Frank Sinatra sang about "the voodoo that you do so well." These lyrics were never more appropriate than in the African nation of Zimbabwe, where sex these days has entered the spooky realm of witchcraft. Across the country, women are waking up in the morning, horrified to discover obvious signs of sexual activity on their bodies without remembering a thing. This rash of mysterious copulation can be traced to the use of a sex charm called Mubobobo, and more and more women say they're falling victim to it.
Half a million herbalists and traditional healers operate shops throughout southern Africa, selling all manner of "muti," herb-based potions that can be stirred into tea or food. Some muti help treat everyday ailments; others are purported to cure AIDS. But many of them are intended for sexual use. One of the most popular muti, for instance, is "vuka vuka," an African version of Viagra.
Mubobobo was originally intended as a muti to help men overcome their shyness and open up their heart to their loved one, but according to African news sources, it's now being used in more nefarious ways. The charm can also supposedly render a man invisible, so that he can have sex with a woman without her knowing.
A rural teacher named Chioniso Maponga told reporters that only days after beginning a teaching position, she woke up with "fresh, unmistakable signs of a sexual encounter."
"I was so shocked I couldn't go to work, let alone sleep that day," said Maponga. "I wondered what could have happened to me because I didn't even dream having sex the night this happened. It was the most terrifying experience I have ever had." She is currently receiving medical treatment for trauma.
Requests for Mubobobo are increasing, say herbalists and witch doctors from the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers' Association. Men approach them for the muti, but not because they're shy or timid. They want to have more sex, and they believe Mubobobo will help them.
"Men still want to have multiple sex partners but are afraid of AIDS," explained social scientist Nigel Maredza. "I think this is why they are turning to things like Mubobobo to satisfy their sexual fantasies. It is believed you don't run the risk of being infected with sexually transmitted diseases when you use Mubobobo, and this is good news to people who want to have sex with multiple partners."
But it's bad news for the women of Zimbabwe, who aren't necessarily interested in having anonymous sex with multiple partners without protection from disease. To them, Mubobobo-assisted sex is a violation of their human rights. If a man is caught in bed with a woman under mysterious circumstances, he's not charged with rape, only with the lesser offense of housebreaking. There is nothing the police can do.
In exasperation, Zimbabwean women are organizing a large conference to lobby authorities and change the laws -- in particular, the Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1899, which makes it illegal to accuse someone of being a witch.
Renifa Madenga, director of a women's group called Msasa Project, says lobbying to change the laws is the next logical step: "Though there is no authentic evidence, our approach is that this is mental abuse and many women need counseling because it is traumatic. We think this is a human rights issue because someone will have the power to manipulate others."