Penis thefts in Africa. It’s a thing.

There have been some stories going around regarding the spate of penis thefts in Africa. Yes, you read that right. But the Alternet and Huffington Post pieces are not as good as this original one. While this is not technically “news” since the story is from earlier this month, and as you can see, it’s got a history, the subject is going around again and worthy of DN and some discussion. Because, it’s pretty darn weird.

Africa’s genital-stealing crime wave hits the countryside.

Elaborate greetings are the norm, I’ve found, when one enters a Central African village. So it was a surprise when I noticed that many people weren’t shaking hands the morning I arrived in Tiringoulou, a town of about 2,000 people in one of the remotest corners of the Central African Republic, in March 2010. I soon found out the reason: the day before, a traveler passing through town on a Sudanese merchant truck had, with a simple handshake, removed two men’s penises.

As best I could reconstruct from witness accounts, the stranger had stopped to purchase a cup of tea at the market. After handing over his money, he clasped the vendor’s hand. The tea seller felt an electric tingling course through his body and immediately sensed that his penis had shrunk to a size smaller than that of a baby’s. His yells quickly drew a crowd. Somehow in the fray a second man fell victim as well.

This is a fascinating, well-written piece that notes that reports of genital theft are not new but they have spread like an epidemic across West and Central Africa over the past two decades. The author also gives a nod to a resurgence of belief in general witchcraft as well. Is this a response to the troublesome global economy? An expression of anxiety?

Witness say that the organ does not disappear, but shrinks appreciably. This makes little sense with the other parts of the story that talk about organ smuggling. As one doctor noted, these people can’t be helped, really. It’s a matter of magical belief.

The thief that allegedly stole the organs? He was executed. This is ALSO not unusual. Check out this Harper’s piece.

In April 2001, mobs in Nigeria lynched at least twelve suspected penis thieves. In November of that same year, there were at least five similar deaths in neighboring Benin. One survey counted fifty-six “separate cases of genital shrinking, disappearance, and snatching” in West Africa between 1997 and 2003, with at least thirty-six suspected penis thieves killed at the hands of angry mobs during that period. These incidents have been reported in local newspapers but are little known outside the region.

Sometimes, the organs just REAPPEAR upon examination. Because, well, they just got scared temporarily, and went into hiding for a while, I guess.

  4 comments for “Penis thefts in Africa. It’s a thing.

  1. Mr. Shreck
    March 18, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    Funny. This was the cover story that sold me the first issue of Skeptic Magazine I bought:

    http://www.skeptic.com/magazine/archives/vol07n04.html

  2. Autumn
    March 18, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    It’s called Koro, or genital retraction syndrome. Wikipedia has a nice article on it, including a section on African penis thefts.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koro_%28medicine%29

  3. Chris Howard
    March 18, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    So could one say that penis thefts are on the rise? Wow! Sorry. I just couldn’t resist. ;-)

  4. March 18, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    Without going too far, I wonder if there is any correlation between the incidence of this and the local temperature? At least 50% of you understand this phenomenon…

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