The virgin cleansing myth (also referred to as the virgin cure myth, virgin rape myth, or simplyvirgin myth) is the mistaken belief that if a man infected with HIV, AIDS, or other sexually transmitted diseases has sex with a virgin girl, he will be cured of his disease. Anthropologist Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala has recognized the myth as a potential factor in infant rape in South Africa.
Anthropologists 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.
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 and 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 inEast 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.