HIV-positive Malawian sex worker Eric Aniva, who admitted to engaging in unprotected sex with young girls and new widows, has been found guilty and now faces a possible five-year jail term, according to BBC. In July, the 45-year-old admitted to sleeping with more than 100 girls and widows as part of sexual cleansing, a common ritual in some parts of Malawi.
He was found guilty of engaging in “harmful cultural practices” under section five of Malawi’s Gender Equality Act.
Issuing the verdict on Friday, Magistrate Judge Innocent Nebi said the state had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused had engaged in harmful practices.
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Aniva had pleaded innocent saying he was being wrongly prosecuted for a cultural practice that has existed for more than a century. He also argued that none of the women he slept with complained about it.
“I dared to reveal what I have been practicing. But my arrest, prosecution, and even imprisonment will not stop others from practicing a custom which has been in existence for [more than] 100 years,” Aniva told Al Jazeera.
In total, six women testified against him, with State Prosecutor Chiyembekezo Banda demanding that Aniva be handed a long jail sentence because he was responsible for the spread of HIV.
Dangerous Rite of Passage
In many parts of southern Malawi, communities still practice the decades-old ritual of sexual cleansing, locally known as “Kusasa Fumbi” or “to remove dust.”
This rite of passage is performed by a paid male sex worker, locally referred to as “hyena”, who must have sex with the girls when they receive their first menstrual period.
Hyenas also sleep with new windows to remove any bad spirits that might cause death in the family.
Sadly, these sexual acts are performed without any form of protection and many girls end up becoming pregnant or acquiring sexually transmitted infections such as HIV.