(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 30 June 2010)
While the world has been glued to their television sets to watch the World Cup in South Africa, 30,000 condoms are being passed out in that country. However, these condoms are not like any condoms you have ever seen before – these condoms have teeth.
In a report for CNN’s International Edition on June 21, South African Dr. Sonnet Ehlers explained that she was “on call one night four decades ago when a devastated rape victim walked in. Her eyes were lifeless; she was like a breathing corpse.”
Ehlers told CNN, “She looked at me and said, ‘If only I had teeth down there.’ I promised her I’d do something to help people like her one day.” Dr. Ehlers created “Rape-aXe,” a condom the woman inserts like a tampon with teeth that attaches itself to the penis during penetration.
The condom, with jagged rows of teeth, causes pain to the man and he cannot urinate or walk while it is on. Only a doctor can remove the device and if the man attempts to take the condom off, it squeezes even tighter.
My initial response to this invention was that the woman could be subject to more violence from the enraged man. My next thought was how empowering it would be for women who constantly live with threats of rape to finally have a way to fight back.
It is sad that in today’s day and age, rape is still such an issue.
According to the report already mentioned, “South Africa has one of the highest rape rates in the world, Human Rights Watch says on its website. A 2009 report by the nation’s Medical Research Council found that 28 percent of men surveyed had raped a woman or girl, with one in 20 saying they had raped in the past year, according to Human Rights Watch.”
In Congo, rape is used as a weapon of war. Women are gang raped right in front of their husbands and children by eight to ten men at a time.
I volunteered for a period of time for a rape crisis centre in San Antonio, Texas. I would go to the hospital as a victim’s advocate when we were informed of a rape. I only did this for a short while, but my life was changed forever.
It is heart-wrenching to watch women of all ages, including very young girls, give account of being forced to perform various sex acts against their will. Through body-jolting sobs and anguished cries, they speak of being helpless and terrified.
However, the ones that stick with me the most are when the women are immobilised. They cannot talk, move, cry or scream. It’s like all life has been sucked out of them – just so a man can get off.
And then there are the worldwide victims of sexual abuse by paedophile priests. This is particularly heinous and I intend to speak on it further in another column.
I’m going to be brutally honest and say I am glad this South African doctor invented a condom that will bite back at rapists. I know the thought of what this condom can do will make every man cringe. But this device was not made for every man. It was made for the rapist.
For many victims of rape, justice is difficult to find and when it does come about, there is usually a long humiliating process of a trial, which means re-living the horror all over again. Sometimes justice can feel like a rape of a different kind.
If there is a physical way to make a rapist immediately regret his actions, I am all for it. In fact, I think every government in the world should have millions of these condoms distributed in the population.
Not only would it help to catch rapists, because they have to go to a doctor to have it removed, but I bet it would deter quite a few would-be rapists as well.
Is it cruel of me to be happy that finally, in the year 2010, someone has invented a way to make rapists suffer for their crimes? No, it is not. It is cruel that it has taken this long to invent such a device. If a man is going to put his penis into an uninvited vagina, he should feel some of the pain he intended to inflict.
It seems critics have accused Dr. Ehlers of developing a medieval device to fight rape. This is her response, “Yes, my device may be a medieval, but it’s for a medieval deed.” That is my sentiment exactly.
Imagine if women worldwide could go about their daily business without fearing rape. There are some places where this is a daily probability, like Congo. However, even in the U.S. and Guyana, women going out for a night on the town always have that in the back of their minds.
This device gives women a way to protect themselves and although that underlying fear of rape is still there, there is now one more way to fight back – a condom with a bite.