasing because people do not want to change their behaviour," he said. "We must reform our behaviour, mainly by refraining from illegal sex."

Although the government and religious institutions are reluctant to promote condoms, their use is on the rise -- albeit silently -- mainly among youths.

Ramadhani Hassan, MDM's local coordinator, confirmed that condom "consumption" had increased.

"During the film and traditional festivals in June and July, we distributed more than 90 000 condoms free of charge," he said.

"The statistics show that although it is illicit to talk about condoms in Zanzibar society, their utilisation has been increasing," he added.

Stigma and discrimination
Stigma and discrimination were barriers to the prevention, treatment and care of HIV/Aids patients in Zanzibar, Casas said. Many people living with the virus were reluctant to disclose their status, even when their employers encouraged them to seek out testing and counselling services.

"These barriers are internalised so that people do not seek diagnostic or treatment services, or the means to protect themselves," she said.

"The main causes of stigma involve incomplete knowledge, fear of death and disease, sexual norms, and lack of recognition of stigma," she said.

The Zanzibar Association of People with HIV/Aids reported that HIV-positive people on the island faced physical and social isolation from family, friends and the community. Discrimination often extended to the workplace as well and hampered access to government services.

The inability of women to negotiate condom use has also proved to be a barrier to preventing the spread of the virus.

Hassan noted that a lack of confidence prevented many women from demanding that their partners use condoms, placing them at great risk. A 2003 government study showed that infection rates among women were three times higher than men.

Casas said stigma limited the circulation of information about the epidemic and options for care, as well as communication within couples about the risks of contracting HIV/Aids.

"I think we need to do everything possible to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids," she said. - Irin

 

African Muslim Clerics Divided On Condom Use

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

December 6, 2006

Dar Es Salaam

Muslim clerics from 25 African countries failed to reach consensus on the use of condoms in preventing HIV/AIDS at a meeting on the semi-autonomous Tanzanian island of Zanzibar.

The Network of African Islamic Faith-based Organisations met in November to discuss issues that included HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence, but could not to agree on a unified HIV/AIDS strategy.

When the network was launched in March 2005, in Abuja, Nigeria, the religious leaders stated in their declaration: "We support all appropriate methods of preventing HIV/AIDS. These include abstinence, being faithful and, when absolutely necessary, correct and consistent use of the condom between couples."

Nevertheless, many clerics at the meeting rejected the use of condoms on the grounds that they promoted promiscuity, particularly among the youth. "The majority still stick to 'no promoting condoms', and believe in abstinence and being faithful as preventive measures - condoms can only be used by HIV-positive couples," said Zanzibar's Dr Issa Ziddy, deputy secretary of the network.

Other participants felt the organisation needed to make a clear statement in favour of condom use in the fight against HIV/AIDS. "I think it is high time we define the preventive measures. Let us strengthen advocacy in abstinence [A] and being faithful [B], but also promote the use of condoms [C] for those who fail to stick to A and B," said Ebyan Salah, a Gender Advisor to the Somalia Transitional Federal Government. "Every tool must be used, including promoting condoms."

Despite the long political crisis in Somalia and current efforts to build a government, many people in the country were aware of HIV/AIDS. Activists, including Muslim leaders, spoke openly about the pandemic, but promoting condom use remained largely taboo, and they were difficult to find on the market, she said.

Dr Hamid Suleiman, of the Zanzibar AIDS Commission, told delegates that condom use was not encouraged by the island's clerics either and they were not directly involved in the campaign against HIV/AIDS until 2002.

At the 2005 Abuja summit, Muslim religious leaders from Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania, among others, agreed that they should disseminate information on HIV/AIDS in sermons and at religious events.

"Fortunately, for the last three years Muslim leaders in Zanzibar have helped a lot in controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS," Suleiman said. "Since the majority population are Muslims, the message can spread well."

Zanzibar's HIV still relatively low prevalence has reached 0.9 percent, but in 2002 it was estimated at just 0.6 percent. Health workers on the island say lack of information and worrying trends like increased injecting drug use could see the island's problem continue to grow unless urgent action is taken.

 

Muslim opposition to condoms limits distribution

MANDERA, 17 September 2007 (PlusNews) - The strong anti-condom stance of religious leaders in northern Kenya means few people there are using them and traders are refusing to stock them, which AIDS activists warn is jeopardising the fight against the pandemic.

"I will never sell condoms in my shop; it is like promoting adultery and operating a brothel," Sharrif Mohamed, who owns a shop in Isiolo, Eastern Province, told IRIN/PlusNews.

Most traders in the mainly Muslim northeastern part of the country have refused to stock condoms, which are usually only available at government health centres.

Zamzam, a single mother of three in Garissa, a town North Eastern Province, dismissed condoms as "a thing for the prostitutes", saying, "I use my brain and intelligence when I want to sleep with a man, and can tell who is sick [with HIV/AIDS]; I am not a prostitute to use it." This level of ignorance is common across the region, where literacy levels are the lowest in the country.

"The HIV/AIDS pandemic is a curse and punishment because people have engaged in immoral acts and offended Allah [God]," Maalim Hussein Mohamud, a teacher at a 'madrassa', or Islamic school, in Mandera, near the Somali border, told IRIN/PlusNews. "They have to repent, observe religious teaching and not use condoms."

Mohamud said the only way to prevent the viral infection was to observe religious teachings, abstain from 'illegal' sexual acts and avoid the use of condoms.

"Our position is very clear: we shall never support the use of condoms; Muslims must shun acts that will endanger their lives. To be safe [from HIV], youths must pray five times daily, fast, and refrain from looking at women; extramarital affairs must be avoided and women must dress decently," he insisted.

Noor sheikh, who works at the government's HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infection control programme in North Eastern Province, said stiff opposition to the use of condoms was proving to be a hindrance to HIV prevention. "Our region has the lowest use of condoms in the country," he said. "Of course it is a factor responsible for many cases of infections."

Some activists have complained that the government has not done enough to educate the local population about condom use, particularly in rural areas, and it was also often very difficult to obtain condoms.

"Many youths are informed about the use of condoms, but have said they are not available in remote parts of the region," said Margaret Leshore, of the Samburu Women's Empowerment Programme, a non-governmental organisation advocating women's rights.

The condom is one of the main HIV prevention strategies employed by the government, and free condoms are available at most health centres around the country.

Although northern Kenya has some of the country's lowest prevalence rates, concerns have been raised about low awareness of the pandemic and the region's continued resistance to condom use.

 

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