BULAWAYO – They are harmless devices used by millions of women around the world in the privacy of their homes, but in Zimbabwe, possession of a sex toy can land you in jail.
A university lecturer was spared a prison sentence by a court in Bulawayo on October 27 after her parcel of three sex toys, sent from Germany, was intercepted by customs authorities at the main post office.
Shirley Tendai Chapunza, 27, was sentenced to a six-month jail term but magistrate Shot Game offered her the option of a fine of Z$60,000 (about US$95).
The Gwanda State University lecturer, of St Helens Road in Parklands, Bulawayo, was charged under section 47(1)b of the Customs and Excise Act which prohibits the importation of “any goods which are indecent, obscene or objectionable.”
The law under a section on “goods prohibited from importation” also bans the shipment of “any goods which might tend to deprave the morals of the inhabitants… of Zimbabwe.”
Prosecutor Sehliselo Khumalo told the court how on May 31 this year, the geomatics and surveying engineer turned up at the main post office in Bulawayo to collect a parcel sent from Germany.
Francisca Mapurazi, an employee of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), insisted on checking the parcel to determine if did not contain any illegal items or duty-attracting goods.
Mapurazi found three sex toys and immediately called the police.
Chapunza is the second woman this year to be charged for possession of sex toys.
Ayanda Unity Mponda, 23, was detained for 15 days before she obtained bail at the High Court in May after prosecutors charged her for illegally importing sex toys for sale in Harare.
Zimbabwe does not manufacture sex toys and all sex toys in the country, according to the government, were illegally imported.
Mponda is awaiting trial.
The two arrests illustrate the legal dangers female travellers who move with their sex toys face when entering Zimbabwe, if customs officials insist on a physical inspection of their luggage.
Zimbabwe’s morality laws, which also ban pornography, are some of the most archaic in the world. Critics say they are out of step with cultural changes and trends.