Female rape suspects appear in court

Three women from Gweru charged with ‘raping’ seventeen male hitchhikers and collecting their semen appeared at the Harare Magistrates Court on Monday.

The trio of Rosemary Chakwizira and sisters Netsai and Sophie Nhokwara were arrested in October after being found with 31 used condoms containing semen. Also charged is Sophie’s boyfriend, Thulani Ngwenya, who allegedly assisted in committing the spate of sex attacks that has got the whole country in frenzy.

All four suspects will now be given a trial date on Tuesday, after the defence successfully resisted attempts by prosecutors to have the matter postponed to the 5th December. Up to seventeen ‘victims’ have been identified, including a soldier and policeman, who claim they were abused without using condoms.

Stories of male hitchhikers being ‘raped’ were reported frequently in the press accompanied by claims that a ‘sperm harvesting’ syndicate was behind it. Police arrested the three women after they tried to retrieve 31 used condoms from a car owned by Sophie, which had been involved in an accident that killed a pedestrian.

In their defence the women said they were prostitutes who were too busy to throw away the used condoms. Semen for ritual purposes is reported to be “selling like hot cakes” in neighbouring South Africa where a full condom can fetch as much as US$400.

The story has generated general disbelief at a number of levels, including whether it is possible for women to rape men. Several men who spoke to SW Radio Africa said they would voluntarily give their semen in exchange for free sex and there was no need to rape them for it.

The testimony from some of the victims has also been sensational in most cases. For example one victim narrated his ordeal on national television and said that 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. 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 treatment of the women who are still suspects has been contrasted with the manner in which the late convicted serial rapist Madzibaba Godfrey Nzira was treated.

Nzira was given a presidential pardon and the Attorney General and several ministers attended his ‘release’ party in Chitungwiza. In contrast the Gweru women have been paraded in public and scores of Gweru residents besieged the local police station where they were initially being held, wanting to beat them up.

Wilf Mbanga, the editor of the Zimbabwean newspaper, said: “Is it because as a society we don’t view the rape of a woman as a serious crime? Is it because in our patrilineal society we regard women as objects of sexual desire and when the tables are turned we act in a despicable manner?” – SW Radio Africa

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