This Open Letter is served to the Right Honor, Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda, SC. The main purpose of the Letter is to seek his utmost and urgent intervention in the matter of Eric Aniva, 45 of Nsanje district, who this past week was slapped with a two-year prison sentence by the Nsanje Magistrate for having unprotected sex with bereaved widows and young girls as part of that area’s traditional custom of women cleansing. It is the unabashedly, direct belief of this column that two years is paltry in comparison to the crime that was not only committed but admitted/confessed to by the perpetrator – Eric Aniva.
It is a mockery of justice that as a country, Malawi that exists smoothly by a well-defined democratic Constitution, we find ourselves splitting hairs about some legal nuances, resulting in pussy-footing about on this seriously dangerous and embarrassing activity that has been vulgarly coated as our culture.
The details of this disgusting saga, are well-known because Mr. Aniva, perhaps for lack of better advice and wisdom, informed the entire world (that is what a speech, however small, with the BBC is all about) that he was the village hyena and is in the business of having sex with widows. But so great is his sexual prowess, that he is also the village sex initiator for young girls whose parents desire for their little girls to learn the art of pleasing their future husbands.
The recording, in Aniva’s own boastful words, is in viral proportions; people not only posted the recording on my social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp but for good measure also sent a link to my mail box. Aniva admitted to having sex with women and girls; he was paid moneys for his “deed” and he also informed the world that he is HIV positive.
Our President Peter Mutharika is applauded for instructing the Malawi police to arrest Eric Aniva in July following the outcry that resounded throughout the world. While concerns are sounded about Aniva infecting the women and girls with HIV, it must be pointed out that the impact of the singular sex act of Mr. Aniva and 100+ women and girls is the tip of an ice berg.
These girls are in adolescents and just at the start of their sexual adventures; some of them may even hold out and not engage in any sexual activity until they get married. But the question arises of their status. If they were infected (and it is very highly likely they were infected), then they will inherently infect all other sexual partners including their future husbands. This is a big massive web.
Thus, there are several worrying factors that warrant a stiffer penalty in this saga. The first is Aniva’s admission to having sex with 100 people – this is 100 counts that the crime was committed and admitted to. In other countries, the sentence would be for each abused person (that is one count) and would entail a 200-year jail term. Secondly, he admits that he was HIV-positive; this is a fact that he said, he never revealed to the families that hired him. Lastly, he also admits that he does not use any protection when conducting the ritual.
Mr. Aniva was clever on the BBC recording to openly state that he had sex with the young girls, that he is HIV+; but for himself and his lawyer to counter that he cannot be charged guilty because no witnesses came to court is highly disputable. He is his own witness. Besides, the girls probably did not want to come to court for two obvious reasons. The first being they do not want any future husbands to know of their fate and secondly, — perhaps of greater concern – they fear coming to court would lead to their mothers getting penalized.
Sr. Chief Kachindamoto has called for the abolition of this cultural practice; however, truth be told, the practice should be outlawed and perpetrators should be slapped with more punitive sentences, not just mere slap-on-the-wrist two-year prison terms.
Rt. Honor Nyirenda, this is not just the lives of 100 women, this could be an entire village, and more. For fear of ruining the lives of young girls, Malawi scrapped and is enforcing the end of child marriages in Malawi. This is the time to also sweep the country and rid it of all the traditional and cultural practices that impinge on the rights of women and girls. An example of such practices is the young girls sex initiation rites and widow cleansing.
Signed: Janet Karim, CEO, Mtukulo International Foundation.