In the fight against sexual violence, a South African doctor has developed an anti rape device, a female condom with teeth. Quite literally.
The "Rape-aXe" anti-rape condom has rows of jagged hooks designed to latch onto a man's penis during penetration. The condom can only be removed by a doctor after it has been attached - preferably when authorities can apprehend him, according to the condom's creator, Dr. Sonnet Ehlers. "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."
Why did Dr. Sonnet Ehlers feel a need for Shark Condoms?
Sonnet Ehlers/Bryant has been working as a blood technician and medical researcher since 1967 in South Africa. It has the highest rate of rape. Approximately 1 in 4 have been raped in their life, according to one study based in the Gauteng province.
Rape is grossly underreported, according to crime figures published by the South African Police Service in 2013. She treated survivors of this unspeakable act for decades, and she saw the truth of these horrific statistics firsthand.
While rape is extremely common in South Africa, it is not unique to the country. Sexual violence is a severely underreported crime, according to the United Nations, similar figures can be found all over the world. A radical approach to sexual harassment is needed as rape statistics rise to alarming levels and victims continue to be ignored by justice systems around the world.
What was the inspiration behind the anti-rape device?
Early on in her career, a patient inspired her to seek such an answer. She was tending for a woman who had just survived an attack late one night in 1969 when she said something to her that she would never forget.
She said: "If only I had teeth down there."
Ehlers promised her that she would do something to help people in her condition one day.
According to Ehlers, she learned that in South Africa, women take extreme steps to prevent rape. Some put a razor blade covered in sponges into their private parts which would slice the head of the penis in half.
Several decades later, she has made good on her word by developing a device that gives women a better chance of surviving sexual assault and bringing their attacker to justice.
How does anti-rape device work?
The Rape-aXe is a latex sheath with shafts of sharp, inward-facing barbs that a woman would wear like a female condom in her vagina. If an attacker attempted vaginal rape, his penis would penetrate the latex sheath and be snagged by the barbs, causing intense discomfort to the attacker during removal and allowing the victim to flee.
When the rapist withdrew, the condom would remain stuck to his body and could only be removed surgically, alerting hospital personnel and police. Rape-aXe, like most condoms, typically prevents pregnancy as well as HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Criticism for the anti-rape condoms
Critics claim that the shark condoms exposes women to abuse from men trapped inside the device.
Victoria Kajja, a fellow with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Uganda, told CNN that it's also a kind of "enslavement." "The fears surrounding the victim, the act of wearing the condom in anticipation of being assaulted all represent enslavement that no woman should be subjected to," she said.
The device, according to Kajja, reminds women of their vulnerability. "It not only presents the victim with a false sense of security but psychological trauma," she added.
The device has been compared to something from the Middle Ages by critics. "Yes, my device may be medieval, but it's for a medieval deed that has been around for decades," Sonnet Ehlers/Bryant. "I believe something's got to be done ... and this will make some men rethink before they assault a woman."
Other anti-rape technological advances
Invisible anti-groping stamp, An anti-groping device aimed at tackling sexual harassment on public transport, designed to be carried in a bag or pocket. A clothing line offering wearable protection that is garments that are resistant to cutting and pulling, through their unique reinforced skeleton structure design the garment becomes difficult to take off by a stranger.
In 2014, undergraduate students at North Carolina University began promoting the Undercover Colors nail polish. The nail polish changes color when dipped in the drink mixed with a date-rape drug. They were also involved in creating Sip Chip, a coin size drink test with 99.3% accuracy, allowing discrete testing.