About sharing In some remote southern regions of Malawi, it's traditional for girls to be made to have sex with a paid sex worker known as a "hyena" once they reach puberty. The act is not seen by village elders as rape, but as a form of ritual "cleansing". However, as Ed Butler reports, it has the potential to be the opposite of cleansing - a way of spreading disease.
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I meet Eric Aniva wkman the dusty yard of his three-room shack in Nsanje district in southern Malawi. Goats and chickens graze in the dirt outside. Wearing a grimy green shirt, and walking with a pronounced limp he's been lame in one leg since birth, he sayshe greets me enthusiastically.
He seems to like the idea of media attention. Aniva is by all s the pre-eminent "hyena" in this village. It's a traditional title given to a man hired by communities in several remote parts of southern Malawi White amature women provide what's called sexual "cleansing". If a man dies, for example, his wife is required by tradition to sleep with Aniva before she can bury him.
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If a woman has an abortion, again sexual cleansing is required. And most shockingly, here in Nsanje, teenage girls, after their first menstruation, are made to have sex over a three-day period, to mark their passage from childhood to womanhood. If the girls refuse, it's believed, disease or some fatal misfortune could befall their families or the village as a whole. All these girls find pleasure in having me as their hyena. They actually are Indian housewife Colyton and tell other people that this man is a real man, tge knows how to please a woman.
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I had to do it for the sake of my parents," one girl, Maria, tells me. Catch up online or download the podcast. Aniva appears to be in his 40s he's vague about his precise age and currently has two wives who are well aware of his work. He claims to have slept with women and girls - although as he said the same to a local newspaper inI sense that he long ago lost count. Aniva has five children that he knows about - he's not sure how many of the women and girls he's made pregnant.
He tells me he's one of 10 hyenas in this community, and that every village in Nsanje district has them. An hour's room down the road, I'm introduced to Fagisi, Chrissie and Phelia, women in their 50s and custodians of the initiation traditions in their village. It's their job to organise the adolescent girls into camps each year, teaching them about and duties as wives and how to please a man sexually.
The "sexual cleansing" with the hyena is rooj final man of this process, arranged voluntarily by the girl's women. It's necessary, Fagisi, Chrissie and Phelia explain, "to avoid infection with their parents or the rest of the community". I ln it to them that there's a much greater risk that these "cleansings" will themselves spread disease. According to custom, sex with the hyena must never be protected with the use of condoms.
It's clear, given the Sweet seeking sex Monterey Park duties, that HIV is a huge risk to the community.
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He astounds me by saying that he is - and that he tne mention this to a girl's parents when they hire him. As our conversation continues, Aniva senses that I am not impressed.
He stops boasting and tells me that he does fewer cleansings than before. Then he tells me: "I am stopping.
The man hired to have sex with children
But the female elders I spoke to remain defiant. They stem from age-old beliefs about the need for children to be wokan into the "heat" of adulthood by a sexual act, he says.
In the past, aand girls tended not to reach puberty until they were 15 or 16, this would often have been carried out by a selected future husband. Today it's more likely to done by a paid sex worker, a hyena, and there's no shame attached to that. Father Boucher points out that the efforts to change this sexualisation of children have been stubbornly resisted in remote southern areas, despite more than a century of Christianity and 30 years of the Aids epidemic.
In most of the country - and particularly in areas close to the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe - "sexual cleansing" is rarely if ever practised. She is trying to galvanise other regional chiefs to make similar efforts. In some other districts, like Mangochi in the east of the country, ceremonies are being adapted to replace sex with a more benign anointing of the girl.
wooman In Nsanje, though, there is little effort to bring about change. With Malawi one of the poorest countries in the world, and suffering from growing reports of rural hunger, it's not a policy priority. Fanny was herself widowed before being "cleansed" by Aniva with sex. They married soon after. Their relationship looks strained.
Sitting next to him, she admits shyly that she hates what he does, but that it brings necessary income. I ask her if she expects her two-year-old to be undergoing initiation too in perhaps 10 years from now. Thhe are forced to sleep with the hyenas.
It's not out of our choice and that I think is so sad for us as women. I cannot allow this. Now I am fighting for the end of this malpractice. For real, I'm stopping.