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This Man Is Paid to Have Sex with Children and Widows, and No One Knows That He’s HIV Positive
At a time when the world is talking about sexual violence more than ever, we still come across horrifying stories of families voluntarily getting their children raped in the name of tradition. In the southern regions of Malawi, it is a tradition for families to send their young daughters, after their first period, for sexual initiation to a man known as a “hyena.”
BBC reporter Ed Butler met Eric Aniva, a man presumably around 40 years of age, in a village in southern Malawi. The BBC report describes Aniva as “the pre-eminent hyena of this village.” He is hired for the purpose of “sexual cleansing” by some communities in southern Malawi. When a woman’s husband dies, she is sent to have sex with a “hyena” to “cleanse” herself before she can bury her husband. If any woman has an abortion, she is also required to have sex with a “hyena.” When a girl has her period for the first time, she is sent by her family to a “hyena” so that she can be initiated into “womanhood.” While the communities don’t call it rape, that is exactly what this tradition is.
Aniva, who is paid $4 to $7 for his services, claims that the girls “like it.” He says, “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.”
But when Butler spoke to some of the girls who had been through this tradition, he learnt the reality. One of the girls said, “There was nothing else I could have done. I had to do it for the sake of my parents… If I’d refused, my family members could be attacked with diseases – even death – so I was scared.”
In the course of his investigation, Butler also met three women who are responsible for carrying out this tradition. They organise camps for young girls and teach them about “their duties as wives and how to please a man sexually.” Aniva steps in at the final stage of the initiation process.
While the community calls it a “cleansing,” this ritual is probably doing the opposite. In a country where, according to the UN, one in 10 people carry the HIV virus, the risk of infection increases with this sickening tradition. According to tradition, condoms cannot be used while having sex with a “hyena.” Aniva, the “hyena” who claims he has had sex with over 104 women and children, is HIV positive but also says that no one knows about it. Shockingly, he says that he doesn’t tell the families about his medical condition when they send their daughters to him.
Government officials, NGOs and prominent figures from the church have called for an end to this practice but for the Malawians in the southern region of the country, who are well aware of the disdain for this “cleansing,” tradition comes before everything else.
“There’s nothing wrong with our culture,” one of the women responsible for the initiation told Butler. “If you look at today’s society, you can see that girls are not responsible, so we have to train our girls in a good manner in the village, so that they don’t go astray, are good wives so that the husband is satisfied, and so that nothing bad happens to their families.”
However, Aniva says he is going to stop soon. When questioned about whether or not he would let his two-year-old daughter go through the same ritual, Aniva says he won’t let it happen.
“Not my daughter. I cannot allow this. Now I am fighting for the end of this malpractice.”