BOGOTA, Colombia – A western Colombian city councilman wants to require everyone in town 14 or older to carry a condom to prevent pregnancy and disease, outraging local priests.
William Pena, a councilman in Tulua, said Wednesday he will present a formal proposal to force all men and women — even those just visiting — to always carry at least one condom. Those caught empty-pocketed could pay a fine of $180 or take a safe sex course, he said.
"Sexual relations are going on constantly," Pena told The Associated Press by telephone. "If you carry a condom, chances are you'll use it during the day. It's not going to be there forever."
Tulua has one of the highest rates of AIDS in Colombia, he said. The proposal will be debated by other town leaders and could go into effect by March, he said.
Roman Catholic priests in the Cauca Valley town, 150 miles southwest of Bogota, were fuming over the plan.
The Rev. Jesus Velasquez said it would only encourage sexual relations and ridiculed it as absurd. The local newspaper El Tiempo on Wednesday quoted him as saying, "I would have to have a condom even though I'm clergy."
Another town priest, Roberto Sarmiento, said he that improved sex education would be a better solution.
"Nobody can force someone to carry a condom in their pocket," he said. "They should instead carry the responsibility of what sexual relations mean."
Ramiro Cano, a 19-year-old laborer in Tulua, said Wednesday that the proposal was the talk of the town, and said most young people he has talked to support it.
"I try to always carry a condom on me, especially if I go to a discotheque, in case I can pick up someone," Cano said.
The proposal is perhaps the most radical in a series of pro-condom efforts across a country where 190,000 people live with AIDS, a figure only surpassed in Latin America by Brazil, according to the World Health Organization.
The capital city of Bogota handed out more than two million free condoms last year as part of a campaign titled "Use it instinctively — make yourself sexy."
In the city of Tunja, where 17 percent of all pregnancies last year were from women under 18 years of age, condom dispensers will be installed in bars and movie theaters starting in February.