Friday, August 19, 2005

Lest we forget: The myth that kills

In 2001, while much of the world was distracted by other things, an alarming email began to make the rounds. Forwarded from inbox to inbox, as these things tend to be, it told a tale that most readers rejected as yet another, if obscene, urban legend. It opened something like this:
BBC Photo: South African AIDS victim
Dear All,

There is a myth in South Africa that having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS. The younger the virgin, the more potent the cure. This has led to an epidemic of rapes by infected males, with the correspondent infection of innocent kids. Many have died in these cruel rapes.
According to UNAIDS as of 2004 there were some 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS across the globe, with over 60% of the infected located in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Caribbean is now the second-most impacted region of the world, with AIDS becoming the leading cause of death amongst adults aged 15-44. With the spread of the infection goes the incumbent terror of its victims, who ignorant of the facts yet desperate for a cure, will try just about anything.

This ignorance once twined with tribal lore has prompted an attendant sourge of rapes; which when viewed as "an embarrassment within the family" is compounded by a conspiracy of silence. In South Africa, blamed are the traditional healers. These respected tribal elders, unwilling to admit their impotence, hawk a Virgin Cure credited with at least partial responsibility for the estimated 21,000 child and infant rapes last year; in a country where even officials say the real figure may be 35 times that reported.

Western media reports when covering this issue almost always paint this as an uniquely African problem. This is, however, erroneous. The myth of the Virgin Cure for sexually transmitted diseases has cropped up in Victorian England, India, Thailand, Cambodia and closer to home, in Jamaica.

From WorldNet Daily comes a survivor's story:
...a nine-month-old baby girl from Kimberley in the Northern Cape who survived a gang rape underwent a full hysterectomy and will require further surgery to repair intestinal damage, a hospital spokesperson said. The baby from Louisville was left unattended by her 16-year-old mother when six Upington men allegedly raped her. The baby had undergone a full hysterectomy and she suffered extensive damage to her colon and anus as well. The six men, aged between 22 and 66, appeared in the Kimberley Magistrates Court on charges of rape and indecent assault on Monday.

5 Ninjas, 1 Kitten and a Fifth of Vodka!