A hidden harmful cultural practice that is believed to be contributing to the spread of HIV and Aids has been revealed in Malawi. The revelation was made at a focus group discussion by the Lilongwe District AIDS Coordinating Committee (DACC) with adolescents in traditional authorities, Kalumbu, Chadza and Mazengera.

Girls from the age of eight are introduced into sex through a cultural practice called Mchezo wa Nkhandwe. This is a cultural practice whereby young girls are forced to sleep with older men selected by chiefs as part of the girls’ passage into adulthood. It is commonly practiced in funerals and installation of chiefs.

The focus group discussion revealed that adolescents who are involved are not allowed to reveal what happens during the cultural event. The chiefs give traditional herbs to the girls to protect them from getting pregnant so that they keep on taking part in their practices while adolescent boys guard the makeshift house where selected men have group unprotected sex with the adolescent girls.

This practice has been described as both sexual abuse and also a catalyst for continued spread of HIV and Aids.

Author: Yemi Olarinre