Sex advice agency gives
11-year-olds free condom
Womack, Social Affairs Correspondent
Children as young as 11 are being given free condoms
by a well-known health agency today and urged to practise putting
them on - by using a banana.
Marie Stopes International UK is offering the
contraceptives on its sexual health website even though the legal
age at which young people can have sex in Britain is 16.
The organisation wants youngsters to become
comfortable with condoms before they think about having sex. But
critics say that the greater the availability of condoms to very
young children the more likely they are to indulge in sexual
Youngsters who visit the website receive a "condom"
card within 28 days. It gives advice about sexually transmitted
diseases and contains a single condom. Durex has donated 20,000
condoms for the campaign.
Stating that the legal age for sex is 16, the card
says: "There are no age restrictions on buying condoms and so don't
worry about getting a grilling at the shop counter. Also, any
appointment with a doctor is confidential. They cannot tell your
It goes on: "Maybe you don't plan on having sex for
ages. Maybe you've already started experimenting. Either way, it's a
good idea to get clued up about condoms.
"Take a good look at the condom we have sent you. How
easy or difficult is it to open. Which way is it rolled up? Practise
putting it on a banana or blow it up like a balloon."
Sam Guy, Marie Stopes' international adolescent
adviser, denied the organisation was promoting sex and said the
condom card was an "awareness tool". She said: "Not only are young
people unaware of the benefits of condoms but many are also too
embarrassed to buy and use them.
"Marie Stopes hopes to overcome these factors by
encouraging young people to find out about condoms and be
comfortable with them before they think about sex." But Robert
Whelan, director of Family Youth Concern, said it was a publicity
stunt and an encouragement to pre-teens to have sex.
"We are going round and round in a circle. Easy
access to contraception means the barriers to sexual activity are
lowered and teenagers are well known to be inefficient users of
The offer of condoms coincides with an NOP poll of
1,077 children, commissioned by Marie Stopes, which said more than
50 per cent of children aged 11-15 were unaware that condoms could
Almost four out of 10 believed people under 16 could
not buy condoms and only a third thought they know enough about
Sexual health issues topped their list of concerns:
66 per cent worried about contracting HIV; 64 per cent about other
sexually transmitted infections; 61 per cent about pregnancy.
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