Sun, Sep 04, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Anti-rape `condom with teeth' entersS African market

`PENIS FLYTRAP' A plastic latex device that deploys upon penetration and bites into a penis is one woman's response to a high number of rapes

DPA , JOHANNESBURG

An ordinary South African woman prompted to action by the high number of rapes around the country this week launched a weapon against a crime to which grandmothers, infants and little girls often fall victim.

Dubbed "the penis flytrap" by South African media, the plastic and latex device in the shape of a condom is designed to fit inside a woman's vagina. It is inserted and removed with an applicator as with a tampon.

In the event of penetration, a razor-sharp network of "teeth" with which it is fitted becomes embedded in the man's penis, causing severe pain.

Once attached, the device can only be removed surgically.

"It will make men think twice," said 57-year-old Sonette Ehlers who invented and patented the device -- officially called the "Rapex" -- that was launched in the small town of Kleinmond in the Cape where she lives.

"The Penis Flytrap chomps rapists!" a Johannesburg-based newspaper declared a day after the launch of the Rapex, which is expected to sell alongside condoms for around one rand (US$0.15) each.

South Africans have been debating the pros and cons of the device.

Prominent Johannesburg-based gender activist Lisa Vetten said that the device normalized rape and placed the responsibility for preventing rape on women.

Others expressed concern that the use of the device during a power-driven crime like rape, could result in the victim being murdered.

Reacting to further criticism that her invention amounted to a medieval contraption not unlike the chastity belts of old, Ehlers declared in a radio interview: "It's a medieval weapon for a medieval man."

Ehlers told listeners she was motivated by the obvious need to help women defend themselves against rapists. The device took shape after she conducted research into the crime and commissioned an engineer to develop the Rapex.

That the device would be open to abuse, she agreed but urged women to use it responsibly, in an interview on South African radio.

Some have accused Ehlers, who has also punted the efficacy of the device in preventing AIDS infection and pregnancy through, of cashing in on fear.

Although the official number of rapes is estimated at around 50,000 a year in South Africa, non-governmental agencies and women's rights groups say the figure is just the tip of the iceberg.

The judicial system has a poor record of bringing rapists to book. Many rape survivors go on with their lives without every speaking of or reporting the incidents to police.

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