Sex initiation camps hurt Malawi girls as much as child marriage – campaigner

The custom in Malawi of sending girls to sexual initiation camps is just as harmful as child marriage and must end if the nation is serious about protecting girls’ rights, a teenager who escaped being a child bride said.

Girls as young as ten are being sent to initiation camps in Malawi to be taught about how to have sex and in some cases lose their virginity.

Girls as young as ten are being sent to initiation camps in Malawi to be taught about how to have sex and in some cases lose their virginity.

Memory Banda, 18, said the tradition of early sexual initiation, seen as a way of preparing pubescent girls for marriage, was forcing girls to have sex and exposing them to the risk of HIV infection.

Banda said even if girls were not sent to the camps, they may receive a night time visit from an older man.

Known as a “hyena”, the man sent by village elders has sex with girls as young as nine to prepare them for marriage.

“It’s forced sex,” Banda, 18, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview late on Thursday. “Most girls end up being pregnant, and many drop out of school.”

In February, Malawi passed a law banning child marriage and raised the minimum age for girls to marry to 18 in a move hailed by campaigners seeking an end to the practice that affects half of all girls in the country.

Banda’s own sister was married at 11 to a man in his thirties, who had made her pregnant during a sexual initiation.

But Banda escaped her sister’s fate because she was living with an aunt who supported her resistance to early marriage. Banda later joined the Girls Empowerment Network, a Malawi-based charity that for years tried to get lawmakers to end child marriage.

Banda said the priority now was to ensure the new law was enforced and to encourage village leaders to speak out against early sexual initiation.

“The law will make a big difference and have a big impact, but only if we work with communities and girls to address the issues openly,” Banda said on the sidelines of the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.

Malawi has shown signs of progress already with a growing openness to discussing girls’ sexual rights and dozens of communities in the southern African country banning early sexueyal initiation, she added.

Every year 15 million girls are married as children with one in three girls in the developing world married before they are 18, according to campaign group Girls Not Brides.

Critics say early marriage deprives girls of an education, increases the risk of domestic violence, death or serious injuries if they have babies before their bodies are ready.

Yet the practice persists because some societies view girls as a financial burden, others believe a girl should marry as early as possible to maximise her fertility.–Reporting by Astrid Zweynert, Reuters



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15 thoughts on “Sex initiation camps hurt Malawi girls as much as child marriage – campaigner”

  1. ABWENZI says:

    Mmmh its pathetic

  2. Chopwicho says:

    Too bad virgins loosing it too soon!

  3. munyasa says:

    yes which tribe which district…….that is rape sleeping with underaged… which means most gals from anatsekulidwa kale no virgins tooo bad

  4. Donyisto says:

    In which part of Malawi is this happening? I believe this is fictious, tell us all the facts and places where it is happening. Its goocd to print stories with evidence and facts. Its as if this is happening in Malawi as a whole country. dont give people wrong picture in order to gain publicity.

  5. Inkosi zuzu (wene kasungu) says:

    VIOLENTS AGAINST private parts

  6. Tell us which tribe is still doing that

  7. ambuje says:

    kungoti ana amathina bwino pamene akuluakulu amapanga madzimadzi ndiye sikuti zingatheyi

  8. Peter Nkosi says:

    1. This article is misleading because these initiation camps are not held the length and breadth of Malawi, but in only a few places. In the interest of accuracy, the media should say which tribes hold them and in which part of the country. My understanding is that it is only one or two tribes. Foreigners reading this NT article will get the completely wrong impression about us.

    2. The sex acts described in this article are offences under the Penal Code. Intercourse (actual or attempted) with a girl aged 15 or less is an offence, even if it is consensual (S138). Sexual activity with a girl (<=15) is also an offence. Everyone involved in these crimes are liable to find themselves arrested, including parents, organisers, and hyenas.

  9. Francis W Banda says:

    good law but most girls who arleady left xool under aged what does the law stipulates

  10. Malindima says:

    Sending a girl to an initiation is not wrong provided the teaching should focus on the right message.That was the intention of this process according to the custom. I went to an initiation school when I was 12.
    We were prepared for many including the following:
    Be loyal to our parents
    Hard working children
    Respect the elders
    Work hard at school
    Respect girls
    Stop going into our parents bedrooms.
    All these were of good intentions to a child and this was applicable to girls too.
    There are those women who are misleading the girls teaching them about sex when this was not the intent of the custom.That was not the message intended for girls of 12. There was another initiation that talked about issues of sex avoidance when girls reached their first menstruation and all advices were about not sleeping with boys until they reached the right time after finishing school.
    Those men sleeping with girls aged 12 are actually raping them.

  11. Mswachi says:

    Statutory Rape should have been included in that Law

  12. John M says:

    Wake-up Malawi!!!!

  13. Prosper Katula says:

    we need to get rid of this barbaric custom now

  14. Uchindami says:


  15. Democrat says:

    Hear hear hear !

Comments are closed.