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Some Traditional Healers In Zambia Accused Of Sexual Assault - 2004-01-22


In Zambia, Police say rape and sexual abuse of children are helping to spread HIV/AIDS. And they say these crimes have been on the increase.

Zambian police say a growing number of these sexually related crimes have been linked to traditional healers. Some traditional healers allegedly are deceiving desperate patients into having sex with them as a method of administering medicine.

Brenda Muntemba is the spokesperson for the Zambia Police Service.

"The healers that have got to stop doing that must not go the healers. If you feel that you may not refuse his advances, you don't go to him. So we dealing with many of these cases although the healers concerned are refusing that this is happening."

Police say a few days ago, a traditional healer allegedly tried to force himself on a married woman who had sought treatment for her inability to conceive. They say the healer took the woman into a nearby bush under the pretext that he was going to administer medicine.

But the woman sensed the deception when the healer undressed and told her he was going to have sex with her as a means of administering the medicine.

Police say another healer allegedly impregnated a twelve year-old girl who had been left in his care for a night by her parents so that she may receive treatment.

Both cases were reported to the police and the traditional healers are expected to appear in court soon.

Police spokesperson Muntemba says desperation is driving people to do strange things. She cites an example where people are being deceived that their money can be multiplied through magic or spiritual powers.

"We have cases where people will go to a traditional healer with a bundle of money and he says he is going to multiply and they believe. But then you should check where he lives. His habitation does not inspire confidence. It does not inspire wealth but they believe that he's going to do it for them."

The Zambia Police Service has always treated such cases like any other. But the unique challenges that AIDS poses have helped lead to the creation of what is now called the Victim Support Unit.

The Unit provides counseling services to victims of rape and deceit by witch doctors or traditional healers.

Official statistics indicate that 16% of the adult population in Zambia is HIV positive. About five years ago, the figure was 20% of the adult population.

Official statistics also suggest that the rate of infection has stabilized, a factor attributed to various anti-Aids programs country-wide.

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