Malawian President Peter Mutharika ordered the arrest Tuesday of a man paid to have sex with more than 100 adolescent girls as part of a traditional ritual marking their passage to womanhood.
The order was issued after the man from the southern district of Nsanje gave a media interview confessing to have slept with the girls for a fee of between four and seven dollars paid by each of their families.
“I order police to immediately arrest Mr Eric Aniva, investigate him and take him to court forthwith for defilement cases,” Mutharika said in a statement.
This little-known local practice is performed in southern Malawi by men known as “hyenas” at the behest of a girl’s parents after her first menstruation.
The ritual is believed to train girls to become good wives and to protect them from disease, or misfortune could fall on their families or their village.
But it is blamed for spreading AIDS.
In a BBC interview broadcast last week, Aniva confessed to being infected with HIV and sleeping with virgin girls without using protection.
Aniva said that the girls were as young as 12.
“All these girls find pleasure in having me as their ‘hyena’,’ he said. “They actually are proud.”
Mutharika said Aniva should “be investigated for exposing the young girls to contracting HIV and further be charged accordingly.”
He also ordered an inquiry into the role of parents, saying “harmful cultural and traditional practices cannot be accepted.”
The sexual cleansing ritual by a “hyena” is also performed on bereaved widows in Nsanje district to exorcise villages of evil spirits or to prevent another death occurring.
Aniva said a “hyena” was selected by the community based on good morals and that custom did not allow him to use condoms.
Malawi, which has one of the highest HIV infections in the world, criminalises sex with a person under the age of 16.