This condom’s from the government, and it’s here to help you!

Or . . . not so much. GlobalPost reports:

Julie Peroni liked everything about her new boyfriend and she couldn’t wait for the first time he spent the night.

“Things were going really well,” said Peroni, 26, before pausing dramatically. “But then he pulled out a government condom. Like I would ever date somebody who uses government condoms!”

“Government condoms” refer to the millions of free condoms funded by the state and distributed throughout South Africa each year as a way to fight the massive epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV.

But even as the phrase has entered the South African lexicon, results have been decidedly mixed. Moreover, the practice has become another class marker in a country with a vast gap between rich and poor, dividing those who can afford the latest ribbed, lubricated and flavored varieties from those who rely on free protection, the carnal answer to government food stamps.

Most young, cosmopolitan Capetownians will instantly recognize the freebies: unsubtle, dark blue condom wrappers with a bright yellow circle and the brand name “Choice.” They’re quick to offer opinions, from the pragmatically positive — “It’s great. Why would anybody ever pay for condoms?” — to the positively pragmatic: “I don’t trust anything the government does, especially not condoms.”

There’s more at the link.

(In passing, it’s worth mentioning that last month, a South African court ordered that country’s government not to buy 11 million female condoms from a Chinese manufacturer . . . partly on the grounds that they were too small! Instead, the court ordered that the contract go to a different company, which plans to import larger condoms that meet international health standards and regulations.)

South Africa’s long had a problem encouraging the use of condoms in a male-dominated, patriarchal tribal culture. Many men from that background regarded (and some still regard) the use of condoms as being somehow an affront to their masculinity. The ‘condom campaign’ must also contend with an endemic, abysmally low level of education and understanding. Many years ago, one of my sisters trained as a community health nurse in Crossroads and what was to become Khayelitsha townships, outside Cape Town. She told us she’d gotten into terrible trouble through using a broomstick to demonstrate to men how they should put on a condom. She swore they were coming back, highly indignant, to report that their wives or girlfriends were pregnant, “even though, every night, we put the condom on the broomstick – just like you showed us!”



  1. How odd! I heard the broomstick/condom story many years ago. I guess there was life before the Internet, after all.

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