MaltaToday | 03 August 2008

NEWS | Sunday, 03 August 2008

Playing Safe? Not quite

Contraception is still taboo for many university students, study reveals

In 1968, rebellious French students decreed that “it is forbidden to forbid”. But 40 years later Maltese university students are still contemplating whether a condom vending machine should be installed in their toilets.
A study conducted by sociology student Charlene Said reveals that contraception is still considered a taboo by almost half the students attending the university, and that 44% of male theology students think that contraceptives should not be permitted.
While only 5.4% of university students believe that artificial contraceptives should not be available in university, 10% would like them to be available for free.
While 37.4% believe that contraceptives should be available in shops at the university, only 26.7% would like a condom vending machine in the gents’ toilet and a mere 17.6% would like the same service in the ladies toilet.
These results emerge from a survey carried out among 200 University students, equally divided between males and females, from five different faculties, namely: Theology, Education, Fema, Arts and Medicine, by sociology student Charlene Said for her BA. Honours dissertation.
The results come in the wake of a petition to introduce a condom vending machine had only managed to attract a trifling 200 signatures: one-fortieth of the university’s 8,000 plus population.
Although former Health Minister Louis Deguara has declared his agreement with the university students’ petition to introduce a condom vending machine on the Tal-Qroqq campus, the university remains up to this day a condom-free zone.
The picture emerging from Said’s study is that university students – 92% of whom claim to profess the Catholic faith – are neither too liberal nor too conservative in their attitude towards artificial contraception.
More about three quarters of respondents (75.9%) believe that the individual should be the one to decide on contraceptive use, and the Catholic Church should not interfere.
Yet a large segment of students remain wary of an active policy to promote the use of contraceptives in educational institutions.
In fact, 41.3% do not believe there should be free contraceptives either in secondary or in tertiary, while 28.6% said that there should only be free contraceptives in tertiary school. 8.47% believe in free contraceptives for secondary schools only, while 21.7% agree with free contraceptives to both secondary and tertiary institutions.
Only 31.5% of respondents believe that the word contraception does not carry with it a negative connotation while almost half (49.5%) believe it does.
The perception that the church has an overbearing influence on public policy is also confirmed by Said’s study. 65.8% of respondents believe that the Catholic Church in Malta influences Governmental policies on contraception.

Taboo in the family
Only 6% of respondents said that most families openly discuss the issue and encourage their children to use contraceptives.
Yet Said’s study shows that younger families could be more open to this topic. 62.09% say that if they were parents they would discuss the use of artificial contraception to their children at the age of 11 to 14.
Yet significantly, 26.37% said that they would only discuss contraception with children aged 15 or over – an age when teens could already have been exposed to unprotected sex.
Only 5.49% would be willing to bring up the subject with children aged between seven and 10 years before their children are exposed to sexual activity. And alarmingly, 6.04% of university students said that they never speak on this topic to their children.
Only 11.04% received their first learning experience on contraception from a parent. Almost half the respondents (40.49%) said that they first got to know through a teacher. Following respondents said to first learn about these uses from a friend (32.51%). A further 14.11% claimed that they became aware of contraception through the media, and 1.84% claimed that they first got to know from a relative.
62.24% of respondents said that the first person to speak them on this subject portrayed the use of contraceptives as a responsible act. Another 23.47% said it was shown in a scientific and descriptive way.
Yet significantly, nearly 15% claim that contraception was introduced to them as a negative thing.
Nearly one tenth - 9.69% - claim that the first person to talk to them on contraceptives had described their use as something immoral and going against their religious values. 4.59% said that they were told that contraceptives should not be used.
When asked whether they covered the use of artificial contraceptive uses in their secondary school, 24.6% said that the topic was never covered.
And significantly, when the topic was covered in school, 44.7% claimed that they were encouraged to make use of contraceptives, while 39.6% said that they were encouraged not to do so.
Those attending mixed secondary schools tended to be much more encouraged to use contraceptives. According to Said, this may indicate a more liberal outlook in private non-church schools than in church schools, which are segregated.
The study shows that most students deem the use of non-abortive contraceptives as acceptable.
But significantly, 29.5% also said that they agreed with the use of the morning after pill, even if only 5.3% expressed agreement with abortion. This suggests that some students do not consider the morning after pill as abortive.
Although the dissertation suggests most that students hailing from the Arts and the Medicine departments, and to a lesser extent those in the Faculty of Education, are more liberal in their outlook towards contraception, this is not the case for students in the Theology and FEMA departments.
Almost half the male respondents in the theology department (44.4%) do not agree that artificial contraceptives should be permissible.
While students from most faculties think that natural family planning is effective, half the male respondents in the medicine departments think otherwise.
While 60% of male theology students agree that sex should only be practised for procreation, only 12.02% of the overall respondents agreed with such statement, while 87.9% opposed such views.
According to Charlene Said, students seem to be in a state of transition, between more liberal values and the belief of free will and freedom of choice.
While noting that most students consider themselves as Catholics and favour certain Catholics teachings such as natural family planning techniques, they also believe that the use of artificial contraception should be left in the hands of the individual, not by the Church.

Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.




MaltaToday News
03 August 2008

Mater Dei’s million- euro haemorrhage

From human rights abuses to Group 4 – Joe Psaila

Group 4 Securitas replies

Yes, everything is possible. Just send Gonzi an email...

Prime Minister wants derelict Ghajn Tuffieha hotel demolished

Playing Safe? Not quite

Cagey business: Malta’s tuna export figures don’t add up

Hello Eddie, how is Mintoff?

Naxxar pitch’s CCTV delay poses serious safety hazards for children

Pittance paid for land earmarked for 98 villas

Minister answers for haughty Heritage Malta chairman

Anything to declare?

Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email