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South African Anti-Rape Condom Could Reduce Risk of Pregnancy, HIV, STDs

September 2, 2005

South African inventor Sonette Ehlers on Wednesday unveiled a new device that, when worn inside a woman's body like a tampon, hooks onto a man's penis during intercourse, and is intended to deter sexual assault and rape, Reuters reports. The device -- which is called Rapex -- is made of latex and attaches to the penis by shafts of sharp barbs. The device can only be removed by surgery, which would identify assailants to hospital staff and police, Ehlers said. She said the device might help to reduce the number of rapes occurring in South Africa, which has the highest rate of sexual assault in the world. The device also could reduce the risk of pregnancy or infection with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases by acting as a female condom, according to Ehlers (Reuters, 8/31). She said the device would be so painful that it would disable rapists immediately, allowing women to escape. She added that the device would not cause any long-term physical damage to the assailant and could not accidentally injure women. However, some anti-rape advocates are concerned that the device might provoke rapists and increase violence against women. In addition, some women's advocates said the device puts the burden on women to address the problem, instead of focusing on societal issues as motivating factors of rape. Ehlers said the country's rape problem is so severe that women need protection now. The single-use, disposable device will be sold for about 15 cents each, and Ehlers said she plans to market the condoms in packages of 10 at major supermarkets (Dixon, Los Angeles Times, 9/1). Production of Rapex is scheduled to begin next year. According to police statistics, about 50,000 rapes are reported each year in South Africa, but experts say the real figures could be as high as 200,000 annually because acquaintance rapes and rapes of children usually are not reported (Reuters, 8/31).

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