A Malawi court Friday denied bail to an HIV-positive man who is facing charges of having sex with more than 100 adolescent girls as part of initiation rites into womanhood. Eric Aniva, 45, was arrested last month, after he revealed that families paid him between four and seven dollars to have sexual intercourse with their children, in a traditional custom meant to prepare them to become good wives.
Magistrate Anderson Masanjala denied him bail saying “it is wise for Aniva to remain on remand so that police can finish their investigation.” He appeared before a packed courtroom without a lawyer, because he could not afford one. He could be jailed for life if found guilty of underage sex.
Aniva, who is from Malawi’s southern district of Nsanje, is one of the men known as “hyenas” who are paid to have sex with young girls after their first menstruation. He is said to have slept with at least 104 women, some girls as young as 12-years-old. The ritual lasts three days.
Last month Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika ordered Aniva’s arrest, after he admitted to the act during a television interview. The man who has two wives said he had also performed the so-called sexual cleansing act on widows and that he did not use protection, despite being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
He claimed that custom did not allow him to use condoms. It is believed that failure to perform the little-known ritual could lead to bad fortune for the families and the entire village. Aniva’s trial will resume on August 15.