SINGAPORE - Condoms have reappeared on the shelves of a pharmacy at the National University of Singapore (NUS), after they were mysteriously removed at the apparent request of the school.
The move appeared to signal that NUS is relaxing its attitude towards sex on campus, despite what students and vendors say has been a long-term policy banning the sale of contraceptives.
However, the university has denied having ever barred condoms from being sold on its premises, and said the confusion was due to a staff member giving the pharmacy the wrong information.
The kerfuffle broke out on Monday when a comment appeared on the NUS Confessions Facebook page announcing that contraceptives were available at the newly opened Guardian pharmacy on campus.
That night, another anonymous post appeared alerting users that they had disappeared from the shelves.
A spokesman for The Dairy Farm Group, which runs the pharmacy, told The Straits Times that it removed them at NUS' request.
It said it then negotiated with the university about whether it could have the items restocked.
NTUC FairPrice, which runs the Cheers and FairPrice Xpress outlets on campus, said they had never stocked condoms due to school policy but would start doing so soon.
It seems that many universities in Singapore take a strict approach towards sex on campus.
An NUS spokesman said hostel residents are "expected to keep the room door open or ajar when there is a member of the opposite gender in the room".
At Nanyang Technological University (NTU), doors, windows and blinds need to stay open during visits.
The NUS spokesman said that any resident found breaching the rules and regulations will be counselled and advised accordingly.
But despite this, it is an open secret that students at universities are "doing it".
Hostel residents at NTU and NUS told The Straits Times about experiences such as hearing sounds of passion coming from next door or accidentally catching their roommates in the act.
However, none saw the need for the current rules. Even students from Singapore Management University had encounters to share, although most do not stay in campus dormitories.
"We have graduate students and even some students who are married living on campus, and as for the others, most of us are old enough to know what we're doing," said NUS student Gwen Wong, 20.
Third-year NTU undergraduate Chan Fann Ming, 23, said halls are meant for socialising and that the rules cause problems for those who want to stay late into the night to work on projects.
He said: "The school shouldn't interfere in such personal freedom and matters unless the activities that hall residences carry out affect the social fabric of their hall community."
Singaporeans who studied overseas said such regulations are absurd, even if they are not enforced.
Ms Dharinni Kesavan, who did a stint at King's College London, said condoms are given out freely there. The 24-year-old trainee lawyer added that there are no rules governing visitors of the opposite sex.
"Just because a guy is in the room doesn't mean that something will happen," she said.
NUS said its student affairs office constantly reviews its rules to ensure they stay relevant.
But Mr Lim Biow Chuan, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, supported the regulations. He said they show that universities do not condone pre-marital sex.
Singapore Planned Parenthood Association vice-president Edward Ong said the rules are not unreasonable and are "the proper thing to do", in order to give parents peace of mind.
He said: "It's not something out of the ordinary.
"This is the rule that most parents also have at home."
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