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“Halt, the sex thieves!” What should you know about the fatal handshake?

20 December 2021, Matar
“Halt, the sex thieves!” What should you know about the fatal handshake?

“People are screaming in the middle of the market or in the middle of the street, where they don't know anyone.”

Several people lynched after false accusations. Suspected “sex thieves” and “shrinkers” have been severely beaten up in recent weeks by a crowd convinced of their wizarding power. Only, after checking, it turned out that nothing had shrunk, let alone disappeared...

About two weeks ago, in Touba, a woman came with the crowd to the police to denounce an unusual crime: she was certain that a thief had seized her penis. The inspector in charge of the case asked a police officer to verify the complainant's statements. The officer found that nothing was missing. The Senegalese press has been reporting for several weeks on similar cases - which mainly concern men. The scenario is almost always the same. A person screams that their penis is missing after shaking hands with a stranger. She points at him; the crowd gathers and beat him up.

Fatal handshake

If a good soul or the police do not provide timely assistance to the suspected “sex shrinker or thief,” he may die from beatings. “I remember a beggar who came into a house to ask for food. To greet, he shook hands with people, and young people, perhaps frightened by his attire, shouted that he was a “sex shrinker.” People jumped on him and started beating him up. He was taken to hospital, where he died. The little ones were brought to the police and it emerged that their sex was in place. We arrested them for a while and then freed them,” says a disgusted source from the Ministry of Justice.

Last Monday, a man was lynched to death by the mob after two young people accused him of having stolen their attributes. “After checking, her sexual attributes had not suffered any damage,” concludes a local newspaper. This Senegalese’s newspaper, which has followed several cases, believes “the stories of gender narrowing, initially confined to Dakar, have taken a worrying proportion across Senegal.”

The accused accuser

How did we get here? Some people speak of a psychosis that makes it difficult to shake hands with a stranger at times. We also evoke the thesis of machinations intended to get rid of a cumbersome enemy. A thesis that does not convince lawyer Cheikh Fall: “People are screaming in the middle of the market or in the middle of the street, where they don't know anyone,” he says.

Most mystical matters are settled before law enforcement. “The police check the facts and determine whether the person lied or whether there is serious evidence and clues. Very few cases come before the courts,” continues Mr Cheikh Fall. And when they do, it is often those who have been denounced who initiate the procedure. Reason: “Assault and battery, which can cost up to ten years in prison in case of death,” said our source from the Ministry of Justice.

Sometimes, there is a reversal of the situation which tends to work in favor of the presumed sex narrower. In Mbour, a departmental court “sentenced Ousmane Ndiaye and Elimane Badiane to 2 months in prison and to pay 163,000 FCFA” in damages to the Ghanaian they had wrongly denounced. Four Senegalese were also brought to the prosecution for causing the beating of four Nigerians, including a woman, more than two weeks ago. They could very well be condemned because they will not be able to prove that there was witchcraft. And pleading “alteration of conscience,” as one lawyer had tried, may prove fruitless. Better then think twice before shouting: “Sex thief!”
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