Movie beauty Charlize Theron is using her Hollywood A-list status to bring attention to the issue of rape in her native South Africa.

The Italian Job actress agreed to front a new campaign, because she experiencing the horror of the crime first hand as a child.

Charlize, whose mother killed her violent father in self-defence, has made a series of TV commercials bearing the slogan "real men don't rape" - and they have proved a stunning success, prompting an immediate rise in women reporting rape and resulting rape convictions.

She says, "There was initial uproar that the message came from a woman. But then a lot of male sports celebrities began to get involved and we were able to make it an issue, whereas before it was being swept under the carpet.

"Nobody spoke about rape, yet there were more rapes in South Africa than in many other countries. The women didn't want to talk about it and too many men thought it was no big deal.

"I'm more proud of the campaign than I am of my movies. Someone gave me the opportunity to speak out and I do believe it's made things better for women."

31/10/2003 14:13