Fonda rapped for joining Durex-for-kids campaign

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The Independent Online
JaneFonda, film star and political campaigner, has come under fire for joining London International Group, the world's largest condom maker, in promoting birth control to teenagers in the US.

The actress is heading up Truth for Youth, an educational campaign funded by LIG's Durex Consumer Products. Truth for Youth encourages parents to teach their children how to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Her campaign has been criticised by conservative US politicians for tacitly endorsing premarital sex - and explicitly criticising US legislation that allocates $250m (pounds 150m) to promote abstinence among youth.

The Durex campaign's supporters assert that efforts to stem teenage sex by teaching abstinence only are unrealistic and even dangerous because of the prevalence of Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Nick Hodges, chief executive of LIG, said sex education that advocates abstinence only is impractical. "Putting your head in the sand and pretending [teenage sex] isn't happening is totally wrong. Five per cent of youngsters are having sex before age 13, and 80 per cent of teens aren't using condoms in casual sex."

Abstinence education supporters say LIG's interest in sex education is purely commercial. The company has a 22 per cent share of the world's branded condom market.

Mr Hodges conceded the company had a financial interest in the campaign, although he said sex education was a moral issue.

Over the past three years, LIG has been reorganising after reporting a pounds 175.1m loss in fiscal 1994. Last month, the company appointed a global marketing director for its condom business. Two weeks ago, it posted first- half net profits of pounds 7.3m, compared with a loss of pounds 1.6m a year earlier. It also promised investors double-digit earnings growth next year.

With its Truth for Youth campaign, LIG is banking on Fonda's name recognition. The actress has led a long-running fight against teenage pregnancy, and she chairs the Atlanta-based Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention.

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