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Malawi: Eric Aniva “hyena” sex predator sentenced to 2 years in jail for engaging in harmful cultural practices

Eric Aniva, an HIV-positive Malawian man who confessed that he was paid to have sex with widows and under-age girls has been sentenced to two years in prison with hard labour for engaging in harmful cultural practices in contravention of the country’s Gender Act. Could the conviction deter other “hyenas” from engaging in the harmful practice?

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Eric Aniva, an HIV-positive Malawian man who earlier this year confessed that he was paid to have sex with widows, and under-age girls as part of a cleansing ritual has been sentenced to two years in prison with hard labour.

Aniva was convicted for engaging in harmful cultural practices in contravention of the country’s Gender Act.

In July, Aniva featured in a BBC report in which he implicated himself in rites of passage, where he said parents hired him to have sex with the girls when they reach puberty as part of ritual cleansing. He told the BBC that he received between US.$4 to US.$7 each encounter for his “hyena” duty. He also revealed that he had unprotected sex with bereaved widows as part of a cleansing ritual, and he also got paid for his services.

Aniva was arrested on President Peter Mutharika’s orders, Photo: BBC

Aniva was arrested on President Peter Mutharika’s orders, Photo: BBC

Aniva’s shocking confession sent social media into a meltdown, and the revelation caused an international outcry, which prompted his arrest at President Peter Mutharika’s orders.

However, Aniva was only charged for having unprotected sex with widows (engaging in harmful cultural practices) in contravention of the country’s Gender Act.

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Read: Malawi to institute tough laws against harmful cultural practices

Two women reportedly testified against Aniva. However, he was not tried for defiling young girls, as none of the under-age victims came forward to testify against him.

While the conviction of Aniva is a welcome development, it is concerning that the practice is remains prevalent in parts of the country, and other “hyenas” will remain on the prowl. The practice is unlikely to stop immediately, and men will continue to secretly participate in the rite, exposing young and vulnerable girls and widows to abuse.

While Aniva’s arrest continues to be applauded, the government of Malawi and civil groups need to do more to ensure that first the laws are put into place, and once the laws are enacted, the victims of the practices are educated and empowered on how to resist these practices and seek protection offered by the justice system.

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