A Malawian man who was paid to have sex with young girls has been arrested at the order of the country's president.
Eric Aniva, known as a “hyena,” was featured on a BBC investigative program documenting the practice of families hiring a man to sleep with girls after they have their first period.
This is common practice in the south of Malawi and is referred to as sexual “cleansing.” Women are also ordered to have sex with a hyena at other points in their lives, according to the Nyasa Times, such as when their husband dies or they have an abortion.
Aniva told the BBC the ritual lasts three days.
“All these girls find pleasure in having me as their hyena. They actually are proud and tell other people that this man is a real man, he knows how to please a woman,” Aniva said, according to the Nyasa Times.
Some of Aniva’s victims were as young as 12.
In addition, Aniva never told those who hired him he is HIV-positive.
“While we must promote positive cultural values and positive [socialization] of our children, the president says harmful cultural and traditional practices cannot be accepted in this country,” said a statement from presidential spokesman Mgeme Kalilani, according to the BBC.
President of Malawi Peter Mutharika vowed to hold Aniva accountable.
“As the Malawi leader and Commander-in-Chief of the Malawi Police Service, the President has directed the Police to immediately arrest Mr. Eric Aniva, investigate him and take him to court forthwith for the defilement cases which he apparently confesses to,” a statement read, reports The Maravi Post.
“And since Mr. Eric Aniva confesses to be HIV positive and that he never uses protection in his evil acts against the innocent girls and women, he should further be investigated for exposing the young girls to contracting HIV and further be charged accordingly,” it added.
Malawi banned child marriage in 2015, raising the legal age for marriage from 15 to 18.
President Mutharika has been involved in international campaigns that aim to empower girls and women.
“It is deplorable that after all the gains made, particularly, in the development of different laws (Child Care, Protection and Justice Act; Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act; Gender Equality Act) which have been put in place to protect girls, children and the youth in this country, that there are some people and communities who continue to commit gross violations against the girl child and women,” the statement added.
Kalilani indicated Aniva may not be the only one heading to court.
“All people involved in this malpractice should be held accountable for subjecting their children and women to this despicable evil,” the spokesman said, according to BBC.