Fabiano Kinene, Seperiano Kiwanuka and Albert Iseja all appeared before a Ugandan court in 1941, charged with murdering an old man in their village. According to the defendants, the victim was practising witchcraft and they were acting to defend the village. Kinene claimed the victim was discovered in the middle of the night, “naked, with strange objects and acting surreptitiously”:
“They caught him performing an act which they genuinely believed to be an act of witchcraft… they killed him in the way which, in the olden times, was considered proper for the killing of a wizard… Death was caused by the forcible insertion of unripe bananas into the deceased’s bowel, through the anus…”
The court lowered the charge from murder to manslaughter, ruling that acts of attempted witchcraft might constitute a “grave and sudden provocation”.
At the turn of the 20th century, parts of rural China were being ravaged by drought, devastating crop failures and famine. American journalist and Christian missionary Francis Nichols toured Xian province, where more than two million people had perished, and saw evidence of cannibalism – including the sale of human meatballs:
“By and by, human flesh began to be sold in the suburbs of Xian. At first, the traffic was carried on clandestinely, but after a time a horrible kind of meat ball, made from the bodies of human beings who had died of hunger, became a staple article of food, that was sold for about four American cents a pound.”
Many Chinese believed that foreign imperialism and the spread of Christianity were responsible for crop failures and famine. This anti-foreign sentiment fuelled the Fists of Righteous Harmony or ‘Boxer’ movement of the same period.
Havelock Ellis (1859-1939) was a London-born physician and author who specialised in research into human sexuality, particularly sexual behaviours that departed from what was considered normal, at least in Ellis’ time. His interest and specialisation in sexuality was ironic, given that Ellis’ own marriage – to suffragist and women’s rights campaigner Edith Lees, an open lesbian – was largely sexless.
Writing in 1903, Ellis detailed his interviews with “GR”, an unnamed officer who had served with the Indian colonial army. “GR” admitted to an active bisexual sex life: from interaction with other boys at school, to encounters with a host of foreign prostitutes, to affairs with his fellow military officers. But when partners were unavailable and “GR” turned to self pleasure, he confessed to making “carnal use” of fruit, specifically, melons and papaya. According to “GR”, masturbating with tropical fruit was “most satisfactory”.
In the same work Ellis also details his discussions with Captain Kenneth Searight, a notorious pederast who was also stationed in India. Searight kept a diary listing his sexual liaisons with no less than 129 local boys, describing their ages, appearance and the number of orgasms with each.
Marie Stopes (1880-1958) was a Scottish-born botanist and author. She became famous for promoting sex education for women and awareness of female contraception, opening the first birth control in Britain. Stopes graduated with a bachelor’s degree in botany from University College in London before her 21st birthday. Within two years she had also earned a science doctorate and a PhD. In 1911 she married Reginald Ruggles Gates, a Canadian scientist, but within a year their political differences and personal incompatibility had taken a toll on their relationship. In 1913 Stopes sought the dissolution of her marriage to Gates.
When seeking annulment of her marriage Stopes made some astonishing claims. She swore that the marriage had not been consummated, mainly because Stopes was unaware what sexual intercourse actually was. She claimed to have discovered the reality of her situation after visiting the museum and reading an anatomical text. Stopes was medically tested and discovered to be virgina intacta. She was granted a divorce in 1916. Two years later she penned her controversial but groundbreaking sexual guide, Married Love. Stopes regularly asserted that her motive for educating married women was to spare them the misery of sexual ignorance that she had endured. Some historians, however, view Stopes’ claims of marital ignorance with scepticism.