Malawi ‘hyena’ man faces sen­tenc­ing over sex ri­tual

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

NSANJE, Malawi: An HIV-pos­i­tive Malaw­ian man who said he slept with at least 100 girls and women in tra­di­tional cleansing rit­u­als was to be sen­tenced yes­ter­day af­ter be­ing con­victed of “en­gag­ing in harm­ful prac­tices”. Eric Aniva was pros­e­cuted on the orders of Pres­i­dent Peter Mutharika af­ter pub­licly speak­ing about his role as a “hyena” in a BBC doc­u­men­tary. Cus­tom in some parts of south­ern Malawi 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. The ri­tual, which many Malaw­ians say is rarely prac­ticed to­day, is be­lieved to train girls to be­come good wives and pro­tect them from disease or mis­for­tune that could fall on their fam­i­lies. Af­ter an in­ter­na­tional out­cry over the doc­u­men­tary, Pres­i­dent Mutharika or­dered Aniva’s ar­rest in July. On Fri­day, in the first case of its kind, Aniva was found guilty on two counts by mag­is­trate In­no­cent Nebi af­ter a one­day trial in the district of Nsanje. The charges, un­der the gen­der equal­ity act, in­volved the ri­tual of sex with wid­ows as none of the younger girls would tes­tify, ac­cord­ing to re­ports. At the trial, in front of a packed court­room, the state pro­duced six wit­nesses against Aniva, 45, who pleaded not guilty.

High HIV rates

The mag­is­trate said the court had con­cluded that “sex­ual cleansing vi­o­lates the dig­nity of wid­ows”. State pros­e­cu­tor Chiyem­bekezo Banda de­manded a long prison sen­tence for Aniva, say­ing he was prob­a­bly re­spon­si­ble for the spread of HIV. Malawi is one of the worst af­fected coun­tries in the world, with 27,000 deaths from AIDSre­lated ill­nesses and nine per­cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion in­fected with HIV.

NSANJE, Malawi: This file photo shows Eric Aniva ar­riv­ing at the Mag­is­trate Court in Nsanje.—AFP

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