Malawi is planning to put into place tough laws against harmful cultural practices, which target women and young girls in the wake of the arrest of Eric Aniva, an HIV-positive man, who confessed to having sex with pubertal children as part of initiation rites.

Aniva was arrested on President Peter Mutharika’s orders, and Mutharika has since announced the country is planning a major crackdown on such practices, reports from Malawi say.

Aniva’s confession sent social media into a meltdown last week in a BBC report in which he implicated himself in rites of passage, where parents allegedly hire him to have sex with the girls when they reach puberty as part of ritual cleansing.

Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika
Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika

The practice is said to be prevalent in the southern parts of the country, and the “hyena” as the man in known is paid to participate in the rite, with Aniva telling the BBC he received between US.$4 to US.$7 each encounter for his “hyena” duty.

The revelation has angered many citizens in Malawi, rights organisations, and it has also ignited a major uproar across social media, with calls to arrest perpetrators to end the practice.

Following the arrest, Mutharika has pledged that the country will institute tough laws against such harmful cultural practices. According to Nyasa Times, Mutharika said, “we will be dealing with it and I expect  the next  session of parliament in November that we will have this legislation ready”.

Read: Malawi: Superstition driving the rate of sexual offences up, police say

Malawi has been fighting prevalent harmful cultural practices and superstitious beliefs. The police have in the past attributed the high prevalence of incestual rape, virgin cleansing, female genital mutilation, child abuse and the murder of people living with albinism to traditional beliefs, which need to be challenged.

In April, President Mutharika issued a strong warning against people involved in the murder of people living with albinism as the country battled to deal with this enduring problem. Following incessant attacks on people living with albinism, Malawi then announced it will now hand down life sentences to perpetrators, in a development which was widely received.