Panic over "penis theft" seems to be sweeping Kinshasa, capital of Congo. People complain sorcerers are snatching their penises, rather making them shrink in order to extort money with promise of restoration.
Police have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.
Reports of so-called penis snatching are not uncommon in West Africa, where belief in traditional religions and witchcraft remains widespread, and where ritual killings to obtain blood or body parts still occur.
Rumors of penis theft began circulating last week. They quickly dominated radio call-in shows, with listeners advised to beware of fellow passengers in communal taxis wearing gold rings.
Purported victims, 14 of whom were also detained by police, claimed that sorcerers simply touched them to make their genitals shrink or disappear, in what some residents said was an attempt to extort cash with the promise of a cure.
"You just have to be accused of that, and people come after you. We've had a number of attempted lynchings. ... You see them covered in marks after being beaten," Kinshasa's police chief, Jean-Dieudonne Oleko, told Reuters on Tuesday.
Police arrested the accused sorcerers and their victims in an effort to avoid the sort of bloodshed seen in Ghana a decade ago, when 12 suspected penis snatchers were beaten to death by angry mobs. The 27 men have since been released.
"I'm tempted to say it's one huge joke," Oleko said.
"But when you try to tell the victims that their penises are still there, they tell you that it's become tiny or that they've become impotent. To that I tell them, 'How do you know if you haven't gone home and tried it'," he said.
Some Kinshasa residents accuse a separatist sect from nearby Bas-Congo province of being behind the witchcraft in revenge for a recent government crackdown on its members.
"It's real. Just yesterday here, there was a man who was a victim. We saw. What was left was tiny," said 29-year-old Alain Kalala, who sells phone credits near a Kinshasa police station.
Dr. Narayana Reddy, noted sexologist based in Chennai, southern India, talks of a psychological disorder called Koro Syndrome or Genital Retraction Syndrome.
He says, This Syndrome is characterized by the belief that
• Penis is shrinking.
• It will eventually be absorbed into the body and disappear.
• It will cause death.
Not only men, even women suffer from this syndrome. They believe that their breasts and vaginal lips are shrinking and being sucked inside the body.
This psychological disorder is associated with occult belief, such as witchcraft or with guilt stemming from false notions about masturbation.
A well documented "Penis Panic" mass hysteria occurred in Singapore in 1967. As the panic spread, hospitals were inundated with people worried that their penises were shrinking into their bodies.
Many resorted to pegs, clamps and even a constant grip from concerned family members attempting to prevent the organ from "vanishing" entirely! It took a while before normalcy was restored.
Possibly some extremely obese men may find it difficult to locate their penises buried under several layers of fat. Similarly those suffering from huge hydroceles may have their penises almost lost in the massive scrotal enlargement.
That is all there to it, nothing more.
• Once the penis has grown to its adult size, it will NOT shrink
• Penis has no bone. It has only spongy tissues. Its size depends on the amount of blood staying in the tissue spaces at any given moment. So the size tends to vary from time to time.
• Penis is like a coiled spring. It may become stretched longer when one is sexually aroused, but remain compressed otherwise.