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, 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.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :