Rape: now women get the chance to bite back

A device that clamps razor-sharp barbs onto rapists’ penises is causing an outcry among South African feminist groups

BY Elaine Hake LAST UPDATED AT 01:00 ON Wed 4 Apr 2007

The words of a rape victim - "If only I had teeth down there" - have inspired the design of a new anti-rape device. Rapex - dubbed the 'rape trap' - is a product worn internally by women. The hollow inside is lined with rows of razor-sharp hooks, which are designed to latch on to a rapist's penis during penetration. They can only be removed by a doctor.

The product will be on the shelves of South African chemists and supermarkets later this month. South African mother-of-two Sonette Ehlers developed the original prototype in 2005 but has struggled to get it patented and approved for sale, not least because of staunch opposition from feminist groups.

"Vengeful, horrible, and disgusting," was the response from Charlene Smith, one of South Africa's leading anti-rape campaigners. Lisa Vetten, of the Centre of Violence and Reconciliation in Johannesburg, says: "This is like going back to the days when women were forced to wear chastity belts. It is a terrifying thought that women are being made to adapt to rape."

Some also fear that the sudden infliction of pain on the rapist could incite him to even greater violence.

Ehlers, however, is adamant that desperate times call for desperate measures. South Africa has the world's highest rate of sexual assault: a staggering 1.7m women are raped each year. She believes the product, priced at one Rand, will be particularly useful for poorer black women who walk long distances to and from work.

With state intervention frustratingly slow, Ehlers argues this ugly version of empowerment is justified. "I don't hate men," she says. "I have not got revenge in mind. All I am doing is giving women their power back." · 

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