Africa

Zimbabwe 'male rape' charge dropped

A Zimbabwean woman opens a condom packet in a car
Image caption Since the reports of male rapes, some men say they no longer hitch hike and prefer to use buses

Zimbabwean prosecutors have dropped charges against three women arrested in connection with male rapes.

They were charged last year with 17 counts of aggravated indecent assault - as Zimbabwean law does not recognise the act of a woman raping a man.

At least two of them will face charges of prostitution instead, officials say.

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.

Correspondents say there have been reports over the last year of men being lured into cars, drugged and forced to have sex using a condom.

The three women in this case were detained last November in the central town of Gweru, 275km (170 miles) south-west of the capital, Harare, after officers found 31 used condoms in the car in which they were travelling.

They denied the charges, saying they were prostitutes and were too busy at the time to dispose of the condoms.

According to the Associated Press news agency, their male companion at the time was also arrested.

Prosecutors decided to withdraw the charges after DNA evidence cleared the women.

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

He said his clients were planning to sue the police for unlawful arrests and parading them on television as "female rapists", the agency reports.

The lesser charge of "loitering for the purposes of prostitution" was punishable by a fine, Mr Mthombeni said.

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