HIV/AIDS, the stats, the virgin cure and infant rape
Nearly 60 children are raped every day in South Africa and while experts agree
to disagree as to the causes, or whether the pervasive belief in the so-called
"Virgin Cure" prevents/cures HIV/Aids is possibly responsible for this
deeply disturbing phenomenon, university researcher, Mike Earl-Taylor suggests
it could well be a contributing factor, and a major one at that. Moreover,
infant rape appears to be unique to South Africa, however, the Virgin Cure is
For an alternative opinion on this issue enter here
At the close of 2001, an estimated 40 million people worldwide -37.2 million
adults and 2.7 million children younger than 15 years -were living with
HIV/Aids, and more than 70 percent of these people [28.1 million] live in
sub-Saharan Africa; another 15 percent [6.1 million] live in South and Southeast
Asia. . South Africa, a country with the highest incidence of rape and child
rape in the world, has 19.94, or approximately one in nine of its 41 million
population infected with HIV/Aids, as opposed to one in five for Botswana [35.8
percent], and 25.25 and 25.06 for Swaziland and Zimbabwe, respectively.
Currently, there are estimated to be from 4.2 to 4.7 million individuals
affected by the pandemic in South Africa and these figures are projected to rise
to well in excess of 6 million by the year 2010. With an average of five
children raped every hour of every day, of every week, of every year, the
projected estimate may well be conservative.
Between 1500 to 1700 new HIV/Aids infections occur daily in South Africa, or
nearly one seventh of the 14000 new infections worldwide. This figure amounts to
an estimated 5 million new infections globally in 2001; more than 95 percent of
these new infections occurred in developing countries and HIV/Aids-associated
illnesses caused the deaths of 3 million people worldwide, including an
estimated 580,000 children younger than 15 years.
21,000 child rapes, and some 37,000 adult rapes, were reported in South
Africa last year. According to the South African Police Service, only one in 35
are actually reported. The actual incidence of rape could well be in excess of a
million per year. It can only be speculated and extrapolated then that the
actual incidence of child/infant rape has reached alarming and phenomenal
proportions that should signal urgent intervention from the highest levels of
government, and society-at-large.
To what extent is the HIV/Aids myth responsible for actions against
In the first instance, we must examine the culturally-specific belief system,
which is not confined to South Africa as is popularly conceived, nor to the
African continent as a whole, but is found to exist in most other developing
countries with large numbers of HIV/Aids positive people in their populations.
India, with an estimated 3 million plus HIV/Aids sufferers, along with Thailand,
both largely patriarchal societies, also has entrenched the so-called Virgin
Cure within its belief systems.
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, gonnorhea, [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 WWII, the Virgin Cure was widely sought among
Encompassed in the current belief system of both prevention/cure of HIV/Aids
is the notion that an intact hymen, and the smaller amount of vaginal secretions
in young girls, prevents transmission of the disease through sexual intercourse.
As previously posited, experts agree to disagree on the root causes of the
shocking incidence of child rape, but all are fairly certain, that it does not
meet the clinical diagnostic criteria for the paraphilia [deviant psychosexual
disorder] of paedophilia.
Paedophilia as a mental disorder, or a disorder of psychosexual orientation
is normally, but not exclusively, found in males, and is indicative of a long
standing sexual interest/activities in and with pre-pubertal children of both
genders, but predominately girls, from age ranges 13 down to the main victim
target area of between 11 and 8. The age range of the child rape victim is
significantly found to be 6 or younger. By its very definition, paedophiles do
not target infants for sexual abuse. Infants are however well known to be
sexually molested, rather than raped, within the familial context, with the
father/stepfather the usual perpetrator.
To test the hypothesis further, one could argue that therefore South Africa
must have an unusually high number of paedophiles in its population given the
incidence of sexual violence against children. I suggest this is not the case as
paedophilic activities are generally premeditated, involve pressure, coercion
and bribes to engage in sexual activities, but rarely, except in the case of
mysopeds [child killers/rapists], do they involve forcible rape. Important too,
one must bear in mind, that the vast majority of child sexual abuse cases occur
within the family, and, as stated, the most common form of sexual abuse, and the
most damaging to the child, is father to daughter incest.
Comparing the facts
To further my argument I recently compared and contrasted two high-profile
cases of infant rape and found some common salient characteristics which I have
little doubt would be augumented by further investigation and research. Both
cases were widely reported in the media and infant rape consists of the
following variables . See the text box to the right.
From both criminological, psychological and sociological perspectives, there
exists an urgent need for comprehensive and sustained research into the
incidence of child/infant rape and its underlying causes, as well as that of its
perpetrators alongside the effective implementation of both strategies and
deterrents in order to protect our most vulnerable members of society - our
HIV/AIDS to blame?
In a recent Daily Dispatch, Graeme Pitcher, paediatric surgeon at the
Department of Paediatric Surgery at Johannesburg Hospital and the University of
the Witswatersrand, who has studied 13 infant rapes that have occurred
nationally, said it was a growing phenomenon. According to Dr Pitcher it was
important to distinguish between child and infant rape: "Child rape of
children from five years and over occurs all over the world but the rape of
infant girls occurs only here." Pitcher and his colleague, Dr Douglas
Bowley, postulate some of the possible reasons are that South Africa is
strife-torn with major socio-economic problems as well as the myth that sex with
virgins can rid men of HIV/Aids and other sexually-transmitted diseases.
"The motives as to why people rape infants also do not conform to the
traditional motives as to why people [commit] rape. Infant rape does not have
the power and sexual motive." . Based on the balance of probabilities,
rather than beyond reasonable doubt, my own views concur fully, with those of
Doctors Pitcher and Bowley.
American citizen Mike Earl-Taylor has lived and worked in South Africa for
the past decade. A former social worker, and later crime journalist, he obtained
BSc and BA degrees in Social Sciences from the University of Oregon and an MA
from Oregon State University. He is employed as a Research and Development
Officer at Rhodes University and serves as the Chairperson of the
Grahamstown-based Raphael HIV/Aids Counselling and Support Centre as well as
serving on the Committee of Grahamstown Child and Family Welfare. His areas of
interest are in Forensic Psychology and the psychopathology of violent criminal
behaviour in children, adolescents and adult offenders.
1] HIV Management Solutions: Statistics [online]
2]HIV/Aids Statistics: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,
5] Earl-Taylor, Mike: The Phenomenon of Infant Rape in South Africa, MTN Centre
for Crime Prevention, Department of Psychology, Rhodes University. [unpublished
6] Daily Dispatch, January 25, 2002, Rape: Teachers Biggest Threat, [author
For MRC News release on the subject of the 'virgin myth' and child rape in
South Africa, enter here
characteristics in two cases of infant rape:
* The victim is a female infant in the age range five to 18 months,
or up to two years, [toddler stage].
* The offenders are male ranging in age from adolescence, middle to
old age [50 years, or older].
* The offence is situation specific, infant available and
unprotected, moreover, the offence is impulsive, opportunistic, and does
not, prima facie, appear to contain elements of premeditation.
* There are single and multiple offenders involved in infant rape, the
most highly publicised cases [initially] involved two or more offenders.
* The offence is situated firmly outside the generally, and
clinically accepted diagnostic criteria of paedophilia as defined in the
Diagnostic Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM IV].
* The offence is one-off, eg. not serial or repeat as is normally
found in paedophilic crimes against older children.
* The offence, by its very nature, causes severe and life threatening
injuries to the child.
* The offences, or what is known of them are intra-racial rather than
inter-racial, as is common with most incidence of adult rapes.
* The offenders in both cases were known to the child's mother.
* Alcohol and/or substance abuse was involved in both cases, further,
in both cases the mothers were under the influence or had consumed
significant quantities of alcohol.
* The mother's ages ranged from the late teens to early 20s.
* They [ the mothers] were both single, uneducated and unemployed.
* The offenders were uneducated or unemployed, and share along with
the mothers of the infants, appalling and degrading socioeconomic
* The offenders had consumed significant quantities of alcohol.
* Both mothers had left their infants to obtain or purchase more
* Both rapes occurred during the mothers absence.
* Offenders were members of ethnic group[s] where the pervasive myth in
the so-called Virgin Cure as a prevention/cure for HIV/Aids is
relatively well entrenched within the cultural belief system.
* Offender's personal histories will probably include abuse, either
sexual, physical or both, characterised by abusive and violent behaviour
to others, as well lacking as any semblance of sophistication,
pathologically devoid of empathy for others.
* Clinical assessment of offenders would likely reveal other
personality disorders, such as Antisocial Personality Disorders [ASPD],
or, in the case of adolescents, Conduct Disorders - or other evidence of
* Offenders in both cases, no matter how intoxicated, or
unsophisticated, would be able to appreciate the dreadful wrongfulness
of their actions against a tiny and totally defenceless baby girl.
* Both rapes occurred in the mothers place of residence.
* And finally, it is exceedingly difficult to envisage circumstances
that do not amount to serious criminal negligence on the part of the
mothers of the raped infants, who were nine and five months-old