An HIV-positive Malawian man, Eric Aniva, who admitted to having sex with more than 100 women and underage girls and not disclosing his HIV status, has been found guilty of Indulging in Harmful Practices contrary to section 5 of the Gender Equality Act.
Aniva, also known as “hyena” is contracted to sleep with widows immediately after the death of their husbands in what is called “widow cleansing”. This, according to the custom, is to ‘exorcise’ the spirits of their deceased husbands.
Aniva also sleeps and underage girls immediately after their first menstruation to usher them into womanhood. The girls do not have a say in this tradition.
Aniva, 45, was found guilty on Friday on two counts after a one-day trial in a packed courtroom in the district of Nsanje.
“It is clear … that the state has proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was engaging in harmful practices. I find you guilty and convict you accordingly,” the magistrate, Innocent Nebi, said, adding that sentencing would be on November 22.
“I dared to reveal what I have been practising. But my arrest, prosecution and even imprisonment will not stop others from practising a custom which has been in existence for over 100 years,” Aniva said outside court.
President Peter Mutharika of Malawi ordered his arrest in July after he confessed on the BBC Interview.
The president had wanted him tried for defiling young girls, but none came forward to testify against him, BBC reported.
Instead Aniva was tried for “harmful cultural practice” under section five of Malawi’s Gender Equality Act for having sex with new widows, and two women testified against him.
Photo Credit: Ed Butler/BBC