NUS students upset over 'missing' condoms

SINGAPORE - Call it a case of now you see it, now you don't.

Students at the National University of Singapore (NUS) woke up one day to find that all the contraceptives had been removed from the shelves of a campus pharmacy, allegedly after a posting online.

The sudden overnight disappearance has got everyone curious and talking: Did the university ask for it to be removed?

If so, why?

It all began with an anonymous posting on the NUS Facebook Confessions page on Monday morning, alerting students to condoms sold at the new Guardian pharmacy outlet at the EduSports building.

The post read: "The only place you can buy condoms in NUS is at the new Guardian at EduSports. Stay safe!"

But just hours later on Monday night, students found that the entire shelf of family planning needs, which includes condoms and pregnancy test kits, had suddenly disappeared.

It got the attention of many students. Photos of the empty shelf with the "Family Planning" tag covered up with paper started appearing on Facebook.

The word spread fast. As of last Wednesday evening, 99people - who claimed to be students - had shared the post and expressed their outrage.

Did the university overreact to an online post? Students TNP spoke to seem to think so.

Of the 20 NUS undergraduates interviewed, 15 felt condoms and other contraceptives should be sold on campus.

A fourth-year student, Miss Dawn Lee, said: "Condoms are sold everywhere. I don't see why they can't sell it in school.

The 23-year-old added: "My interpretation of their stance is that they don't want to be seen as supporting sexual activity."

Another student, who gave his name as MrOng, 22, said: "Not selling it is avoiding the problem entirely. No matter whether it's sold or not, stuff is going to happen.

"By not selling it, it's just trouble waiting to happen."

The first-year engineering student added: "We are university students, and we know what's best for ourselves."

A check with the Cheers and FairPrice Xpress stores at the campus' University Town revealed that neither sell condoms.

TNP understands that up till Monday, condoms were sold only at the Guardian campus store, which opened on Dec 31 last year.

A check at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) revealed that condoms are sold on campus at Shop N Save, Cheers and 7-Eleven, and Watsons respectively.

An SMU spokesman told TNP: "We treat all students as adults capable of making decisions for themselves."

This sentiment was echoed by NTU.

An NTU spokesman said: "At NTU, we believe in treating our students as responsible young adults and we trust they will reciprocate by safeguarding that faith."

Dr Christopher Chong, an obstetrician, gynaecologist and urogynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital was surprised to learn about the NUS incident.

"Condoms should be made available for anybody, not just undergraduates. It is not to encourage intercourse, but for contraception and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases."

He added: "We cannot run away from the fact that intercourse occurs. We need to face it in a matured fashion."

Ministry of Health statistics

Statistics from the Ministry of Health revealed that in 2011, 3,750 women in the age group of 15-24 had an abortion. This was down from 4,006 in the same age group in 2010.

A mother of a first-year student from NUS, who wanted to be known only as Madam Lee, said that although she does not encourage students to have sex, she is comfortable with universities selling condoms.

The 46-year-old parent said: "The students are mature enough to know what they're doing. It's better for them to use contraceptives during sex than to not use any protection at all."

A Guardian salesman at NUS said they had received instructions from "management" to remove the family planning products from the shelves temporarily on Monday.

Responding to queries from TNP, an NUS spokesman said: "An earlier request made to the pharmacy concerned to remove family planning items was due to a misunderstanding, and this matter has since been clarified and resolved.

"The University does not restrict the sale of condoms on campus, and vendors can decide if they would like to carry these items in their stores."

Ms Patricia Lee, director of corporate communications for Dairy Farm Singapore, later told TNP that all condoms were removed from their shelves "at the request of NUS Management" for the time being, on Monday.

She said: "From our discussion with them, we understand that family planning products are prohibited within NUS campus.

"We have been in talks with them since to negotiate for reinstatement of the products and were informed last Wednesday that approval has been given for Guardian to put the items back on the shelves."

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