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Zimbabwe: 'Female rapists' semen-harvesting case dropped

Zimbabwe prosecutors dropped charges against three women accused of raping male hitchhikers for semen.
zimbabwe semen harvesting 2012 05 03Enlarge
Sisters Sophie Nhokwara (26), Netsai Nhokwara (24) and Rosemary Chakwizira (28) leave Harare Magistrates court on November 29, 2011 after a pre-trial hearing for attacking male hitchhikers to collect semen for rituals. Prosecutors on May 3, 2012, said they were dropping charges against the women for lack of evidence. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Zimbabwe prosecutors have dropped charges against three women accused of raping male hitchhikers to collect semen for rituals.

Stories of women prowling Zimbabwe's highways in search of male victims have been circulating for the past few years, and have led many men to take the bus instead of hitchhiking.

Sisters Sophie and Netsai Nhokwara, along with friend Rosemary Chakwizira, were arrested in October after police found 31 used condoms in the trunk of their car while investigating a traffic accident. 

The women, all from the city of Gweru, were charged with 17 counts of aggravated indecent assault. Zimbabwean law doesn't recognize the act of a woman raping a man.

But DNA tests on the women and alleged victims have exonerated them, their lawyer told Agence France-Presse on Thursday. 

"The police arrested the wrong people," Dumisani Mthombeni told AFP. "We have always been saying that and the prosecution was buying time to delay the trial because they knew they lacked any evidence."

They women had denied the charges, saying they are prostitutes and had been too busy to dispose of the condoms.

More from GlobalPost: Zimbabwe's "female rapists," accused of semen harvesting, strike again

Mthombeni told AFP that police will prosecute two of the women on prostitution charges, punishable by a fine. The women, who had been attacked by angry mobs, plan to sue for their "unlawful" arrests and for being paraded on national television as "female rapists," he said.

Reports in Zimbabwe have described the alarming trend of male hitchhikers being offered lifts, only to be drugged and driven to secluded spots by female attackers.

In a typical attack, male hitchhikers are offered a lift at night, and then are drugged and forced to have sex at knifepoint or gunpoint with their female attackers, using a condom, before being dumped at roadside.

In one case, a man said he was threatened with a snake before being raped.

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Rumors abound in Zimbabwe as to the reasons for harvesting semen.

One expert said that sperm is associated with new life and regeneration, and can help improve your luck. Another report said semen is used as a facial cream and hair conditioner.

Zimbabwean newspaper The Standard reported that condoms full of semen are "selling like hot cakes" in neighboring South Africa.

Watch Ruparanganda, a sociology professor at the University of Zimbabwe, told CNN that "the thinking is that it can be used for regeneration of life since they are source of life (biologically).

Ruparanganda further explained: "Some people thinks that they can have their bad luck gone by sin semen. I am sure that explains all this we have been witnessing (men being forced)."

More from GlobalPost: Zimbabwean women arrested for sex crimes

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