In South Africa, a faith-based medical aid group is applauding comments by the country’s education minister condemning condom distribution at schools. The policy has been in effect since 1999. But this week Education Minister Naledi Pandor said she did not understand why 13-year-olds were engaged in sexual activity. She added, “For young people, the message is abstain, abstain, abstain.”
Friday, Doctors for Life International announced its support for the education minister, calling condom distribution at South African schools a “reckless experiment.” It’s a position the group has long held.
Heinrich Botes is a spokesman for the group. From the town of Pomeroy in rural KwaZulu-Natal, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about condom distribution in schools.
“It’s not as if we’re unrealistic. Of course, children are involved in sexual activity, but we believe that there is a war. Two thousand people, new infections take place every day. If two thousand people would die because of an attack from a neighboring country per day then our government would take very serious steps. Now, it’s a virus causing the damage and for some reason we don’t mind throwing rubber condoms at the young children,” he says.
While admitting there’s a place for condoms, Botes says, “We should teach them values and life skills with which they can make those very important decisions about their sexual lifestyle, their future and so on.”
Critics have argued that children are going to be sexually active despite warnings about HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and that it’s wrong to deny them a means of protection.
Doctors for Life International follows three principles: The sanctity of life from conception until death, sound science in the medical profession and a basic Christian ethic. Asked whether the organization’s stand on condoms is based on science or Christian ethic, Botes says, “Science.”
He says studies have shown that condoms have at least a 20 percent failure. Although other reports say the failure rate ranges from three to fourteen percent, depending whether condoms are properly used.