Avnish Gaurav explores the harsh reality of the African myth.
When a wheel rotates, different points on the wheel rotate in different directions. Same is the case with man made vicious circle, as a result of which different geographical locations progress or perish in a different manner. The difference between the two lies only in the justice mooted out to the various points (locations). The intent is, there are parts on earth that have been and are still deteriorating in all aspects, with time.
What you are going to read may send shivers down your spine. But this is a fact and many innocent people are mute victims of such horrendous atrocities. There is a myth in AFRICA that having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS. The younger the virgin, the better the cure. The reasoning is that the blood produced by raping a virgin will cleanse the virus from the infected person’s blood. This has led to an epidemic of rapes by infected males, with the correspondent infection of innocent kids. Many have died in cruel rapes. Recently in Cape Town a nine month old baby was raped. AIDS has already created 8,200,000 orphans in the world, most of them in Africa. By next year the UN Aids Program expects there to be 13 million Aids orphans. In Uganda, one of the first countries to experience an AIDS epidemic, 11 per cent of children are AIDS orphans – compared with a typical orphan rate of 2 per cent. In Zimbabwe, where one quarter of the general population is infected, between 40 and 50 per cent of pregnant women are HIV positive – threatening a further big increase in the number of orphans.
Africa is a land with social problems, that makes it ripe for a rape culture to root itself, ones that have nothing to do with the folkloric belief in the curative power of virgins. Poverty, alcohol abuse, teenage motherhood, family instability, anger in violence prone society, male sexual entitlement, the perception of females as lesser beings-all work in tandem to create and perpetuate an environment where rape is viewed as a forgivable social evil.
Teenage girls in Africa are the most vulnerable section of society, being six times more likely to be HIV positive than boys of the same age. In South Africa, infection rates among girls aged between 15 and 19 years have increased from 12.7 per cent in 1997 to 21 per cent in 1998 – one of the fastest rates of HIV increase anywhere in the world. Babalwa Tembani is a proof that the myth surrounding AIDS can be as deadly as the epidemic itself. When she was 14, she was raped by an uncle. The crime left Babalwa, now 21, HIV-positive and dependent on antiretroviral AIDS drugs to prolong her life. According to BBC NEWS, a girl was raped by her father when she was two years old. She is now eight, and an orphan, as her father died in prison after the rape was reported by her mother, who has also died. In yet another incident a 14-year-old was raped by her uncle and left pregnant. She was thrown out of the house by her aunt and had an abortion after six months. There were complications and she has been ill ever since.
The myth of the Virgin Cure has a rich and culturally diverse history stretching back to 16th century Europe, and more prominently to be found in 19th century Victorian England, where, in spite of the emphasis on morality, rectitude and family values, there existed a widespread belief, that sexual intercourse with a virgin was a cure for syphilis, gonorrhea, [and other STD’s].
Syphilis, like HIV/AIDS, was fatal in its terminal stages. In the Eastern Cape of South Africa, when a significant outbreak of STD’s was spread by troops returning home from overseas after second World War, the Virgin Cure was widely sought among the population. A study conducted by WOMEN’S HEALTH PROJECT few years back in Galeshewe, a small township in Kimberley, Northern Cape, attempted to get to the bottom of how strong this belief was and how much it predicated attacks. They found that there were basically three theories motivating rape: CLEANSING, PREVENTION & VENGEANCE. The cleansing theory is the belief that sleeping with a virgin can cure a man of HIV. The prevention theory leads men to choose young girls as partners because they believe they cannot get HIV from a virgin. The vengeance theory is that rape occurs as a result of men spreading the HIV virus, so that they will not have to die alone.
Besides stigmatizing the African society it has caused a rapid spread of AIDS. This explosive spread of AIDS threatens to undermine the health and social improvements of the past 20 years, causing widespread economic collapse across the entire region. The child abuse situation is now reaching catastrophic proportions and calls for urgent and earnest action.
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