Virgin cleansing myth

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The virgin cleansing myth (other names are virgin cure myth, virgin rape myth, or simply virgin myth) is the belief that having sex with a virgin girl cures a man of sexually transmitted diseases.[1]

Anthropologist Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala says the myth is a potential factor in infant rape by HIV-positive men in South Africa.[2] Young girls are often raped, because they are thought to be virgins because of their age. Sometimes, people with disabilities are raped, because the rapist thinks that because of their disability, these people do not have sex and are therefore virgins.[1]

History[change | change source]

The myth was first reported in 16th-century Europe; it became widely known in 19th-century Victorian England as a cure for syphilis and gonorrhea among other sexually transmitted diseases.[3] The origin is unknown, but historian Hanne Blank writes that the idea may have evolved from Christian legends of virgin–martyrs, whose purity served as a form of protection in battling demons.[4]

Prevalence[change | change source]

People all over the world have heard this myth, including in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.[1]

A survey by the University of South Africa (UNISA) in South Africa found that 18 percent of workers thought that having sex with a virgin cures HIV/AIDS. An earlier study in 1999 by sexual health educators in Gauteng reported that 32 percent of the people taking part in the survey believed the myth.[5]

According to Betty Makoni of the Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe, traditional healers carry on the myth, because they tell HIV-positive men that having sex with a virgin can cure HIV/AIDS.[6] In Zimbabwe, some people also believe that the blood produced by raping a virgin will cleanse the infected person's blood of the disease.[6]

In 2002, psychologist Mike Earl-Taylor wrote that the virgin cure myth may explain the rise in child or infant rapes in South Africa, which is facing an HIV/AIDS epidemic.[7] UNICEF has attributed the rape of hundreds of girls to the virgin cleansing myth.[8]

There have been no studies to find out how common the myth is, and how many people get raped because of this belief. Researchers Rachel Jewkes and Helen Epstein say that the belief does not drive HIV infection or child sexual abuse in Africa.[9] A study done on convicted sex offenders in Malawi also did not find any evidence to support the idea that the virgin cleansing myth prompted any rapes.[10]

Importance of education[change | change source]

Because peolple do not know about HIV and the AIDS infection, this causes problems with preventing it in many countries in Africa.[11]

Education has helped women such as Betty Makoni speak out against the myth and attempt to dissuade people from believing the virgin cleansing myth.[12][13]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Groce, Nora E.; Trasi, Reshma (2004-05-22). "Rape of individuals with disability: AIDS and the folk belief of virgin cleansing". Lancet (London, England). 363 (9422): 1663–4. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(04)16288-0. PMID 15158626. S2CID 34857351.
  2. Leclerc-Madlala, S (2002). "On the virgin cleansing myth: gendered bodies, AIDS and ethnomedicine" (PDF). African Journal of AIDS Research : AJAR. 1 (2): 87–95. doi:10.2989/16085906.2002.9626548. PMID 25871812. S2CID 20940212. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  3. Earl-Taylor, Mike (2002). "IV/AIDS, the stats, the virgin cure and infant rape". Science in Africa (75). Archived from the original on 2012-01-15. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  4. Blank, Hanne (2007). Virgin: The Untouched History. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 978-1-59691-010-2.
  5. IRIN (2002). "SOUTH AFRICA: Focus on the virgin myth and HIV/AIDS". IRIN. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Vickers, Steve (2006-10-24). "Staging sex myths to save Zimbabwe's girls". BBC. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  7. Earl-Taylor, Mike (2002). "HIV/AIDS, the stats, the virgin cure and infant rape". Science in Africa. Archived from the original on 2012-01-15. Retrieved 2011-12-31.Earl-Taylor, Mike (2002). . Science in Africa. Archived from the original Archived 2012-01-15 at the Wayback Machine on 2012-01-15. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  8. CNN (2009-10-01). "Child rape survivor saves 'virgin myth' victims". CNN. Archived from the original on 2012-01-27. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  9. Epstein, Helen; Jewkes, Rachel (2009-10-24). "The myth of the virgin rape myth". The Lancet. 374 (9699): 1419, author reply 1419–20. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61858-4. PMID 19854367. S2CID 33671635. Retrieved 2013-09-21. "In the current South African case, this claim is predicated on racist assumptions about the amorality of African men..."
  10. Mtibo C, Kennedy N, Umar E (2011). "Explanations for child sexual abuse given by convicted offenders in Malawi: no evidence for "HIV cleansing"". Child Abuse Negl. 35 (2): 142–6. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2010.10.001. PMID 21353703.
  11. Connor, Steve (1999-09-05). "Focus AIDS: The myth that sex with a virgin can cure HIV". The Independent. London. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  12. Mullins, K.J. (2009). "'Virgin Myth' Behind Zimbabwe Child Rapes". Digital Journal. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  13. Stein, Sadie (2009). "Silver Linings: One Woman Takes On The 'Virgin Myth.' Many Others Perpetuate It". Jezebel. Retrieved 2011-12-31.