Nsanje people defiant to continue sexual ritual as gender activists not amused with Aniva’s 2-year jail term

The sentencing to two years in jail for an HIV-positive Malawian man who said he had sex with at least 100 girls and women in traditional cleansing rituals has attracted mixed reactions with gender activisits expressing dissatisfaction that it is manifestly inadequate while some people from Nsanje have vowed to continue with “harmful” cultural practices.

Eric Aniva smokes a cigarette before sentencing at Nsanje magistrate court. -Photo by Lameck Masina

Eric Aniva smokes a cigarette before sentencing at Nsanje magistrate court. -Photo by Lameck Masina

Lawyer Goba Chipeta: To launch appeal bid -Photo by Lameck Masina

Lawyer Goba Chipeta: To launch appeal bid -Photo by Lameck Masina

Kaliya: Lenient sentence to a man who confessed to have sexually abused woman and girls

Kaliya: Lenient sentence to a man who confessed to have sexually abused woman and girls

Eric Aniva, 45, of Nsanje district bordering with Mozambique, was prosecuted on the orders of President Peter Mutharika after publicly speaking about his role as a “hyena” in a BBC radio documentary earlier this year.

Women’s Human Rights organization alongside Cultural and religious leaders from African countries currently meeting in Lilongwe, described the sentence to Aniva as  “lenient”.

After the Principal Resident Magistrate Innocent Nebi handed out the two year sentence, Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRC), the NGO Gender Coordinating Network and the African Women Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) called for a review of the sentence.

Through a joint communiqué, the organisations have called upon the Director of Public Prosecutions  (DPP), Mrs Mary Kachale, to seriously consider appealing the sentence as it is not deterrent enough for other would be offenders.

“We are shocked and appalled that a man, living with HIV has for over two decades sexually violated children as young as 12 years of age in an outdated retrogressive culture that is harmful for women and girls and the magistrate saw it fit to only give him 2 years jail term” said Emma Kaliya of the NGO Gender Coordinating Network.

“Aniva confessed to have been sexually abusing women and young girls. What message does this send to all perpetrators of sexual violence hiding behind discriminatory and destructive cultural practices?  That you can get away with only two years? This is a disgrace and a big let-down to the women and girls of Malawi. The courts of justice must revoke and reconsider this sentence,” she added.

As the first case to be tried under the Malawi Gender Equality Act 2013, the organisations observed that the sentence should have been higher to deter potential offenders and to bar communities from persisting with the practice.

“These are the destructive cultures we are fighting against that have continued to endanger and harm women and girls in Africa.  This particular case presented a great opportunity for the Malawi Judicial system to affirm its commitment to Justice for women and girls in Malawi but it has failed them,” FEMNET’s Head of Advocacy, Hellen Apila said.

She added, “Persistent sexual violations under the pretext of culture continue to dodge women and girls in the world and this must be vehemently condemned. We urge the government of Malawi not to waste this important opportunity to make landmark strides in ending destructive cultural practices by invoking the full force of the law and any other cases of sexual violations that infringe on the rights of women and girls”.

The charges that Aniva was answering attract a maximum jail term of five years or an alternative of K 1 million fine.

Custom in Nsanje demands that a man, known as a “hyena”, is paid to have sex with bereaved widows to exorcise evil spirits and to prevent other deaths occurring.

At the request of a girl’s parents, the “hyena” is also paid to have sex with adolescent girls to mark their passage to womanhood after their first menstruation.

But as Lameck Masina reports on Voice of America, the verdict has attracted anger and resentment among people in Nsanje.

Dinwell Ching’oma said the sentencing of Aniva will never stop them from performing their cultural practices.

“What government should have done is to teach us to reform our culture. For example, if they just advised us that we should first go for HIV testing before we engage in any cultural practice that involves sex,” said Ching’oma.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) also quoted  local farmer Ganizani Ngololombe, 38, who said  that the ritual of sexual cleansing by “hyenas” would not be easily stopped “because it is deeply rooted here.”

However, Maziko Matemba, director of the Health and Rights Education Program non-profit group, said  the sentencing “has opened a new chapter.”

Matemba said: “As a country we have a lot of work to do in raising awareness on HIV and AIDS prevention and its impact.”

Nsanje district is rich in cultural practices that require men to sleep with women. Besides Fisi and Kusasa Fumbi, there are four more cultural practices that require men sleeping with women.

One of them is Dzwande, in which a man is hired to sleep with a single mother when her newly born baby is six months old. Village elders say the aim is to keep the baby away from disease.

Aniva earlier told both local and international media that he slept with more than 100 young girls and widows during an initiation ceremony known as “Kusasa Fumbi” or “Removing Dust,” and “Fisi” or Hyena.

Kusasa Fumbi is another custom practiced in the area: hiring a man to sleep with young girls who have reached puberty in order to prepare them for married life.

Meanwhile, Aniva’s lawyer  Micheal Goba Chipeta is launching an appeal bid at the High Court, saying the sentencing and conviction were erroneous in law.

Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :

Please share this Article if you like Email This Post Email This Post

More From the World

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Aniva was not supposed to go to prison in the first place. We all know that he was not doing this by force. People hired him. A suspended sentence was ideal. Do not use him as a sacrificial lamb. Issues of culture can only be stopped through civic education and not handcuffs. The NGOs calling for stiffer punishment simply want to be seen as doing enough to fight for rights of women in the country without considering special cases such as that of Aniva. We have to balance these things. Not even one woman or girl came to testify. This… Read more »

There is no reason for the women or girls to testify. Aniva incriminated himself. If some guy says he committed murder some years ago, he shouldn’t be arrested/convicted because nobody testified?


The guy rapes kids (too young for legitimate consent) and gets 2 yrs …wot a joke of a legal system. ..joke of a country. ..tried by a magistrate court ….


This Aniva guy was HIRED and eventually PAID. He did not RAPE the girls. Bring to book those women who hired him as well. They also have a case to answer.

Kwacha Malawi

Aniva deserved punishment, he was doing on his capacity. Whether ANAKHUNGWI or no but him is responsible. He deserved life in prison. Ndipo lawyer wakoyo achita bwino kukapanga appeal. This is now a time where punishment is suppose to take its course not 2 years ndiyochepa kwambiri. Let us consider if these young girls would have been our daughters! how would you feel it. Aniva munthu woipa ndipo ndi mfiti kwambiri. This cultural practices must be stop forthwith. Otherwise Nsanje district will be waste district concerning HIV/Aids.


The TAs, VHs, know this tradition of cleansing, and that is their culture. Aniva got HIV for working on behalf of his community, its the community to pay him. Aniva should be released from prison.


Aniva is not supposed to be jailed because of culture practices which was there even up to now these human rights group should have educated the people of Nsanje the good and the bad of such practices then if anyone is caught with these practices should be brought to book

Zinenani Zoona

There is a new twist to this story. Good the hyena is in. However you need to know that the hyena is not a rapist or a a gate crasher, he is INVITED by the ANANKUNGWI. These anankungwi are his accomplices and are equally guilty. In fact this Aniva fool does not even know the girls, their ages etc, because he comes in night and leaves before daylight. The ANANKUNGWI should also be taken to task.

Unenesko Nguweni

Aquit Aniva.He is not wrong;he never forced girls and women.He was invited to do so and above he was being paid.If we want to punish Aniva get all women and girls who slept with him.They should explain the side of the story.They should also be punished for practising harmful practice.

Aniva must be a victim of circumstances..Nsanje has ever since lived infested with local and international N.G.Os working in the field of HIV..talk of the famous Medicines san frontieres duped M.S.F..Goal Malawi,Jhipiego,SSDI,Concern world wide,Friends of Aids support trust,CARE Malawi,the famous NAPHAM,NICE and the Ministry of Health itself…Now are they telling us that they knew about this from Erick Aniva????..We must be serious..jailing Aniva wont stop this but question these NGOs as to what are they spending millions of donor money for…release him and use him to root this out,,,we will win this fight against New infections for us to achieve… Read more »

More From Nyasatimes