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Condom Vending Machines Provoke Protests

Minority groups in India's Tamil Nadu State are reported to be protesting against the installation of condom vending machines in the state. Women activists belonging to the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK), //took to the streets 12 December 2005 to oppose the State Government's plans to install 500 condom vending machines in public places in Chennai and 1,500 across the state.

The groups have also given a call to women's organizations and other political and social groups across the state to support them. “This rally is just the beginning. We will not rest until all these machines are removed. We will involve all the women's organizations, not just Muslim organizations, in our fight against this dangerous decision," said Fathima Jalal, Convenor of the women's wing of the Jamaat.

"Installing condom vending machines is not the proper solution to eradicate AIDS/HIV. Instead, it will only reduce the status of women and cause increase in crimes against women," Jalal said. This move will only serve to promote promiscuity, according to the protestors.

In May 2005, Tamil Nadu had 52,036 cases of AIDS. In southern Indian states, infection is largely from heterosexual contact, say studies by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO).

The large-scale use of condom has also kept Tamil Nadu's population steady for more than a decade. TMMK President M.H. Jawahirullah said: "We must fight AIDS, but these machines at public places will only promote sex outside marriage among the younger generation. Through its AIDS campaign, the Government could end up promoting illicit sex, which will lead to a permissive culture that could boomerang on its anti-AIDS effort itself".

But the Government is determined to go ahead with its moves to control spread of the disease. Studies in Thailand have shown a 100% decrease in new incidents of HIV when condoms were promoted among commercial sex worker s, said K. Manivasan, Joint Commissioner, Health, in charge of the Chennai AIDS Prevention and Control Society program that is supporting the installation of the vending machines with funds from NACO.—IANS

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