Mon, 13 Jun 1994

Indonesia, Vatican will defend traditional view about sex

JAKARTA (JP): In the current run up to the world conference on population in Cairo this September, Indonesia has joined forces with The Vatican and many Latin American countries to defend the view that sex should only be for the purposes of having children.

As officials prepare the various documents and declarations to be read at the UN-sponsored conference, a debate has emerged as to the question of people's sexual rights.

The powerful Western nations are pressing for recognition of sex as a right. This view entails the concept that sex should also be considered as a form of pleasure, aside from its practical function as a means of reproduction, according to Indonesian officials involved in the preparatory conferences.

Liberal groups argue that sexual activity is the right of individuals, and people can have sexual relations without the obligations traditionally imposed in most religions.

Indonesia is strongly opposed this view and is fighting to have this line of reasoning deleted from the documents to be presented in Cairo.

Indonesia, a country where religious values are still strong, believe that sexual right only exist within the boundaries of holy matrimony.

"Religious values and norms in Indonesia also support this view," State Minister of Population Haryono Suyono, who has been following the Cairo preparations, said.

The question of sexual rights is one of five issues that have been left pending after the last preparatory committee meeting in New York last April.

According to Haryono, when both sides -- the liberals and the traditionalists -- aired their views on the subject, it was apparent that Indonesia would find allies in the Vatican and many Latin American countries.

Sex as choice

The liberals argue that sexual rights cannot be separated from human rights, meaning that sex is the choice of the individual. They also insist that, from the biological point of view, normal sexual activity can improve one's mental and physical health.

The conservative groups argue against making sexual rights universal since not all individuals are entitled to them. They say sex outside of marriage cannot be justified and that the prime function of sexual activity is only for the purpose of reproduction.

Haryono said there is also a debate in the preparatory committee on the question of abortion as a method of population control.

While Indonesia subscribes to the World Health Organization (WHO)'s view that both men and women should shoulder the responsibility for using contraceptive devices, it cannot accept WHO's suggestion that abortion could be considered as an option, he said.

The conservatives are also opposing the liberals' proposition that abortion is a right, he said.

Haryono said that at the Cairo conference, Indonesia will also be pushing for its own concepts on population control. Instead of using the familiar term 'family planning,' its program is more aptly described as the 'planned parenthood concept,' he said. "Under such a concept, there is no place for abortion."

Meanwhile, President Soeharto has been asked to address the UN conference on population and development.

Officials said Soeharto was selected not only because he is chairman of the 110-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), but also because of his immense success in bringing population growth in Indonesia under control. The President, who is expected to travel to Cairo, is a recipient of various international awards on population.

Thirteen other heads of states have been invited to address the conference, including the United States, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Niger and Norway. (par)