Virgin cleansing myth
The virgin cleansing myth (also referred to as the virgin cure myth, virgin rape myth, or simply virgin myth) is the mistaken belief that having sex with a virgin girl cures a man of HIV, AIDS, or other sexually transmitted diseases. Anthropologist Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala has recognized the myth as a potential factor in infant rape in South Africa.
A number of anthropologists, including Nora E. Groce and Reshma Trasi, identified a variation of the practice of the virgin cleansing myth whereby individuals who are "blind, deaf, physically impaired, intellectually disabled, or who have mental-health disabilities" are raped under the erroneous presumption that individuals with disabilities are sexually inactive and therefore virgins.
Cati Vawda, the director of the Children's Rights Centre in Durban, stated that the belief that sex with a virgin will cure a man of HIV/AIDS exists across South Africa. Vawda further added that the origins of this belief remain unknown. Psychologist Mike Earl-Taylor indicates the myth was first reported in 16th century Europe and gained prominence in 19th century Victorian England as a cure for syphilis and gonorrhea among other sexually transmitted diseases.
Accounts of the belief are reported from sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Earl-Taylor suggested that the virgin cure myth may explain the staggering rise in child or infant rapes in South Africa, which is facing an HIV/AIDS epidemic. Historian Hanne Blank is of the opinion that the idea may have evolved from Christian legends of virgin martyrs whose purity served as a form of protection in battling demons.
According to the controversial Betty Makoni of the Girl Child Network (GCN), most prevalent in Zimbabwe, the myth is perpetuated by traditional healers advising HIV-positive men to cure their disease by having sex with virgin girls.
However, it is unknown exactly how common the myth is and to what degree rapes happen because of the belief in it. The claim that the myth drives either HIV infection or child sexual abuse in South Africa is disputed by researchers Rachel Jewkes and Helen Epstein.
Because of the virgin cleansing myth, as many as ten girls are raped every day. As many as 3,600 girls in Zimbabwe each year may be contracting HIV/AIDS after being raped. UNICEF has attributed the rape of hundreds of girls to the virgin cleansing myth. Cases have been reported in which a one-day-old infant was raped.
In 1999, AIDS accounted for 8,200,000 orphans in the world, with the majority in Africa. Ignorance with regards to HIV and AIDS infection serves as a barrier to prevention in numerous African nations. In Zimbabwe, some people are of the belief that the blood produced by raping a virgin will cleanse the infected person's blood of the disease.
A study by the University Of South Africa (UNISA) revealed that one million women and children are raped yearly. A survey carried out by UNISA at the Daimler Chrysler plant in East London found that 18 percent of the 498 laborers inquired thought that having sex with a virgin cures HIV/AIDS. An earlier study in 1999 by sexual health educators in Gauteng - the country's economic hub - revealed that 32 percent of the survey participants' questions disclosed that that they believed the myth.
Importance of education
Education has helped women such as Betty Makoni speak out against the myth and attempt to dissuade people from believing the virgin cleansing myth, noting that most of the girls targeted are too young to walk, much less guard themselves.
There are many occasions where girls are compelled into marriage with much older men which only increases their likelihood of HIV infection. The disgrace attached to AIDS also stops many girls from seeking information or health services to shield their status, contributing to the danger of infection.
- Groce, Nora E.; Trasi, Reshma (2004). "Rape of individuals with disability: AIDS and the folk belief of virgin cleansing". The Lancet 363 (9422): 1663–1664. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(04)16288-0. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
- Leclerc-Madlala, Suzanne (2002). "On The Virgin Cleansing Myth: Gendered Bodies, AIDS and Ethnomedicine". African Journal of AIDS Research 1 (2): 87–95. doi:10.2989/16085906.2002.9626548. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
- "South African men rape babies as 'cure' for Aids". The Daily Telegraph. November 11, 2001
- Earl-Taylor, Mike (2002). "HIV/AIDS, the stats, the virgin cure and infant rape". Science in Africa: Africa's First On-Line Science Magazine. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
- Blank, Hanne (2007). Virgin: The Untouched History. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 978-1-59691-010-2.
- Vickers, Steve (2006-10-24). "Staging sex myths to save Zimbabwe's girls". BBC. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
- "The myth of the virgin rape myth". The Lancet, Volume 374, Issue 9699, Page 1419. 2009-10-24. Retrieved 2013-09-21. "In the current South African case, this claim is predicated on racist assumptions about the amorality of African men..."
- CNN (2009-10-01). "Child rape survivor saves 'virgin myth' victims". CNN. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
- Connor, Steve (1999-09-05). "Focus AIDS: The myth that sex with a virgin can cure HIV". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
- IRIN (2002). "SOUTH AFRICA: Focus on the virgin myth and HIV/AIDS". IRIN. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
- Mullins, K.J. (2009). "'Virgin Myth' Behind Zimbabwe Child Rapes". Digital Journal. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
- Stein, Sadie (2009). "Silver Linings: One Woman Takes On The 'Virgin Myth.' Many Others Perpetuate It". Jezebel. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
- UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (2003). Faith-Motivated Actions on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care for Children and Young People in South Asia: A Regional Overview (Report). UNICEF. http://www.unicef.org/rosa/Faith.pdf. Retrieved 2011-12-31.