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Singaporeans don’t like condoms

I found this article, critiquing Singapore’s condom-phobia particularly interesting.

As a married (and at the moment monogamous) woman, I haven’t really experienced the dating scene here, so I can’t speak from personal experience as to how widespread the aversion truly is.

What I can speak to, from anecdotes shared with me anonymously from Filipina domestic workers, is that it is common.  There isn’t a domestic here who doesn’t know another girl who was sent home because she tested positive for pregnancy during a six-month routine medical check (specifically they’re testing for pregnancy and STD/STI’s…the presence of any will get them deported).  I’ve asked why condoms aren’t used, and it seems to be a mixture of women who don’t feel empowered to ask, the cultural (I’m unclear if this is a Filipina, Singaporean, or Asian culture) implication that requesting a condom means that the person requesting condom usage thinks their potential partner is “dirty,” and flat out male refusal to use them because “it doesn’t feel good.”

The frustrating aspect to this is that domestics don’t have much in the way of other options.  Hormonal birth control is denied to them, and is too expensive to be considered even if it were available.  While abortion is legal and available (I would have no trouble having one, if I so desired), domestics don’t.  I haven’t seen much in the way of other options, like spermicide, so condoms are the one option domestics have.

Some argue that domestics shouldn’t be having sex.  For many of them, the local pay (while better than what they could earn in the Philipinnes) is not enough to both live on and send money home.  Some women engage in sexual activity for groceries, or money to supplement the earnings they send home.  Others are young women alone in a foreign country, and are lonely.  Sex is a natural progression with a partner who makes you feel less lonely.  Further, I would argue that a woman does not give up her sex drive when she goes to work, and that they have every right to a personal life as I do.

Faced with deportation and the stigma of single motherhood, many women (again, every domestic I’ve talked to knows at least if not several) turn to herbal abortifacients.  Many don’t work, and the girl is left still pregnant, sometimes ill from the effects of the herbs, or with an infection that she doesn’t have the money to treat.  They are sent home.

But as long as condom usage is low in Singapore, it will continue to be domestics who suffer most.  Sent home in disgrace, abortion is unavailable back home.  Some of these domestics have to go home and face a husband who is not the father of the child they carry…and will suffer for that.  Others will face the social ostracism that comes with single parenthood.

Regardless, it’s a disturbing side effect that no one seems to care about.

One Response

  1. It’s hard to be a maid in Singapore, especially if you have a Singaporean employer, going by all the horror stories in the papers.

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