Pesantren Students Are Advocates for Contraception

By webadmin on 12:25 pm Jun 30, 2012
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Fitri & Dessy Sagita

Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara. The terms “Islamic school” and “contraceptives” do not often appear in the same sentence, particularly in Muslim-majority countries like Indonesia.

But one cleric in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) earned a place in the record books on Thursday for distributing contraceptives to 180 pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) across the province, telling them to advocate for their use.

Safwan Hakim, who chairs the province’s Islamic Boarding School Communication Forum, said that at first no one supported his idea of channeling contraceptives to pesantren students.

But Safwan told his critics that pesantren students could be mobilized to promote birth control and advocate against the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases by talking and explaining about contraceptives to local residents. But some accused him of promoting teen sex.

“There are those who have asked, ‘Why should a pesantren be involved in such advocacy?’ But no matter what their argument is, I always say that contraceptives are not against Islamic law and that they carry more benefit than harm,” he said.

For his efforts, Safwan was inducted into the Indonesian Record Museum (Muri) on Thursday in the category of family planning program.

“This is a record, because 180 pesantrens are advocating the use of contraceptives,” Muri manager Sri Widayati said.

Sri said that before Safwan’s program, only 36,000 NTB residents participated in family planning programs; but since the pesantrens began participating in the advocacy program, 18,000 more have joined.

The old record was held by the town of Kediri, East Java, which performed tubectomy surgery for 100 woman on Feb. 12.

The promotion of contraceptives and birth control are touchy subjects in Indonesia even as the country tries to battle the spread of HIV/AIDS.