A condom designed by a South African woman is offering spiky, barbed protection against sexual assault during the FIFA World Cup. The Rape-aXe is a latex sheath embedded with razor-sharp barbs worn inside the vagina like a tampon. When an attacker attempts vaginal penetration, the barbs attach themselves to the penis. When the attacker withdraws, the Rape-aXe remains hooked on. The device must be surgically removed from the penis, identifying the rapist as a criminal to medical professionals.
Sonnet Ehlers, the condom’s inventor, was inspired by a rape victim who said to her: “If only I had teeth down there.” Ehlers planned to distribute 30,000 of the condoms for the World Cup. However, in a region infamous for its HIV-denial and high rape rates, critics say the condoms won’t address the bigger problem—a lack of sex education. Ehlers maintains that, at the very least, the condom’s surprise factor will give women a chance to escape.
Rape-aXe is part of a larger trend that sees an increasing number of South African women opting to use female condoms. Earlier this June, the Female Health Company announced it had fulfilled an order for the World Cup for 3.5 million FC2 female condoms. The condoms are being distributed by the UN Population Fund as part of a campaign called the Global Female Condom Initiative, which oversees female condom programming in 23 countries. The condoms are not a cure-all, but their growing popularity suggests women are eschewing cultural taboos in favour of protecting themselves.