- Furious South African women have called for a controversial
new anti-rape device, dubbed a "rat trap", to be banned by the
- The tampon-like device, invented by a woman, supposedly
protects women from rapists by cutting into a man's penis.
- It has sparked an impassioned debate over the high
number of rapes committed each day in the country and the authorities'
apparent failure to tackle the issue.
- Activists are outraged and want to stop it going
on sale alongside tampons in chemists and supermarkets next month.
- Charlene Smith, a leading anti-rape campaigner, said:
"This is a medieval instrument, based on male-hating notions and fundamentally
misunderstands the nature of rape and violence against women in this society.
It is vengeful, horrible, and disgusting. The woman who invented this needs
- The device, which Sonette Ehlers, its inventor, has
patented, is worn like a tampon but is hollow. In the event of a rape,
she said that it would fold around the rapist's penis and attach itself
with microscopic hooks. It is impossible to remove the clamped device without
- "We have to do something to protect ourselves.
While this will not prevent rape, it will help identify attackers and secure
convictions," Ms Ehlers told the Johannesburg Star.
- Women's groups disputed her claims, which have reopened
a debate over violence against women in South Africa. The country has been
called the rape capital of the world. Lisa Vetten, of the Centre of Violence
and Reconciliation, said: "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."
- The South African Law Commission recently estimated
that 1.69 million women a year were raped in the country but that only
52,000 cases a year are reported. Other estimates put the rate even higher.
- Ms Smith said: "More than 40 per cent of those
raped are children and nationally more than 65 per cent are gang rapes.
Whether this translates as a woman raped every 26 seconds or more is irrelevant.
It is far too many and not enough is being done to tackle it. This is not
a male-only problem, it is a societal problem."
- The activist's views were echoed by Jenny Crwys-William,
the host of a popular radio talk show, who described the device as a "profoundly
disturbing" development that underlined how society was in danger
of accepting rape as a reality of everyday life. "We need more police
and more sensitive police responses to rape. When more rapists go behind
bars, rape rates will go down," she told listeners.
- Many callers criticised the Government for a "head
in the sand" approach similar to its well-known reluctance to accept
the gravity of the HIV/Aids epidemic in the country.
- "This will increase the danger to women, who
are already in great danger during a rape. The Government must not allow
this to go on sale," one rape victim, who was stabbed twice during
an attack, said.