Steve Vickers, BBC News, November 27, 2011
Zimbabwean police believe there is a nationwide syndicate of women raping men, possibly to use their semen for use in rituals that claim to make people wealthy.
It has taken more than a year for any arrests to be made, and on Monday three women are to go on trial in the capital, Harare, over the allegations which have shocked the country.
One alleged victim, who wished to remain anonymous, gave an account on national television in July of his experience which happened after he was offered a lift by a group of three women in Harare.
“One of the women threw water in my face and they injected me with something that gave me a strong sexual desire,” he said.
“They stopped the car and made me have sex with each of them several times, using condoms.
“When they had finished they left me in the bush totally naked.
“Some people gathering grass helped me by calling the police, who took me to hospital to deal with the effects of this drug that I had been given, as the urge to have sex was still there.”
The women due in court have been charged on 17 counts of aggravated indecent assault–as Zimbabwean law does not recognise the act of a woman raping a man.
They were detained earlier this month in the central town of Gweru, 275km (170 miles) south-west of Harare, after officers found 31 used condoms in the car that they were travelling in.
The women deny the charges, saying they are prostitutes and were too busy at the time to dispose of the condoms.
After being released on bail last month, they were confronted and threatened by a crowd.They say they have been forced to remain at home since then, to avoid unwanted attention.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Andrew Phiri told the BBC that they believe that there is a syndicate operating nationwide.
“We have received reports from around the country from different towns and provinces, it’s been happening on the highways,” he said.
“We are yet to find out the real reason why this is happening. We have heard speculation that it’s linked to rituals.”
He appealed for witnesses to come forward.
“We need to hear from people who are prepared to tell,” the superintendent said.
The semen is believed to be used in rituals to bring success in business, and there are suggestions that the semen is being taken outside the country for sale.
But cultural expert and sociology lecturer Claude Mararikei told the BBC that it was not clear how the semen would be used.
“It’s in the area of rituals and magic, which border on secret societies,” he said.
“Even researchers don’t want to go into that area because you may not come out alive to publish whatever you find out.”
‘Wife left me’
While the first accounts of men alleging that they had been raped by women were generally met with incredulity, men who spoke to the BBC say that they are now taking the issue very seriously.
“When I travel I only use buses where people are travelling in numbers now, I won’t get a lift in private cars, especially if there are women inside,” said a man called Witness.
“You must exercise caution, women are raping men, it’s happening.”
Some women in Harare, like Sibongile, worry it is giving their gender a bad image.
“I wish that people could be encouraged to work for their money in a good way. It’s evil that’s gone into women’s heads to cause them to be that greedy, that they want easy money,” she told the BBC in the city centre.
The police have not given a figure for the number of cases reported.
Nakai Nengomasha, a counsellor who is working with three men who say that they are victims of female rapists, believes that there could be more cases who have not come forward.
“I think there has been a lot of under-reporting because the victims will feel not man enough to talk about such issues and that will hinder them from speaking out,” he said.
“They need to deal with denial which comes from a deeply rooted mistaken belief that men are immune to being victimised and that they should be able to fight back if they are truly a real man.
“Some have to deal with the issue of seeing the assault as a loss of manhood and feel disgusted with themselves.”
That is how the man who spoke about his alleged ordeal on television feels, saying he even contemplated suicide.
“I feel violated and disappointed, because when I told my wife what happened, she left me, together with one of our three children. I’m hoping that she will come back.”