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Few dare confront it, yet the violating act of rape is still very much an aspect of every society. But for one South African doctor, something needed to be done -- and fast -- to stem the menace after her encounter with a rape victim.
She invented female condoms with "teeth". Four decades ago when Dr Sonnet Ehlers was reportedly on call at night, a devastated rape victim was brought in.
Forty years down the line, she came up with a unique solution, worn by women like tampons -- the Rape-aXe. The device can only be surgically removed once it has lodged itself on the male genital, which will result in positive identification of the attacker and subsequent arrest.
Dr Sonnet went a step further and consulted "engineers, gynaecologists and psychologists" to help make the design safe and not subject victims to HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. The anti-rape condom is now undergoing a trial period in South Africa, where it is distributed free to women, especially during the Fifa World Cup. Once the trial is over, it will be available on the market for $2.20 (Sh170).
Ehlers is distributing the female condoms in the various South African cities where the World Cup soccer games are taking place. The woman inserts the latex condom like a tampon. Jagged rows of teeth-like hooks line its inside and attach on a man's penis during penetration, Ehlers said. Once it lodges, only a doctor can remove it -- a procedure Ehlers hopes will be done with authorities on standby to make an arrest. "It hurts, he cannot pee and walk when it's on," she said. "If he tries to remove it, it will clasp even tighter... however, it doesn't break the skin, and there's no danger of fluid exposure."
Some people see Dr Sonnet's innovation as welcome, since women have always taken drastic steps to ward off rape. However, critics are accusing Dr Sonnet of developing a medieval weapon in fighting rape. They are asserting that the device will only incite more violence against women since a man subjected to great pain might easily kill the woman wearing it, adding that the act of wearing the condom in anticipation of being assaulted represents enslavement that no woman should be subjected to.
Ms Okello added that although the device had been developed in good faith, it was still gender and age biased. "What about men who are also victims of rape, and how many women will have access to it?" she asked. Like other lobbyists, she is instead rooting for more preventative and educational measures for both men and women, aimed at stopping sexual assault in the first place. At the World Cup, the world is watching to see if rapists will be deterred.