Posted by / Saturday 24 November 2018 / No comments

How a “Hyena’ infects girls with HIV in the name of an age old tradition

Hyena, Wildlife, Africa, Mammal, Nature

By a Kollage News Staff Writer

The people of a small community in Malawi are proud of their tradition because that is what has been practiced by their forefathers over the years.

According to this unique tradition, when girls in that community become of age, they need to go through a rite of passage to ushers them into adulthood. As part of the final initiation rites of the initiation, the girls, now to become women; must go through a sexual act with a professional called “hyena” by the locals.

A girl spends the night with the hyena and it is traditionally expected that the girl would have had her first sexual encounter by the next day. This first sexual encounter is not free. The girl’s parents must pay the hyena for his services.

The community believes that when the matured girl does not go through this initiation rite, her parents would die or something untoward would happen to the parents or members of her family. The fear of this calamity compels parents to force their girl children to go through the rites.

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A BBC programme monitored by Kollage News indicates that over the years, this practice has become detrimental to the health of the girls. The sexual act is performed without the use of protection and this exposes the girls to every type of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.

One of the “hyenas” has confessed to BBC in an interview that he is HIV positive. This hyena, called Eric has a wife and a child. Though he has been aware of his positive HIV status, he still continues to perform the duties of a hyena. According to Eric, because he is now HIV positive, he does not engage in the practice as often as he used to. He said the reason why he continues to perform as a hyena is because he needs the money. Asked if he had informed the parents that he was HIV positive, Eric answered in the negative.

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Some of the girls interviewed, who were as young as twelve at the time of their first sexual encounter with “hyenas”, confessed that they were afraid their parents would die if they did not go through the ritual.

It is true that parents who engaged or continue to engage the services of Eric, or others like him risk getting their daughters infected with the HIV virus. How does this affect the future of the girls? How does it affect their education and health? 

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