'Anti-Rape Condom' Invented
A female condom-like device that latches on to a rapist's
penis with fish-tooth-like hooks is stirring controversy in
South Africa, where the incidence of sexual assault is high.
Called "Rapex", the latex device inserted in the vagina is
the brainchild of South African Sonet Ehlers, who has been
thinking about an anti-rape device since 1969, when she met
a young rape victim.
"If you have seen a woman that has been raped, she is alive
yet she is dead," Ehlers said from her home in Kleinmond, a
holiday town some 120km east of Cape Town.
"My biggest drive is to help the woman out," says Ehlers, 57,
a mother of two daughters.
Rapex attaches itself to the shaft of the penis and can only
be removed by a surgeon, forcing a rapist to go to a hospital,
where the crime would presumably be uncovered.
"He has got to turn himself in at the nearest hospital and then
the police will catch him," said Ehlers, who added that the device
does not cause any permanent injury to the man's penis.
"This is not a tool to punish men, but a device to empower
women," she said.
Ehlers hopes to put her device - which can be kept inside the
vagina for up to 24 hours - on sale in South Africa next year
at the cost of a rand (20c).
But organisations such as Rape Crisis Cape Town say Rapex is
not the solution to South Africa's sexual assault problem, with
more than 52,000 rapes reported per year.
"We are going back to the fifteenth century. It's not empowering
women, it increases their vulnerability to violence and murder,"
Rape Crisis director Chantel Cooper told AFP.
"It's not progressive at all, this is like a chastity belt. We
need to understand that the safety of women is not an individual
responsibility, but a societal issue," said Cooper.
About 40 percent of rape victims in South Africa are under the
age of 18.
The National Institute for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation
estimates that only one in 20 rapes are reported to police.
Ehlers believes that women who travel long distances to get to
their place of work, often in the early hours of the morning,
would feel "safe" from rapists when wearing Rapex.
The device also protects women against sexually-transmitted
disease including AIDS and unwanted pregnancy.
"Our women who catch taxis, buses, trains, walk to work, your
middle class women, your poor women, it is well accepted among them," said Ehlers.