Zimbabwean prosecutors withdrew charges Thursday against three women accused of luring male hitch-hikers and coercing them into sexual acts to harvest their semen for suspected ritual purposes.
Sisters, Sophie and Netsai Nhokwara were arrested last October together with their cousin, Rosemary Chakwizira, and jointly charged with 17 counts of aggravated indecent assault in a case that riveted the whole nation and attracted international headlines.
Literally speaking, the crime equals rape; but Zimbabwean law does not recognize sexual abuse of a male by a female as such, hence the charge of aggravated assault.
Police arrested the three, including a male accomplice, after they allegedly found them with used condoms containing semen, amid complaints that a female syndicate targeting male travelers was on the prowl around Harare.
But their attorney Dumisani Mthombeni told VOA prosecutors dropped the charges for lack of evidence.
However, he said two of her clients now face the lesser charge of loitering for the purposes of prostitution, adding they will be suing the police for wrongful arrest and defamation.
"We have maintained that the police arrested the wrong people, and up to this day, the perpetrators are still on the loose and the police are not doing anything about it," Mthombeni said.
Zimbabwe is a country split between Christianity and tradition. Some locals believe semen can be used to bring good luck, and is effective if obtained through sexual coercion rather than harvested voluntarily.