President Peter Mutharika says he has requested the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to draft a law to govern the practice of cultures and traditions in Malawi to take into account issues of human rights and diseases.
The President said such a law could help to deal with some of the harmful cultural practices that have a negative bearing on people’s lives, especially in the context of HIV and Aids.9
Mutharika spoke in an interview with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe on Wednesday following revelations that Nsanje man, Eric Aniva, has had sex with over 100 women, including teenage girls, in the name of cultural sexual initiation and cleansing.
Said the President: “This practice is a clash between culture and the law. On one hand, we want to protect the girls who may fall prey to this behaviour while on the other hand people have to enjoy their culture and tradition.
“Therefore, we need to have a law that should govern the practice of the same while at the same time safeguarding lives of the most vulnerable people, in this case, women and children, notably girls.”
Mutharika said he hopes the Bill would be ready for tabling in Parliament later this year.
The President also called for intensive civic education on the balance between culture and people’s rights. In this regard, he appealed to civil society organisations (CSOs) to sensitise people to their rights.
“While we must promote positive cultural values and positive socialisation of our children, some of these harmful cultural and traditional practices cannot be accepted in this country,” he added.
Aniva, who confessed to be HIV-positive, recently told BBC that he was paid to have sex with girls as part of initiation rites.
He also said he has been involved in widow cleansing—a practice that involves sleeping with women within a certain period of being widowed.
In an article BBC published online last Thursday and which went viral on social media, Aniva, who has two wives and five children, claimed he is paid amounts ranging from K2 900 to K5 075 each time he performs his fisi (hyena) duties.
The President came under fire over suspected abuse of power for his order for the arrest of Aniva.
Edge Kanyongolo, a constitutional law expert and associate professor of law at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), yesterday questioned the powers the President used to order the arrests.
But Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale defended the presidential directive, arguing that powers to arrest rests with the Executive—particularly the police and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB)—which the President heads.