President Mutharika orders arrest of HIV-infected man paid to devirginise girls in Malawi: ‘This nonsense of Hyena culture must stop’

Malawi President Peter Mutharika has ordered the arrest of  Eric Aniva, an HIV-infected man in Nsanje district  of the southern Malawi who has the job of devirginising girls who had just their first menstruation.

Aniva: All these girls find pleasure in having me as their hyena. They actually are proud and tell other people that this man is a real man, he knows how to please a woman.

Aniva: All these girls find pleasure in having me as their hyena. They actually are proud and tell other people that this man is a real man, he knows how to please a woman.

Aniva with a root which he grinds up and adds to water to drink before sex

Aniva with a root which he grinds up and adds to water to drink before sex

From left to right: Aniva, Fanny with their youngest child, Fanny's sister and a former client

From left to right: Aniva, Fanny with their youngest child, Fanny’s sister and a former client

Aniva, a Malawian in his forties, is what’s known as a ‘hyena’ – a man paid to have sex with young girls as a form of ritual cleansing.

Sexual cleansing involving ‘hyenas’  is common practice in southern Malawi- and women are required to participate in it at various points in their life, including if their husband has died or if they have an abortion.

The  story Aniva has hit headlines in international media prompting President Mutharika to condemn the sexual violations against girls in Nsanje district and other parts of the country, saying it is v”ery disturbing and unacceptable.”

Mutharika,  according to a statement issued by Presidential spokesman Mgeme Kalilani,  said it is shokcing that the sexual violations are reportedly done with the full knowledge and support of some parents who ironically are supposed to be the guardians of the innocent children and the girls.

“Am reliably informed that these violations are done under the guise of culture which I find to be very extremely unacceptable,” said Mutharika.

The story has gone viral after a BBC News report in which Aniva explained that  he takes a child’s virginity in a three –day sexual cleansing ritual.

Aniva said: “Most of those I have slept with are girls, school-going girls. Some girls are just 12 or 13 years old, but I prefer them older.

“All these girls find pleasure in having me as their hyena. They actually are proud and tell other people that this man is a real man, he knows how to please a woman.”

Aniva says he is one of 10 “hyenas” operating in his community and he is paid K3,000 to K6,000 (about $3.9 to $6.6) by locals to perform the rituals.

Despite his declaration that there was nothing wrong with the practice and that the girls actually enjoyed it, one local woman said she was pressured into taking part.

President Mutharika, reacting to the reports,  has directed the Police to “immediately arrest Mr. Eric Aniva”, a State House statement said.

The President also wants police to investigate him and prosecute the sexual predator for the defilement cases which he apparently confesses to.

“And since Mr. Eric Aniva confesses to be HIV positive and that he never uses protection in his evil acts against the innocent girls and women, he should further be investigated for exposing the young girls to contracting HIV and further be charged accordingly,” President Mutharika said.

The President has also directed the Police, the District Commissioner and Chiefs in Nsanje to investigate all men and parents involved in this shocking malpractice.

“ All people involved in this malpractice should beheld accountable for subjecting their children and women to this despicable evil,” said Mutharika.

The President says harmful cultural and traditional practices such as sexual cleansing cannot be accepted in Malawi.

“These practices not only cast a shadow on the hard-earned achievements my Government has made on issues such as violence and HIV prevention but they also go against a vision of development that seeks to ensure that the youth (and in particular young girls), are able to achieve their full potential.

“Furthermore, these horrific practices although done by a few also tarnish the image of the whole nation of Malawi internationally and bring shame to us all,” said Mutharika.

The President reiterates that his government will not tolerate human rights violations upon any child, girl or woman.

Mutharika has since called on all citizens and in particular guardians as well as parents and leaders at all levels, to guard against harmful practices that expose children, girls and women to danger and violate their fundamental human rights.

“ Children, girls and women must be cared for, protected and provided every opportunity to survive peacefully and become productive citizens.

“Together, we owe to the more vulnerable in society to make a commitment to make this country a safer place for our children and women, for the future development of Malawi.”

In the report published by BBC magazine, Dr May Shaba, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Gender and Welfare, said: “We are not going to condemn these people. But we are going to give them information that they need to change their rituals.”

Charity organisations are working towards stopping the socially sanctioned gender-based violence through education.

Dr Howard Kasiya, health expert and director of the Adolescent Girls’ Advocacy Network of Malawi, told  The Guardian that being to undergo ‘sexual cleansing’ is ‘often a death sentence for girls’.

‘Malawi has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world and 10 per cent of the population is HIV-positive,’ Dr Kasiya said.

When girls are forced to sleep with ‘hyenas’ they are often then pushed into arranged marriages.

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The root cause of all this is because of lack of education.

Education is not possible because there is no money for schools. 7 cashgate ministers shared all the money for our schools amongst themselves.

To solve this hyena problem we must arrest and prosecute the 7 cashgate ministers to stop any further future pilferages of donor and Malawian tax payers money.

Ine mu diaspora

Don’t forget to add that people also hire a hyena when they have fertility issues. People hire a hyena to impregnate their wives when they are failing to do so themselves. If you are a Malawian and claim not to know of the existence of hyenas then ndiwe mbuli-dala.


There is need for awareness for the parents in the district as no one has ever died or infected with a disease just because their daughter did not undergo this stupid cultural belief.

Margaret and Jane

Thank you His Excellency Mutharika for calling for his arrest. This is a horrible act for both the man and the parents.


He should be tried for genocide and entire villages and their chief must be sent on mandatory education program. All Malawians should come out and condemn such archaic traditions. It deprives the economy of vital human resources at such perilous times.


Considering that this barbaric practice is widespread and well known in Malawi, why did it take a BBC investigation to prompt action from the government? Had the BBC not made it public, would the government have continued to do nothing? Does the government really know what goes on in the country? Clearly this case demonstrates how the government only takes action when it is shamed into doing so. Malawi is a backward country led by a backward government.


Munthuyu ngosalakwa. sanayambe wafunsila munthu. Anthu amachita kukamuputa, azimayi kumamuchemelela nkati. A Malawi tisamachite manyazi ndi chikhwalidwe chathu. Vuto si mkuluyi ayi. Bwanji palibe amene anakana? Tiziganiza mokwanila.


Culture should be encouraged because it’s what defines people. However, some elements of culture need to be criminalized because they directly violets human and child rights. Examples include but not limited to genital mutilation and sexual cleansing. Culture is dynamic, let’s always keep modifying it to suit the times and circumstances. For example, in Western World, they still use the services of a “hyena” in the case where a couple is having problems conceiving. And they have perfected their “hyena” in fertility clinics and sperm banks. They even use surrogate mothers to develop an embryo.

Cosmas Chisale Ngondo
Cosmas Chisale Ngondo
While we applaud the President for condemning this horrendous behavior, we need to ask ourselves serious questions as to why 31 years after the first case of HIV was reported this behavior has gone unchecked. The case in question is just a tip of the iceberg. BBC even provided a map which clearly shows that in nearly all districts of the southern region such practices where girls are exposed to dangers of HIV exist including the President’s own tribe. By arresting one person we are using him as a scapegoat. Serious programs out to roll out on how people can… Read more »

Am sure these reports have around for long time. Two or three tribes in Malawi do the Fisi cleansing practices. So don’t pretend that this is your first time to hear about fisi.

I don’t think punishing this man is socially correct, Mr President. Just explain to him why its wrong to do fisi cleansing and let him be a mentor in his community.

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