Removal of condoms from store at NUS stirs debate

No condoms on sale at National University of Singapore. (Yahoo! photo)
No condoms on sale at National University of Singapore. (Yahoo! photo)

UPDATED 2:00pm 8 February 2013. A spokesperson from Dairy Farm, which owns the retail brand Guardian, has said in an email to Yahoo! Singapore Thursday that the store received verbal approval on Wednesday to put their family planning items back on display at their store at the National University of Singapore.

Guardian will resell them once they receive official confirmation from NUS management.

In a related move, 7-Eleven, which is also under Dairy Farm, has also written to NUS to confirm that their outlet can now stock family planning products.

By Luna Pham

Three things one cannot get from stores at the National University of Singapore? Tobacco, alcohol and, now, contraceptives.

Condoms were pulled off the shelves at Guardian’s branch at NUS on Monday, sparking raging online discussion over the right of students to have access to contraceptives on campus.

“I got the notice last Monday before work to remove the condoms from the shelves and tape the 'Family Planning' sign,” said 30-year old Janice, a retail executive at the Guardian store, one of four retail outlets on NUS grounds and the only one that had been selling condoms.

There was no reason given for the removal, which came from “higher-ups in the school”, added Janice.

An NUS spokesperson clarified that an NUS staff made the removal request due to “a misunderstanding”.

Separately, in a statement emailed to Yahoo! Singapore, an NUS spokesperson said, “The University does not restrict the sale of condoms on campus, and vendors can decide if they would like to carry these items in their stores.”

But there is no word whether the condoms will be put back on the shelves, which would make it more difficult for students to obtain contraceptives.

Some students are unhappy about the removal of the condoms from the Gurardian store, which came a day after a post on “NUS confessions” Facebook page pointed out that the store was the only place on campus selling contraceptives.

Also, a photo of the store’s “Family Planning” sign covered up with paper has received almost a hundred shares on Facebook.

23-year-old NUS student Koon Hui Goh is among those who are against the removal. “I think this omission of contraceptives is an intended act by the school body to say that students can't and don't have sex within the school compound because the rules say so,” said the student from Faculty of Arts and Social Science. “I think that in itself is infringing our rights, somewhat, as humans in our private affairs.”

Others seem to support the removal. “We should respect the traditional values and not [be] trivializing sexual intercourse in school through the sales of contraceptives in a school compound,” said a 22-year-old female from NUS school of business.

Yahoo! Singapore checked the other convenience stores at NUS — a 7-Eleven in Yusof Ishak house, and a Cheers and Fairprice express in U-town — and staff there all said they have not sold any contraceptives since the stores opened on campus upon request from "NUS management".

When asked if the stores carried any other type of family planning products beside condoms, such as birth control pills or pregnancy tests, a shop sales assistant at the 7-Eleven store replied, “No, nothing at all.”

Kesavan A/L Vijaya Kumar, 26, added that other 7-Eleven stores elsewhere do carry them, even those in other campuses.

This is confirmed by racks of condoms and pregnancy tests at 7-Eleven in Nanyang Technological University’s Hall 2.

"Contraceptives are freely available in stores around the island," an NTU spokesperson said. "At NTU, we believe in treating our students as responsible young adults and we trust they will reciprocate by safeguarding that faith."

With additional reporting by Shah Salimat