Debs condoms: responsible or reckless?

STUDENTS acting responsibly or every parent’s nightmare?

Guests at a debs ball will have a wider choice than normal tonight when they are presented with free condoms when they sit down to eat.

The organisers, who have just graduated from a Catholic girl’s school on Cork’s northside, placed dozens of contraceptives on tables in the function room of the Montenotte Hotel in preparation for the ball.

More than 70 couples are due to attend the dinner dance, which has been arranged by a committee of former students of St Vincent’s Secondary School. Most of the guests are aged between 17 and 19.

Organisers have supplied a single condom for each couple as part of the formal place setting.

A spokesperson for the debs committee confirmed they discussed the issue and first planned to offer condoms to guests as a joke – possibly in a surprise bag.

But she said it was then decided to place the contraceptives, as well as flavoured lubricating gel, on the tables in an effort to promote safe sex.

“It is a responsible thing to do. People are going to be drunk and things will happen,” she said.

A spokesman for the four star hotel said he was not aware of the initiative but said it is a matter for the organisers of what is essentially a private event.

Andy Walker, the health promotion manager of the HSE South, said it’s a good idea “in principle”.

He stressed that sexual health experts would not encourage sexual activity among teenagers over the age of consent.

“But if young people are sexually active then condoms are the minimum precaution,” he said.

However, Mary Crilly, the director of the Sexual Violence Centre in Cork, urged caution.

“I appreciate what the organisers are trying to do but I don’t think throwing condoms on the table is the right approach,” she said.

While some parents will say such an initiative might encourage sexual activity, Ms Crilly said using condoms “in this day and age is the sensible approach”.

But she said a wider discussion around sexual relations should take place first.

“There should be a wider discussion first to let people know the ground rules – and not just throw condoms on the table.

“There is huge excitement at debs balls. People are having a great time, getting drunk and things happen.

“But this sounds like a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. And it might put pressure on young girls who don’t want to be sexually active. Condoms on the table? It’s the wrong time and wrong place.”

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