In a country where the number of rapes reported is one of the world’s highest–and yet only represents 1 in 9 actual rapes, Dr. Sonnet Ehlers was so moved by an experience with a young rape victim 40 years ago that she has designed a method for women to help protect themselves from this crime.
South African females have a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read; one in four females will have been raped before the age of 16 (BBC News). As a medical student, Dr. Ehlers encountered one such young woman. The rape victim told the med student “If only I’d had teeth down there;” Ehlers promised the young woman that someday she would do something to help rape victims (Right Juris).
In 2005, Ehlers sold her home and car to begin the project that would fulfill her promise of 40 years earlier (All Headline News). She consulted with other specialists such as gynecologists, psychologists and engineers to ensure the safety of her device for the women who would be using it (Right Juris).
Having developed a product with which she is satisfied will help to dissuade would-be rapists from their activities, Ehlers plans to distribute 30,000 of the Rape-aXe condoms for free during the World Cup series. After that, her product will be on the market for approximately $2.00 each.
The Rape-aXe condom is inserted into the woman’s vagina. It has specially designed teeth on the inside of the condom that will grab onto a rapist’s penis, which he cannot dislodge without the aid of a physician. While the teeth won’t penetrate his skin, he will be unable to urinate or walk. Should he try to dislodge the condom himself, the rapist will only cause the hooks on the condom’s teeth to cause more pain. There is also no danger for fluid leakage from the condom into the victim.
Ehlers’ device has its critics, such as a fellow at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Uganda, Victoria Kajja. Ms. Kajja denounced the Rape-Axe as giving women a false sense of security, saying it would only prevent the physical trauma from rape, not its psychological trauma.
A 29-year old woman who lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has lived much of her life in fear of becoming a rape victim feels very differently than Ms. Kajja about the rape deterrent condom: “What people need is this condom. Especially when women are most vulnerable, at night and when traveling from one town to the next. When men hear about this, they will be scared. They won’t know who has protected herself and who not” (Right Juris).
Some of the device’s critics have said it is an archaic method; Dr. Ehlers agrees–it is an archaic method against an archaic crime.
Sources: BBC News
All Headline News