Monday, December 10, 2012
Development "Bites" Back
In Waisbord’s, Family Tree of Theories, Methodologies and Strategies in Development Communication, he addresses deficiencies in the health promotion model. Waisbord claims, “Individual-centered health promotion ignores the surrounding social context (poverty, racism) in which individual health behaviors take place as well as the fact that certain unhealthy behaviors are more likely to be found among certain groups”. This statement brings to mind a current device being used in South Africa, by NGOs such as Planned Parenthood, Dr. Sonnet Ehlers Rape-aXe. The Rape-aXe is a latex female condom that is inserted into the vagina like a tampon. Jagged rows of teeth-like hooks line the inside and attach onto a man’s penis during penetration. Once it is lodged only doctor can remove it. Additionally, it hurts the man to pee and walk when it is on, albeit the condom does not break skin.
Dr. Ehlers invention is lauded over by female advocate groups and women’s health organizations. Planned Parenthood has been very active in its dissemination throughout Africa. However, the Rape-aXe is not without its critics. Many worry that the condom will increase violence against rape victims and put them in more danger. Nonetheless the most formidable argument against its use is the increase in individual responsibility against rape for women. A woman most first perceive herself as vulnerable enough to rape to wear the condom and secondly endure the act of rape in hopes that the current system in place will punish the assailant accordingly. Rape-aXe places it’s focus on helping the individual rather than addressing bigger issue; the current social context of South Africa that perpetuates such behavior.
South Africa has the highest instances of rates of rape in the world, with 28% of men claiming to have raped a woman. To bring about true change for women in South Africa, advocates need to focus on the culture and communication of the country. Social activist should further examine and seek out options that do not circumvent the situation, but work to alleviate the crisis.