Countries Where Condoms Are Banished

blue, green, and yellow world map

In a number of countries condoms remain illegal. Activists have learned to work with this, achieving a steady latent co-existence of competing legal worlds.

In Indonesia for example, 81% of recent HIV cases were a result of unprotected sex. Despite the health ministry championing sex education, Islamic leaders scold activists for promoting promiscuity.


As the world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia is home to a rich diversity of cultures. Yet the country is one of seven worldwide where condom use is lowest, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The reason could be that more than 80% of the population identifies as Catholic, and church officials have waged a war against government efforts to curb HIV/AIDS through free condoms and sexual education programs. They believe that a change in lifestyle, not the use of additional contraceptives, will solve the problem.

In addition to cultural and religious beliefs, some countries restrict or ban condoms because of political, social, or economic factors. For example, in Afghanistan, the Taliban has banned birth control and threatened midwives, sex workers, and pharmacy owners. It’s important to remember that no country should ever ban condoms — they are an essential tool in preventing sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies.

A new global trend, called “stealthing,” is becoming more prevalent in some countries, where partners remove a condom during intercourse without the other person’s consent or knowledge. Women who have been stealthed describe the experience as degrading, humiliating, and wounding to their self-respect. While many countries have moved to make this act illegal, it is still commonplace around the world, and victims need better understanding and protections. Fortunately, most countries still allow condoms, and the vast majority of them have widespread distribution networks.

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It appears a steamy TV commercial featuring a former porn star was the final straw for India’s government, which has decided to crack down on condom advertising. After conservative groups complained about the Manforce campaign, in which actress Sunny Leone slowly undresses while sultry music plays, the information and broadcasting ministry ordered around 900 channels to limit condom ads to between 10pm and 6am when children aren’t likely to be watching.

The move has sparked outrage among progressive groups, who say that banning condom ads is counter-productive. They point out that young people tend to be more interested in doing things that are forbidden, such as trying sex for the first time. “If you ban a product then that will only increase the demand for it,” says Gaurang Jani, a sociologist who has worked in public communications for over half a century.

Jani adds that the country needs to spend more money educating young Indians about safe sex practices and breaking down gender stereotypes. And it should focus on rural areas, where attitudes can be more traditional. Still, he acknowledges that it’s not easy to control the population boom in India, which is expected to overtake China within a decade. The government has tried incentivizing vasectomies, promoting family planning and encouraging condom use but the numbers aren’t going up.

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The vast majority of countries around the world don’t ban condoms, as they recognize that these vital medical tools help to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). However, some nations and religious groups restrict their use for cultural or religious reasons.

One of the main reasons for these restrictions is the stigma that surrounds condom use in some parts of the world, especially in certain cultures and religious communities. These beliefs can lead to a lack of access, as well as misinformation about how to use condoms properly.

This lack of knowledge can have serious implications for health outcomes, such as unintended pregnancies and HIV infection. For example, a recent study showed that adolescents who have seen a condom demonstration are up to five times more likely to have good knowledge of how to use condoms correctly.

The study’s findings have important implications for AIDS prevention initiatives, including those that focus on sexual (heterosexual and homosexual) intercourse. In Hong Kong, where HIV incidence is low, regular, consistent condom use is the most effective strategy for preventing HIV and STDs. Therefore, any strategies to increase the rate of condom usage must include education and promotion of safe sex practices. This can also be facilitated by periodic measurement of the prevalence of condom use patterns. Ideally, these measurements can inform the development of specific goals for behavioural change and guide future interventions.

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In sub-Saharan Africa, where two-thirds of all people living with HIV live, condoms remain a crucial tool to reduce infections and deaths from unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. But many countries place restrictions on their use, and barriers to accessing condoms continue to persist worldwide.

In Tanzania, government officials recently defended a ban on the sale of K-Y Jelly that would restrict access to the lubricant for some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations. “The ban is clearly meant to target gay people and sex workers,” Neela Ghoshal, a senior research fellow at Human Rights Watch who works on LGBT rights abroad, tells Broadly. “And it also undermines the right to health of those who are in need of lubricant.”

The government says the lubricant, donated by a non-governmental organization, failed a test that checks for leaks on the side. The test is not part of WHO specifications, but the government says it demonstrates that the lubricant may be faulty.

A similar argument is being used in Russia, where the country’s industry ministry has defended proposals to ban foreign condoms. The minister says that students can’t afford foreign condoms, and local alternatives are of poor quality. In addition, he claims that a ban will protect the national economy. Despite these concerns, the vast majority of countries recognize that condoms are a critical tool in reducing unintended pregnancies and sexually transmissible diseases.

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