Zimbabwean men are a proud lot, but they are slowly taking a bruising with increasing reports of women raping men, in a bizarre trend that appears driven more by superstition, and which social commentators say reflects a more serious underlying problem – total moral decay of the nation.
Admitting to rape by a woman is as embarrassing as it gets for a Zimbabwean man.
But an increasing number have in recent weeks found themselves doing the unthinkable – going to the police to report being raped by a woman!
Recently a Chinhoyi man was abducted at gunpoint by three women who forced him to have sex with them, the latest in a string of such incidents which started last year and which police are investigating countrywide.
“This shows you that society has completely broken down,” Gordon Chavunduka, a social commentator and former vice-chancellor at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), said.
Zimbabwe is largely a conservative Christian society but also highly superstitious, which could explain the new rape phenomenon, analysts said.
In most cases, unsuspecting men are offered a lift, only to find themselves being driven to secluded bushes where they are forced to have sex at gunpoint.
But it can be in the form of abduction as happened to one man from the farming town of Chinhoyi, who was forced into a car by the three women after refusing to voluntarily accompany them.
The prowling women usually carry condoms, which they take away after intercourse, ostensibly to use the semen for ritual purposes.
“We are a very superstitious country and I suspect people who do this (rape) may want to use the male semen for some rituals,” Claude Mararike, sociology lecturer at the UZ, said.
Only five years ago, it was not a crime for a woman to rape a man and it was not even considered possible that a woman could rape a man until cases of women sexually abusing young boys started to increase.
No wonder when the initial incidents were reported there were doubts to the veracity of the stories, with the odd joke that these were men making excuses for their philandering activities to avoid conflict at home.
But increasingly men are alarmed and wonder whether women are turning the tide against them.
Rituals are not new in Zimbabwe, but there have for long been confined to the business sector where murders were carried out for body parts, with the belief that this would make a business flourish.
In the last decade there has been an escalation in incidents of men raping young girls, believing this would cure the deadly HIV.
But for a patriarchal society like Zimbabwe, where men still dominate everyday life, a woman raping a man was just taboo. In fact, men did not see it coming.
“I still don’t believe these stories. I suspect that these are men just making up such stories when they stay out from home,” Faith Chinomona, a vegetable vendor in Harare, said. “There is no way you can force a man to have sex, it’s impossible. I don’t believe this.”
There is always a lighter, if somewhat crude, side to the rape cases though.
Last year a man reported to the police that he was raped after spending a week in a smoke-filled hut in Lower Gweru in the Midlands Province after what started as a harmless offer of a lift by two women turned into abduction.
The married man and father of three said he was given a daily dose of porridge laced with an unknown powder to enable him to have sex with the two armed women. He was later dumped on the roadside with little energy after the week-long ordeal.
“I don’t know what is happening in our society.
Maybe this is God’s curse for shunning our customs in favour of the Western culture,” Tsitsi Murindagomo, a 63-year-old traditional healer from Mabvuku, said.
Over two weeks ago, two armed women forced a 44-year-old man into having sex with them while another man stood guard after giving him a lift to Karoi town from Westgate in Harare.
In July a Mwenezi man was reportedly drugged and forced to have sex with two women who had offered him a lift along the Masvingo-Ngundu Road.
Chavunduka said the cases could be a reflection of the degeneration of Zimbabwean culture after a decade of economic collapse.
While the economy has stabilised, poverty remains rampant in the country and most people go to the extreme just to make money.
“These are people who want to make money because of poverty. The women will have been instructed by a traditional healer to collect semen and the only way is to rape an unsuspecting man,” said Chavunduka.
“I don’t think it works. But more importantly this is a signal that we need to look at how to strengthen our culture. It is very worrying, our society is in trouble,” he said.
In July police reported that four women forced themselves on a 25-year-old Masvingo man at gunpoint after forcing him to drink an unknown substance that afterwards made him pass out for about eight hours.
Some men believe the women force the men into having sex just for fun and dismissed that this was driven by superstition or desire to get rich quickly.
“This is just publicity seeking. There are some people who get an adrenalin rush by doing very odd things and I believe this is the case here,” Stanley Jena, business studies student at a Harare college, said. – Zim Online