A number of women's groups in Malaysia have come forward in support of the Health Ministry for promoting the use of condoms to combat HIV, saying that it is the responsibility of both men and women to practice safe sex.
Among the supporters was Sisters in Islam programme manager Norhayati Kaprawi, who said that it was her group's hope that both men and women are encouraged to practice safe sex.
"We hope the ministry allocates a bigger budget for free condoms for those who need it, like drug abusers and their partners," The Star Online quoted her as saying.
Kaprawi, who had responded to the call by Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad that every woman should carry a condom for her own protection, said the Government should also introduce sex education in schools.
Ivy Josiah, who is the executive director of Women's Aid Organisation, said that it should be a joint responsibility.
"I am glad that he brought up the issue. However, our view is that we should be educating men to use condoms," Josiah said.
"Many women find it difficult to negotiate with their partners that they should use a condom, especially for women who are in partnerships where there is violence or control," she added.
Former Malaysian AIDS Council chairman Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir penned down in her blog that she too agreed that men have to play their part too in practicing safe sex.
"It is one thing to carry condoms, it's quite another thing to get the guy to use them. It might be more useful to tell men to carry condoms instead," she said.
The other problem is that, women who possess condoms are often thought by the police to be soliciting for sex.
"The issue is that having a condom in one's handbag is often used as evidence by the police that one is soliciting (which is a crime)," she said.
"Thus, unless we're supposed to all carry letters from Dr Latiff saying "it's okay" women carrying condoms can be arrested for soliciting for clients to provide sexual services. In other words, it will be assumed that they are sex workers," she added.