Large posteriors are a mark of beauty for most African women and despite health hazards – including kidney failure, blurred vision, dry mouth and gastrointestinal problems – women jostle to get them.

In Zimbabwe, most women use Apetito tablets as well as Gluteboost Butt Pills, Major Curves pills, Maca Root pills, Brand New Booty pills and DimeCurves pills. Prices range from US$3 to US$15 for Apetito pills and US$50 to around US$120 for Gluteboost.

Some women, with low incomes, use illegal injections as well as chicken-fattening pills to acquire fake behinds.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority asserts that an increase in seized contraband of butt-fattening pills shows amplified circulation of such drugs in the country. According to their website, ‘Last year, alert Zimra officers stationed at Chirundu One-Stop Border Post confiscated a huge consignment of skin-lightening creams as well as butt-enhancing tablets which were carefully stashed in a well-carved opening on the trailer of a haulage truck destined for Harare.

‘Skin lightening creams and “body-building” tablets – a favourite among local females – have flooded the streets of Harare and other towns, with vendors who are ready to sell them to unsuspecting customers playing a cat-and-mouse chase with members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and Municipal Police on a regular basis.’

In Harare, for instance, illegal injections and drugs are sold in streets and at Mupedzanhamo Flea market in Mbare.

‘I sell physical stature enhancement tablets such as Apetito as well as butt-enhancing injections to make a living. Pills like Apetito are in three regimens that are Super Apetito, Power Apetito and General Apetito. They produce different results and they sell like hot cakes,’ said Nobby Chimwaza, a street vendor.

‘One takes these pills until a point when he or she gets the desired body shape. They also enhance appetite.’

Since these illegal drugs are apparently selling like hot cakes, one is left with many lingering questions. For instance, what drives women to take extreme measures like illegal injections and chicken-fattening pills to get a big butt?

Don’t they have side effects?

Why would someone desire to have big buttocks by any means? And don’t they have side effects? Reasons behind booty enhancement vary, but women with low self esteem are likely to change their behinds, says Hilda Matambo, a Harare resident.

‘Only women with low self-esteem are likely to change their butt size and skin tone. Most of them sacrifice the little they have to enhance their buttocks and breasts,’ she said. Echoing her sentiments, a trader of waist trainers, Wadzy Mutezo of Altar Ego Clothing said it all has to do with improving the self-image of a woman.

‘Bootylicious’ celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Coco Austin, Nicki Minaj have given a new meaning to big backside and curves.

‘A lot of women suffer from self-image issues and corseting is the one thing they can do to boost their confidence instantly.

‘The world we live in, sort of reminds us every day that you need to dress and look a certain way to be considered beautiful, which is where the issues stem from in my opinion,’ said Mutezo.

Stella Pumhu, a fashion designer, believes average adolescent women in most, if not all, African countries consider a big booty as an asset and ‘bootylicious’ celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Coco Austin and Nicki Minaj have given a new meaning to big backside and curves.

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Anoziva Marindire, a journalist and gender activist, points to the power of the media as she said curvy and light-skinned women are stereotyped and portrayed as very attractive on movies and fashion magazines.

‘I believe hips and butts of famous African celebrities such as Corazon Kwamboka (Kenyan lawyer), Tango Ncetezo (South African actress), Mercy Johnson (Nigerian actress), Matilda Quaye (Ghanaian model and video vixen), Vera Sidika (Kenyan model and entrepreneur), Princess Shyngle (Ghanaian actress) and Tanya Chikuni (Zimbabwean model) motivate some women to acquire big buttocks by any means.’

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Marindire added that it’s all about attention women receive from the opposite sex. She said most women view a big butt as an attraction puller.

‘There is a general assumption that Zimbabwean men love women with big buttocks. Because of this and other reasons, women with low self-esteem will go to any length to get that desirable butt.

‘Remember, no woman wants to look thin like it used to happen years ago. They want to look big and hence they are taking Apetito tablets and chicken-fattening pills to grow bigger backsides.’ She added: ‘When a skinny girl or woman passes by, men do not even bother to look or show interest, but as soon as they see someone with round buttocks, they turn around in a flash.’

Tinei Chitowa, a social worker, believes a curvy woman is a typical African woman.

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‘One thing for sure is that curvy women drive men crazy with their guitar-shaped bodies. Most African men are hypnotised by a bouncing-booty,’ she said. Egnes Dube, a member of the Team Bluffhill women fitness training group agrees. ‘Other women think men love slim women, but this is Africa, Zimbabwe. Big is beautiful and health, and as we are learning, big is actually more beautiful.’

Barbra Chikosi, a music and modeling promoter, argues that African women are curvaceous by nature, a fact that might push other women to acquire big butts. For evolutionary psychologist Gordon G Gallup, it is all about science as he believes that a man’s attraction to women with bigger butts is two-fold.

‘The reason narrow waists and broad hips are so prized – the reason males rate these as being attractive, even though they do not have any insight into why they do – is two-fold.’

Gallup argues that as gluteal femoral fat stores go up, so do the cognitive scores of babies.

‘It means, if a woman has a narrow waist, she is not pregnant. And if she has broad hips it means that the underlying skeletal morphology is probably such that she’d be able to have a relatively unencumbered childbirth.’ He also added: ‘Women with big butts apparently have smarter kids – and tend to be more intelligent themselves.

‘The fat stored in women’s butts – called gluteofemoral fat – has unique long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (science!) that are important for babies’ brain development.’

Gallup argues that as gluteal femoral fat stores go up, so do the cognitive scores of babies born to women with large hips.

He added that not only are babies advantaged, but even the mothers are. Mothers with large hips and butts also have a significant advantage on cognitive tests.

Are African women and men who chase big butts aware of these rather logical reasons?

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Social commentator Gracious Tigere, however, says African men view curvy women as beautiful and this is forcing women to take risks with their bodies.

‘African men widely accept curvy and fairer women as the most beautiful and ideal for marriage. Therefore, women are doing this to attract the opposite sex because men have the tendency of making advances at curvaceous women.’

Echoing Tigere’s sentiments, Zvisinei Matara, a Tafara resident boldly said he would never date a thin woman.

Matara described thin women as un-African. ‘I prefer women with wider hips and bigger breasts. To be honest, 90 per cent of men prefer it. That is why most men praise ladies with big boobs and large posteriors.’

Although pop culture tries to package butt-fattening as the in thing, the trend has left many black women with abnormally rotund derrières.

A woman who has taken butt-fattening pills says she swallowed Apetito tablets to enhance her buttocks.

‘The logic behind the move was not to lure men, but to enhance my appearance. It is my body and I do whatever I want with it.’

Russel Kwezekani, a Seventh-day Adventist church member, says taking butt-enhancing pills is a mockery to God.

‘God created us in His own image. Because of this, we should be grateful for the way we were created. We should desist from taking pills to enhance our behinds.’

Nurse Lesley Marovanyanga says her clinic is receiving at least 10 patients per week with butt-enhancing complications.

Vimbainashe Changwara, a health practitioner, says although pop culture tries to package butt-fattening as the in-thing, the trend has left many black women with abnormally rotund derrières.

‘Most women in Africa, Zimbabwe to be specific, cannot afford surgical costs. They are therefore forced to use illegal pills or tablets and chicken-fattening injection to have big derrières.

‘These home-butt injections are given by people who are not certified plastic surgeons and as a result, they pose serious dangers to women,’ she said, adding that some diseases such as cancer are caused by these illegal tablets and injections.

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Changwara added: ‘The overdose of some chemicals usually results in intoxication and infection. Not all women seem to achieve the desired outcome of the suppository diet. Some only suffer the side effects.’

Nurse Lesley Marovanyanga says her clinic is receiving at least 10 patients per week with butt-enhancing complications as compared to previous years.

‘We have an influx of patients complaining about butt-enhancing effects such as terrible headaches, kidney problems, and sedation.’

Chitungwiza General Hospital chief executive officer, Dr Obadiah Moyo urged citizens to buy drugs from registered pharmacies and only when they are prescriptions from their doctors.

‘People should desist from buying these drugs as a way of safeguarding their health. Some of the drugs could have gone past their expiry date. Therefore, it will be meaningless to buy them from the streets.’

The official urged citizens, especially women to desist from using such drugs.

An official from the Ministry of Health and Child Care who requested anonymity said most tablets and injections used for butt-fattening are illegal and people who are selling them are contravening the Medicines and Allied Substances Control Act.

‘Butt-enhancing pills have no dosage. They are also exposed to harsh weather conditions, making it dangerous for those who use them,’ he said.

The official urged citizens, especially women to desist from using such drugs.

‘Yes, you should love yourself no matter what size, but always remember to take care of your body. Desist from using illegal tablets such as Apetito as well as other injections.’

Butt-fattening is a risky business. Ladies who yearn to be the next Ncetezo, Johnson, Quaye, Sidika, Shyngle and Chikuni must avoid them and try to do it the natural way. Lunges and legs squats at the gym, for instance, are a good start.