A focus group discussion by the Lilongwe District Aids Coordinating Committee (Dacc) with adolescents in traditional authorities (T/As) Kalumbu, Chadza and Mazengera has revealed a hidden harmful cultural practice believed to be contributing to the spread of HIV.
Lilongwe District Aids coordinator Dumisani Chiwala told a Dacc meeting on Tuesday that girls from the age of eight are being introduced to sex through a cultural practice called Mchezo wa Nkhandwe.
This cultural practice encourages young girls selected by chiefs to sleep with older men as part of the girls’ passage into adulthood.
Chiefs do this during funerals and in some cases, when a new chief is being installed.
Chiwaya said the focus group discussion revealed that adolescents who are involved are not allowed to reveal what happens during the cultural event.
“They told us that 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 unprotected group sex with the adolescent girls,” he said.
Lilongwe youth-friendly health services coordinator Annie Kachigamba condemned and described the practice as both sexual abuse and a catalyst for the spread of HIV.