An HIV-positive man in Malawi who was hired for "cleansing sex" with more than 100 young women and underage girls has been sentenced to two years hard labor. Eric Aniva, who is what is called a "hyena man" in traditional southern Malawian culture, was arrested earlier this year after he admitted to the BBC that he had unprotected sex with the girls and women. Voice of America reports that the 45-year-old was hired to have sex with young girls who had reached puberty in a ritual to prepare them for married life, and for "widow cleansing," in which he would have sex with recently widowed women, supposedly to exorcise evil spirits.
Aniva was sentenced after being found guilty of having sex with the new widows, which is illegal under a section of Malawi's Gender Equality Act that bans "harmful cultural practices." Two women testified against him. He was not, however, found guilty of having sex with underage girls, because none of them came forward to testify against him. Anber Raz of the women's rights organization tells NPR that the girls he abused were reluctant to talk about their experiences. She feels the sentence is too light. "It feels like a missed opportunity to send out a strong message," she says. "Having said that, it's even great he got convicted. Often in cases such as this, you see complete impunity."