The Hong Kong Shue Yan University stopped its student union from giving out free condoms at a sex education event in December, saying that it encouraged sexual behaviour.

The student union said in a statement on Facebook last Wednesday that they had wanted to put together a sex/gender festival since the early days of their term. An organising committee was set up in October, and the event took place December 1 to December 11, 2015. During the event, the students gave out free condoms, which were provided by AIDS Concern through Sticky Love Rice, an online sex education platform.

Promotional material for a sex/gender festival in Shue Yan University. Photo: 香港樹仁大學學生會 SYUSU via Facebook.

“We knew that we would face a lot of obstacles, trying to bring up the topic of sexuality and gender in a conservative campus. As predicted, the first day we started handing out condoms, the school tried to stop us… During the process, the school administration confirmed with us several times that there were no elements that would ‘encourage sexual behaviour’ in our activities before approving our venue applications,” the university’s student union.

The student union said that the school did not approve of them handing out the condoms and said that it would encourage and make it more convenient for students to engage in sexual intercourse. The school also said that it did not support students having sex before marriage and threatened to withdraw the venue application approvals granted for the festival’s other events if the students continued to give condoms out. The union tried to reason with the school by arguing that they were promoting safe sex, but the school reiterated its arguments. 

“The school said we cannot give out condoms because it will encourage sexual behaviour,” the banner said. Photo: 香港樹仁大學學生會 SYUSU via Facebook.

“If we don’t give out condoms, does that mean that students will no longer engage in sexual intercourse?” the student body asked. “The school almost seems afraid of condoms and sexual behaviour… there is a rule in the dormitories, which say that when two people of the opposite sex are in the same room, they must keep the door open.”

“We want to confront this taboo with our event… not talking about sex is not going to make it disappear. Since sex is an unavoidable part of life, we should learn about it and understand it.”

Hong Kong Shue Yan University. Photo: Wikicommons.

Jim Hoe, Programme Manager of AIDS Concern said, “Prohibiting giving out free condoms only reinforces the taboo on sex. From our experience, the taboo makes youths embarrassed about buying condoms, which in turn leads to more unprotected sex and makes combating HIV and other sexually transmitted infections more difficult.”

“A lot of schools only focus on shocking and shaming students in sex education class with video footage of abortion operations and pictures symptoms of sexually transmitted infections. The taboo only deters them from bringing up the topic of safer sex with their partner and preparing for sex… This kind of sexuality education therefore leads to more unprotected sex and the rapid rise in the number of HIV infections.”

The NGO called for more efforts to promote protected sex to youth, citing figures released by the Department of Heath, which said that there had been 541 new infections in all age groups in the first three quarters of 2015, with the annual number of new infections in 2015 likely to hit a record high since records began in 1984.

HKFP has contacted Shue Yan University for comment.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.