Eric Aniva, a Malawian, HIV positive man, was arrested by police on Tuesday after a BBC News interview exposed his sexual pursuits with over 100 woman, many of whom were as young as 12. Aniva, who says he is paid to have sex with children as part of initiation rites, was charged with defilement by Malawian authorities.
President Peter Mutharika called for further inquiry, including investigating the parents and families who participated.
President spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani also condemned the practice, releasing a statement to BBC:
“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.”
During the explosive interview, Aniva went into depth revealing how much he enjoyed the activity.
“Most of those I have slept with are girls, school-going girls. Some girls are just 12 or 13 years old, but I prefer them older,” he said during the interview. “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 is a hired sex worker, or “hyena,” a term used to describe men who have sex with women who are widowed or infertile. According to BBC, Aniva did not disclose his health status to his sexual partners or their families.
The BBC also interviewed Fanny, one of Aniva’s two wives who wants an end to the initiation. Aniva himself said he is “fighting for the end of this malpractice,” especially when he thinks of his own daughter.
Ed Butler, the BBC reporter who covered the story regarding the sexual “cleansing practices,” said in some remote areas located in Malawi’s southern region, it’s tradition for families to select and pay for a man to have sexual encounters with girls after their first menstruation.
Advocates against sex trafficking have called out the practice that affects young Malawian women, but find themselves in a difficult position because of the ritual’s deep cultural ties.
“They have no choice,” Harriet Chanza, an officer for family health and population at the World Health Organization, told CNN in a 2014 interview. “They are forced by their parents and guardians to go through those things. If anyone refuses, they would definitely be looked at as an outcast. There is a lot of peer pressure.”
In 2015, Malawi raised the legal marrying age from 15 to 18 after activists called on the country to put an end to underage sexual rituals, BBC reports.