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Cult Health Sex. 2013;15(6):667-79. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2013.779029. Epub 2013 Apr 4.

Indigenous knowledge systems and attitudes towards male infertility in Mhondoro-Ngezi, Zimbabwe.

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  • 1Centre for Population Studies, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe.


Male impotence and infertility are health and social problems that have resulted in significant suffering to men the world over. From an African perspective, and in Zimbabwe in particular, the taboo nature of male impotence and infertility carries a lot of mystique. Based on evidence from focus-group discussions, in-depth and key-informant interviews, this study reveals rural Shona people to have indigenous knowledge systems that trigger the investigation of signs of impotence (perceived as associated with male infertility) at infancy, puberty and after marriage. Male infertility carries overtones of failure, frustration, pain, social ostracism, stigma, marital instability, discomfiture and suicide. Intervention strategies to remedy perceived problems were exclusively sociocultural, involving the administration of traditional herbs and traditional healers' divination. Given the existence of indigenous knowledge systems for the investigation and mediation of male impotence and infertility, it is worth incorporating traditional healers in future strategies targeting these emasculating conditions.

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