A BBC feature last week focused on Eric Aniva, a sex worker in Malawi, albeit in a more traditional role where he was paid to have sex with children as part of initiation rites common to Malawian culture.
Such sex workers are known simply as hyena in Malawi.
The act, as despicable as it may sound, is common in some rural areas in Malawi and is seen as a form of ritual cleansing.
This sexual cleansing is expected from women who have an abortion, a woman whose husband dies and of course teenage girls who after their first menstruation, are made to have sex over a three-day period, to mark their passage from childhood to womanhood.
Malawi’s hyena is then needed to avert disaster in the form of disease or some fatal misfortune befalling families or the village as a whole in the absence of this sexual cleansing.
In the case of Eric Aniva, he had admitted to being HIV-positive and was hiding that fact from parents who came to meet him to have their child initiated.
The feature which thrust him into a glaring spotlight that saw a lot of people reacting in shock has led to his arrest on the orders of President Peter Mutharika.
President Peter Mutharika said the police should investigate and charge him over the cases of defilement he had seemingly confessed to. Presidential spokesman Mgeme Kalilani said in a statement;
“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,”
He said of the hyena man that he would “further be investigated for exposing the young girls to contracting HIV and further be charged accordingly”, before focusing on the other people engaged in the propagating the act.
The president had also ordered all men and parents involved should be investigated, with the statement saying that “All people involved in this malpractice should be held accountable for subjecting their children and women to this despicable evil,” and that, “These horrific practices although done by a few also tarnish the image of the whole nation of Malawi internationally and bring shame to us all.”
Malawi had banned child marriage last year and raised the legal age of marriage from 15 to 18, actions that activists had hoped would put an end to practices of this kind.