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Anti-rape female condom makes its debut at World Cup

By Joan Firstenberg     Jun 20, 2010 in Crime
It's a condom with "teeth" that South African Dr. Sonnet Ehlers is distributing at the World Cup games. It's called Rape-aXe and it leaves the rapist in pain.
Dr. Ehlers has invented Rape-aXe, a device with jagged hooks that women can wear that latches onto a man's penis during penetration. The New York Daily News reports that the doctor is giving out 30,000 of her condoms in South Africa during this year's World Cup. Ehlers tells CNN
"It hurts. He cannot pee and walk when it's on. If he tries to remove it, it will clasp even tighter."
The Human Rights Watch reports that South Africa has one of the highest rape rates in the world. It is also believed that because of this, 16 percent of the population is infected with HIV.
Rape-aXe is inserted into the woman much like a tampon, but when it becomes stuck to a man the device can only be removed by a doctor. It's a procedure Ehlers hopes will be done with authorities on standby to make an arrest. The device works because jagged rows of teeth-like hooks attach onto the man's penis, making him very likely to leave the woman and go off on his own or to the nearest doctor.
Some people, including doctors accuse Ehler of creating nothing more than a new-age chastity belt. Victoria Kajja with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Uganda says
"It not only presents the victim with a false sense of security, but psychological trauma."
Other critics say the female condom is not a long-term solution and makes women vulnerable to more violence from men trapped by the device. Some others accuse her of developing a medieval device to fight rape. But Ehlers said that she made sure before launching this product to take the proper research and development steps.
"I consulted engineers, gynecologists and psychologists to help in the design and make sure it was safe."
Ehlers also points out how South African women take extreme measures like placing razor blades in their nether regions to prevent being raped.
"I believe something's got to be done. This will make some men rethink before they assault a woman."
Dr. Ehlers says her search for such a device began four decades ago when she was a 20-year old medical researcher. She was on-call late one night when a severely injured rape victim walked in. Her eyes were lifeless and she was hardly breathing. Ehlers say
"She looked at me and said, 'If only had teeth down there'. I promised her I'd do something to help people like her one day."
Ehlers said she sold her house and car to launch the project, and that after the trial period, they'll be available for about $2 a piece. She hopes the women will report back to her.
"The ideal situation would be for a woman to wear this when she's going out on some kind of blind date ... or to an area she's not comfortable with."
The mother of two daughters said she visited prisons and talked to convicted rapists to find out whether such a device would have made them rethink their actions. Ehlers says
Some said it would have.
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