Senior Chief Kachindamoto of Dedza has urged fellow chiefs in Nsanje and other districts in the country to crack the whip on outdated and high risk cultural practices that subject vulnerable girls and widows to sexual and human rights violations.
She is the latest authority to comment on the arrest of Nsanje-based Eric Aniva, who is in police custody on President Peter Mutharika’s orders after the man told British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that he has slept with 104 young girls and women in the fisi (hyena) cultural practice believed to cleanse communities after the deaths of bread-winners in the district.
Aniva also confessed to not using protection with the girls during sexual initiation rights despite being HIV positive.
Kachindamoto’s remarks are backed by her own experience of having won the fight against similar harmful cultural practices which had abused girls and women in her district.
She is now hailed as a powerful female champion who has liberated many girls and women from, among other things, early marriages and contracting HIV and Aids.
In her advice to Nsanje chiefs on the sidelines of the recent World Population Day commemoration event at Mankhamba Primary School in Dedza East Constituency, Kachindamoto warned that the fight to root out perpetrators of sexual and human rights violations is likely to be a complicated and a protracted one, particularly because some leaders and many ordinary citizens benefit from sexual and monetary gratification connected to the practice.
“Going by what I experienced, the battle will be a long one and you should be prepared to be criticised for fighting the very traditions you are supposed to protect,” she said.
Commenting on the same issue, United States of America (USA) Ambassador Virginia Palmer said although it is difficult for a foreigner to appraise Malawi’s culture objectively, it is imperative for Malawians to ensure that the practices do not endanger the citizenry.
“If girls are forced to have sex at very early ages, particularly with an HIV-positive man whose status they do not know, that seems to me like a practice that is robbing them of their childhood,” Palmer regretted.