While rape is believed to be an epidemic in many African nations, what is happening in Zimbabwe takes a new twist on this horror.

A group of three women are facing trial in Harare on charges of raping men for ‘ritualistic’ purposes.

According to reports, the women collected semen from the brutalized men for some mysterious reasons.

The women have been hit 17 counts of aggravated indecent assault since the law in Zimbabwe does not acknowledge or recognize the act of a woman raping a man.

ABC News reported that at least nine men have come forward to report they were raped by women.

Police in Zimbabwe believe there is a nationwide network of women who target men for sexual assault. The investigation took more than a year before it lead to any arrests.

We have received reports from around the country from different towns and provinces, it's been happening on the highways, police spokesperson Andrew Phiri told the BBC.

We [have] yet to find out the real reason why this is happening. We have heard speculation that it's linked to rituals.

Phiri added: We need to hear from people who are prepared to [testify].”

The three women were picked up in early November in the town of Gweru, 170 miles southwest of Harare, after policemen found 31 used condoms in the automobile they were travelling in.

The defendants deny the charges, citing they are prostitutes who did not have the time to dispose of the condoms in the car.

One of the suspects, Sophie Nhokwara, 26, told NewZimbabwe.com: Are we not suspects until proven guilty? It's as if people have already made their judgments and found us guilty.”

The case has attracted enormous interest in Zimbabwe.

One of the alleged victims told Zimbabwe television in July: One of the women threw water in my face and they injected me with something that gave me a strong sexual desire. They stopped the car and made me have sex with each of them several times, using condoms. When they had finished they left me in the bush totally naked.”

He added: Some people gathering grass helped me by calling the police, who took me to hospital to deal with the effects of this drug that I had been given, as the urge to have sex was still there.

It remains a mystery just what exactly the women are using the semen for.

Sociologist and lecturer Claude Mararike told the BBC: It's in the area of rituals and magic, which border on secret societies. Even researchers don't want to go into that area because you may not come out alive to publish whatever you find out.

Reportedly, many Zimbabwean men are taking the threat seriously and are avoiding hitch-hiking, preferring to ride buses instead.

Nakai Nengomasha, a counselor told BBC: I think there has been a lot of under-reporting [of these kinds of rapes] because the victims will feel not man enough to talk about such issues and that will hinder them from speaking out. They need to deal with denial which comes from a deeply-rooted mistaken belief that men are immune to being victimized and that they should be able to fight back if they are truly a real man. Some have to deal with the issue of seeing the assault as a loss of manhood and feel disgusted with themselves.

Kelvin Hazangwi, National Director of the Padare Mena's Forum on Gender, told ABC News: I've noticed that the men who have come forward are really traumatized after seeking medical assistance of these rapes and need counseling. Some of them, their partners left them and they could not go back to their families. Their social networks have broken down.

He added: This case is shocking not only for the men but also for the society as a whole. Many people drove to the police station just to get a glimpse or a view of the women that would rape men.