Malawi government is working on banning harmful cultural practises following revelations of a rular man from Nsanje, Eric Aniva who confessed to defiling young girls and sleeping with widows when he was HIV positive.
Aniva, who has since been arrested after Presidential directive when the news about his confession was on BBC, was practising the custom of deflowering young girls who have reached puberty. It is a ritual observed in some remote southern regions of the country as a form of “cleansing.”
There are many ‘Hyenas’ paid by families to have sex with underaged girls to mark their passage from puberty to adulthood.
Minister of Information, Patricia Kaliati, who is also government spokesperson said the Hyena practices will be criminalised.
“We do not have a problem with a cultural practice, which is very good to the people, but the harmful culture we have a problem with it and we are banning it,” said Kaliat.
“That is why we have no option but to arrest this person who does not respect the rights of children but also affecting them with deadly HIV-AIDS which he has proudly announced that he is positive,” she added.
Edge Kanyongolo, a constitutional law expert and associate professor of law at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), said all harmful practices should be eliminated and if the government wanted to use criminal law, it should be done comprehensively.
“Let’s go on an exercise to eliminate all of them [harmful cultural practices],” said Kanyongolo.
He said there should be no “selective prosecution.”
Said Knayongolo: “Let’s attack kusasa fumbi and all of them than just focusing on one thing just because BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] has covered it.”
President Peter Mutharika directed the police, the district commissioner (DC) and traditional leaders in Nsanje to investigate all men and parents involved in what it termed “shocking” malpractice.
But HIV-AIDS activist David Odali told VOA ordering arrests or banning cultural practices that have existed for a long time will not help matters.
According to Odali the best option would be to modernize cultural practices that are perceived harmful to people.
“If someone wants to play the role of Fisi [Hyena]; if someone wants to do widow cleansing; if someone wants to do widow inheritance, then that person should first of all go for HIV testing,” Odali said.
Last year, Malawi banned child marriages and raised the legal age to marry from 15 to 18.
Police says Aniva is expected to appear before the court soon, he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :